Comedy, as it is seen in plays, has had three major forms throughout history.
  • The first is known as Old Comedy. GreekDance.jpg
    • Old Comedy started in about 450 B.C., and usually was based on politics.
    • There were no restrictions on material, which means that plays were usually very abusive and dirty.
    • The abuse was usually directed against something that no one really liked, and this something was made fun of like crazy.
    • Like drama, comedy had masked actors, choral dances, rhythm, scenery, organization, and sophisticated language.
  • The next type of comedy was from about 400-330 B.C., and was called Middle Comedy
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  • Middle Comedy was very similar to Old Comedy, however it was different in three major ways
  • It had no chorus
  • No unpopular people were impersonated on the stage and made fun of
  • The things that were made fun of were much more general and usually did not focus on a specific person, such as whole classes of people were criticized instead of individuals. Also, plays were no longer political.
  • Also, this type of comedy was more criticism and review then simply abusively making fun of something
  • Middle Comedy usually focused on criticizing strange things in society and in literature
  • The last type of comedy is called New Comedy, and lasted from about 330-260 B.C.
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  • For the first time, love became a principal element in the play, but it was usually not an honest love
  • The characters were about the same from the Middle Comedy, except that in the New Comedy there was usually a strict parent who does stupid things, and a recently returned soldier who is not very bright
Shakespearean Comedy was created from New Comedy, and is therefore very similar to it. "Comedy" in it Elizabethan usage had a very different meaning from modern comedy. It does not necessarily mean funny, but more focuses on a problem that leads to some form of catastrophe which in the end has a happy and joyful outcome
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  • A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriage for all the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more lighthearted than Shakespeare's other plays.
    Shakespearean comedies also tend to have:
    • A struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty that is often presented by elders
    • Separation and unification
    • Mistaken identities
    • A clever servant
    • Heightened tensions, often within a family
    • Multiple, intertwining plots
    • Frequent use of puns