Comedy in Literature

Comedy in
The Comedy of Errors
Origins of
Ancient greek myth of
Zeus and princess
Comedy Semele - affair:
produced Dionysus
who was premature,
sown into Zeus who
bore him later
 God of common man,
fertility, wild things,
impulses, wine
 Festivals held in
ancient Greece to
honor him
 Drama originates from
these festivals
Origins Cont.
Greeks were masters of tragedy and
 3 types of comedy: Old, Middle and
 Old= 5th century B.C. and are like
tragedies in form (4 actors and a chorus)
– Focus on ridicule
– Political and social satires
Mid= fall of Athens sparked change: 400323 B.C.
– Mock re-enactments of famous myths
– Comedy of manners
– Not much survives
New Comedy- Modern Comedy
illustrate the decline of the chorus and political
issues of Old Comedy
is less obscene
focuses on family matters with complications in
love relationships
introduces theme of love into literature
of interest in the interactions between observable
social types.
New  Modern Cont.
The Middle Ages (500-1500)= dormant
period in the development of the Comedy
The Renaissance(re-birth)= based on 2 key
– revival of classical forms developed by the
ancient Greeks
– a concern with secular life and an interest in
humanism and the individual
Characteristics of Comedy
the presence of lovers
 the defeat of an imposter figure and
subsequent assimilation into restored
social fabric
 Celebrates a man’s ability to endure
 Exposes what Aristotle terms,
“ludicrous” actions
A comedy of errors: Definition
Often a play
 Tone is light, satirical and farcical
 Involves cases of mistaken ID
 Usually has a positive resolution for
The Comedy of Errors
Written 1592-1594
 One of Shakespeare’s
shortest plays
 Observes the “three
-unity of time
(24 hrs)
-unity of place (one
geo. location)
-unity of action (one
main plot)
Appearance versus reality (trust in self and
– Ex.: Act II, sc. i: Antipholus of Syracuse:
“What error
drives our eyes and ears amiss?/Until I know this sure
uncertainty,/I’ll entertain the offer’d fallacy.”
– Act. III, sc. I: Anti. Of Ephesus trying to enter his home
after “already there”
Love and marriage
– Adriana and husband:
• she calls him to dinner and when he “refuses”, she attempts to
lock him out
• Upset at possible infidelity
– Luciana and her ideas about marriage
– (Act II, sc. i):
• Luciana believes that “men, more divine” are “the masters of all
these”; Adriana is upset at her husbands “actions”
– Dromio of Syracuse and greasy cook (Act III, sc. ii)
Themes Cont.
– Each person questions their sanity
– Precursor to King Lear and Hamlet
– Act II, sc. ii:
• Anti of S. states:
– “ What error drives our eyes and ears amiss?/ Until I
know this sure certainty,/ I’ll entertain the offer’d
– He chooses to play along
• Dromio of S. response:
– “This is the fairy land: O spite of spites!/ We talk
goblins, owls and sprites: / If we obey them, this will
ensue,/ They’ll suck our breath or pinch us black
and blue.”
Definition: vehicle for expressing the theme
 Time
• Luciana reprimands Adriana for not having patience
• Act II, sc. i: time is bald---read
• Had the characters simply had patience and
communicated, the “errors” might have been discovered
– Act I, Sc. I: Antipholus of S. beats Dromio of E.–
accuses him of stealing 1000 marks and talking
nonsense about a “wife” and “dinner”
– Act II, Sc. ii: Anti. of S. beats Dromio of S. for
“…flouting [him]; and then, wherefore, /For urging
it the second time to [him]”
• Flouting= showing contempt or scorn; mocking insult
3 Types
– Dramatic irony: occurs when the reader
or the audience understands more about
the events than a character
– Situational irony: occurs when what
actually happens is the opposite of what is
– Verbal irony: a character says one thing
but means another
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