Comedy ; Comic Pleasure; Nature of the Comic Pleasure


Etymologically the word comedy as Aristotle suggested in the Poetics might have originated either from komas meaning, ‘revel or merrymaking “, or from komae meaning the “hamlets “where the plays were staged. Aristotle jocularly hinted that the comedians strolled from hamlet to hamlet, lack of appreciation keeping them out of the city .such facetiousness apart; the Oxford English Dictionary defines comedy as a stage play of a light and amusing character with a happy conclusion to its plot. It is associated with humorous behavior, wordplay, pleasurable feeling, release of tension, and laughter. Comic entertainment frequently exposes incongruous, ridiculous, or grotesque aspects of human nature. It generally follows a fixed pattern of theatrical surprises that leads to a sense of exhilaration in the spectator. Many definition stress the sadistic on egoistic element in human beings primarily utilizing stinging ridicule and exaggeration to criticize or condemn humankind's foibles and faults, asserting that comedies were written chiefly to amuse the audience by appealing.




Comedy gives pleasure, and is certainly a kind of pleasure which is hilarious the elements and techniques of which are diverse and differ from culture to culture, unlike that of tragedy .The question remains what the sources of such comic pleasure are .There are two principal “stimulus” theories about the source of comedy .The first paints to our satisfaction in feelings of superiority, a theory developed by Hobbes, Bergson , Meredith and others . This theory emphasizes our delight in seeing ourselves less fortunate than some human beings. We laugh when we find a man committing blunders we ourselves could easily avoid the range of topics cover the wide gamut of manners, eating, sexual desire, courtship, racial and social differences, vain presentations of self, physical shortcomings, cheating and lying etc. Hobbes says that “this passion of laugh some sudden conception of some eminency in our selves by comparison with the infirmity of others, on with our won formality, It is noteworthy that a sense of superiority is not comical by itself, for when two men run a race, the defeated man is not necessarily comical .To avoid this difficulty, Fielding in the Preface to Joseph Andrews suggests that the essence of comic inferiority lies in affectation. Close to that theory, Ben Jonson provides a practical theory of comedy, derived from his understanding of human physiology and psychology. According to him an imbalance of the dominant humour (four) creates an overload of temperament and abnormal behavior. And it is the origin of comic character. This explanation is known as the theory of the four humors. Jonson’s comedies Every Man in His Humour and Every Man Out of His Humour demonstrate this theory through the eccentricities of the characters.

Imaginary world of stereotyped characters, crafty slaves, impossibly foolish masters, love-struck teenagers, greedy pimps, and pure-hearted prostitutes, mistaken identity and coincidence constitute the core of comic laughter. Even in some places boisterous characters, bawdy subplots, and sharp repartee take the upper hand.  Meredith , however, suggests that the comic spirit ,which is dependent on common sense , preys chiefly on folly ,which is the daughter of unreason and sentimentalism .But this view adumbrated in An Essayon Comedy does not always hold true since there are many comic characters who are not fools Falstaff , although a supremely comic character rivals Iago and Hamlet in sheer intellectual ability , Bergson goes farther when  he declares that Laughter in a social gesture and that difference the object of laughter is its natural environment , Its appeal is to intelligence , pure and simple . He also feels that comedy lies in the insociability on the part of the man of laughs, and a certain automatism in the situation, the situation is mechanical and repetitious rather than living and flexible.

The other stimulus theory is that of contrast developed by Aristotle ,Kant , Schopenhauer  and others , This theory emphasizes  our delight  in many form of incongruity ,any difference between our ideas of thing and the thing themselves ,between what aught to be and what actually is . A comedy full of eccentric types ceases to be a cause of merriment.

Apart from these erudite theories about the nature of comic one may also venture to examine the actual causes on real life situations in the play itself which are the cause of comedy. In the first place, the mere physical appearance of a person may be a source of comedy though this would be the lowest possible kind. In the second the misuse or strange use of language can be the immediate cause for laughter. Mrs .Slip slop in Fielding’s novel and Mrs .Malaprop in The Rivals take great liberties in the English language some Shakespearean characters like Pistol and Dogberry are also famous for their misuse of language. In the third place, sudden situations of life may be genuinely and intrinsically funny. It is thus that our laughter is directed against a hypocrite, a miser, a snob, a bore, a braggart or a parasite .The most notable kind of such comedies of characters are in the comedies of humour that naturally fall under three types: Wildman, Trickster, or Fool. For example in Everyman in His Humour , Mrs Kately are excessively joyous,  Knowell’s  father is excessively moral and Bobadill the soldier is for too cowardly and boasting .  


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