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Tragic and Comic

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The Tragic and the Comic

It has been said that tragedy is life viewed close at hand, while comedy is life viewed at a distance. It has also been said that life is comedy to the person who thinks and tragedy to the one who feels.

The chief source of the comic is the incongruous, the unexpected. We expect one thing but find another.

The Parable of the Blind by William Carlos Williams
(based on a painting of the same name by Pieter Brueghel the Elder)

This horrible but superb painting the parable of the blind without a red

in the composition shows a group of beggars leading each other diagonally downward

across the canvas from one side to stumble finally into a bog

where the picture and the composition ends back of which no seeing man

is represented the unshaven features of the destitute with their few

pitiful possessions a basin to wash in a peasant cottage is seen and a church spire

the faces are raised as toward the light there is no detail extraneous

to the composition one follows the others stick in hand triumphant to disaster
Fundamental Types of Comedy and Tragedy

Comedy of Situation – “Low Comedy” – slapstick comedy and farce
Tragedy of Situation – “Low Tragedy” – the essence of melodrama; events that are exciting

Comedy of Character – “High Comedy”
Tragedy of Character – “High Tragedy”

In low comedy and low tragedy the characters are not individuals but types. In high comedy they are individuals.

Characteristics of Comedy

1. It is primarily intellectual. 2. It is detached. 3. It depends on perception.

Humor and Satire

Humor is a matter of spirit rather than of words. It is kindly and sympathetic. Usually it has in something of extravagance.

Satire aims, or at least pretends to aim, at improvement. The satirist sees the vices...

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