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Romantic comedy, tragedy and Romance...

…many years ago I bought an A-Z of Shakespeare by Charles Boyce, with a foreword by Terry Hands, then Artistic Director of the RSC. I take the following lines from the preface to illustrate our intention being the same with the definitions that follow:

‘This book (blog) is not meant as scholarship; my intention has been to assemble conveniently a body of lore for the information and entertainment of the student and general reader.’

And Charles, what a brilliant book! Mine is tattered, highlighted and still in frequent use.
And so general reader read on.

Comedy is:

Drama that provokes laughter at human behaviour, usually involves romantic love with a happy ending.
Conventionally enacted the struggle of young lovers to surmount some difficulty, usually presented by elders, and the play ended happily in marriage or the prospect of marriage. Sometimes the struggle was to bring separated lovers or family members together.

In the end Shakespere’s comedies are about love. Love in Shakespearean comedy is stronger than the inertia of custom, the power of evil, or the fortunes of chance and time. That is obstacles to love are overcome, conflicts are resolved and errors forgiven in a general aura of reconciliation and marital bliss.

The context of marriage as a solution affirms and guarantees the future. Marriage, with its promise of offspring, reinvigorates society and transcends the purely personal element in sexual attraction and romantic love.

Comedy confirms our awareness that life transcends the individual.

Tragedy is:

Drama that deals with a noble protagonist placed in a highly stressful situation that leads to a disastrous, usually fatal conclusion.

These plays focus on a powerful central character whose most outstanding personal quality – his tragic flaw- is the source of his catastrophe.

The protagonist grows in self-awareness and knowledge of human nature, though he cannot halt his disaster.
e.g. Hamlet’s thoughtfulness, Lear’s emotional intensity, Othello’s obsessive love, Macbeth’s ambition.

In a tragic universe, we are all flawed precisely because we are human.

Tragi-comedy is:

Drama that combines elements of tragedy and comedy,
especially when a tragic plot results in a happy ending.
A tragicomedy lacks deaths, yet brings some characters near it,
which is enough to make it no comedy. That is elements of tragedy
find their resolution in the traditional happy ending of comedy.

Romances belong to the genre of tragi-comedy –
All Romances share a number of themes.

The theme of separation and reunion of family members is highly important.

The related idea of exile also features prominently with the banished characters restored to their rightful homes at the play’s end.

Jealousy is also a prominent theme.

Significantly the romances speak to the need for patience in adversity,
and the importance of providence in human affairs.
This concept outweighs any given individual’s fate,
or even the development of individual personalities.

Realistic characterizations in the romances are weak.
Their symbolic meaning is more pronounced.
The plots are episodic and offer improbable events in exotic locales.
Their characters are frequently subjected to long journeys, often involving shipwrecks.
Seemingly magical developments arise and supernatural beings appear.
There are lots of spectacular scenic effects.

Like the early comedies, young lovers are untied after various tribulations.
However the focus is not only on the younger but also the older generation.
The focus is on family groupings rather than on individuals or couples,
and the action is spread over many years.

The prominence of resurrection is a motif in romances
like the old pagan celebrations for harvest and springtime.
The plays insist that a patient acceptance of the accidents of fate is necessary to survive.

The romances conclude in a spirit of hope as the main characters
are reunited in an aura of reconciliation. The natural good in humanity
is put under pressure but preserved through the action of providence.
The emphasis is on the cycle of regeneration-marriage, reunited families.’

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