Types of Comedy • Comedy of Ideas • Comedy of Manners • Farce • Low Comedy Candide uses them all!
Comedy of Ideas • In comedy of ideas the characters argue ideas or are representative of people who hold these ideas. The dramatic action is an embodiment of these ideas in conflict; not an allegory, this genre uses characters, who remain essentially personalities, capable of change, pitting their wits (or lack of them) against those who view reality differently.
Comedy of Manners • Referred to as the amorous intrigues of the aristocratic classes, this comedy emphasizes the mechanism of language, and reduces drama and life to a sheen of verbal wit. Such comedy does not hesitate to sacrifice humanity to dialogue; puns, paradoxes, epigrams, and witticisms of all types are the tools it uses often in the service of satire.
Farce • This comedy is most readily identified by the devices which drive the plot: mistaken identities, coincidences, and mistimings, The characters become the puppets of fate, Typically the plot is predictably improbable: devices include twins separated at birth, unhappy matches by tyrannical parents, allegiances complicated by money and birth and a ragshop of happy endings.
Low Comedy • At the bottom of the comedy ladder man is almost indistinguishable from the animal. The laughter is longest and loudest over the dirty joke or gesture. At this depth, comedy unerringly finds the lowest common denominator. Typically, this is the rung for bathroom humor where bodily functions elicit shock and guffaw. Physical mishaps, pratfalls, slapstick and loud collisions are the obvious elements and as well as deformed masks and characterizations: long noses, humped backs, and dwarves.
Incongruity: an Intellectual Appeal • In comedy the appeals are made to the head, not the heart. As audience members, the playwright expects us to see the incongruity (an intellectual process) of an action. • Comedy, because of this coldly rational approach, lifts us out of the emotional aspects of an idea. • Social critics seize on this emphasis on the unemotional aspect of comedy (where our defenses of our pet theories are down) and for them comedy becomes a lever for change.
Intellectual to emotional responses: • Comedy is successful in changing our emotional support. • This change not only allows us to feel superior to the comic character, but also to see his or her foibles. We can look at the character and say, “I hope I am not like that fool.” • We sense our own rigidity and past reluctance to change and in comedy we see how a character’s inability to change makes him laughable.
Characters fail to see what readers see The reader or audience perceives the folly of the characters. “Consequently, the fun of a comedy usually consists of the reactions of the other characters to the continuing stupidities of the principal character until he finally sees how distorted he is, or the others decide that it would be heartless to make him face his realities… [Comedy] is based on the principle that no man knows what he is, that he cannot see his real mirror images but only what he wants to see.” --Francis Hodge
Comic Problems • Classic comic problems include thwarted love, eccentric behavior, and corruption in high places. • Moving from exposition to complication, the problems get much worse. • Complication is fueled by misunderstanding, mistakes in identity, errors in judgment, excessive or unreasonable behavior and coincidences.
Comic Climax Confusion reaches a peak, misunderstanding is dominant, pressure is at a high point, choices must be made and solutions found. The catastrophe—changing or turning point—often introduces a sudden revelation in which a key fact or identity, or event is planned to characters and audience at the same time.
Comic Denouement The comic denouement resolves the initial problems and allows for comic resolution which involves “setting things right” at every level of action—individual lives are straightened out, people at odds with each other are reconciled, new families are formed through marriage, and a healthy social order is reestablished.
Education and Change These are two key features of comedy—characters learn something about themselves, their society or the way to love and live. Their education makes it possible for them to improve, and by implication, for the world to improve. Alternately, some comedies educate the audience and or reader.
The Comic Ladder Satire Inconsistenciesofcharacter VerbalWit Plotdevices Physicalmishaps Obscenity
Two approaches of the satirist • Formal/Direct: The satiric voice that speaks usually in first person point of view, either directly to the reader or to a character, is called the Adversarius in satire . • Indirect: The satire is expressed through a narrative and characters who are the butt of the humor and are ridiculed by what they themselves say and do. Much of great literary satire is indirect.
Elements of Burlesque • The burlesque elements of Candide are important for appreciation of Candide’s humor. However, the contrasts between Voltaire’s exaggerations and reality of the human condition—especially at the end, where the weary, disabused, and dilapidated characters scarcely promise a vital and virtuous new society—are more than merely funny in an ironic way. Candide is a fundamentally serious work: a satire.