Teaching the Book: : A Doll House and The Importance of Being Earnest: Two Faces of the 19th Century Comedy versus Tragedy: Two Sides of the Same Coin The Greeks watch tragedies in the morning and comedies in the afternoon. The plays often dealt with the same themes and social concerns. A Doll House and The Importance of Being Earnest deal with similar social concerns: marriage, religion, child rearing, class structure, gender expectations One aims to elicit pity and terror while the other laughter Serious in the Comic? Algernon: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact. What is serious? What is the serious topic embedded in this quotation? Which devices of comedy does Wilde employ? What impact do the literary devices have on meaning and tone? What type of person does Algernon seem to be? How do you know? Two Bourgeoisie Boys Ibsen (1828-1906) Wilde (1854-1900) NORWEGIAN SOCIAL CRITIC OF MIDDLE CLASS FATHER LOST FORTUNE IRISH SOCIAL CRITIC OF ARISTOCRACY OFTEN IN DEBT TRYING TO MAINTAIN ARISTOCRATIC TASTES FATHER HAD ILLEGITIMITE CHILDREN DRAMATIST - COMEDIES FATHER HAD ILLEGITIMITE CHILDREN DRAMATIST - TRAGEDIES Genre Matters Fiction Multiple points of view Drama Point of view usually limited to characters Easy to change settings Bound to a degree by setting Easy for individual imagination to make meaning Imagination bound by director’s choices Genre Matters Easy to employ animals as characters and other supernatural phenomenon Individual often must make own meaning Reader can be distracted More difficult to elicit a willing suspension of disbelief Audience responses collectively add to the play’s meaning and tone Theater shuts out distractions for approximately two hours Comedy versus Tragedy: Two Sides of the Same Coin Tragedy and comedy are arbitrary classifications that the western world has used since the time of Aristotle. Both have, however, changed over time, reflecting the tastes of the culture and time period in which they were written and performed. Furthermore, most comedies have tragic elements, and most tragedies have comic moments. As with any classification, boundaries blur. Use accepted tenets of each as touchstones for categorizing, comparing, and analyzing literature. From the 1993 Exam The true test of comedy is that it shall awaken thoughtful laughter." - George Meredith Choose a novel, play, or long poem in which a scene or character awakens "thoughtful laughter" in the reader. Write an essay in which you show why this laughter is "thoughtful" and how it contributes to the meaning of the work. From the 2002 Exam In the following excerpt from a recent British novel, the narrator, a young man in his early twenties, is attending a play with his new girlfriend Isabel when she unexpectedly discovers that her parents are in the theater. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author produces a comic effect.