What is Comedy in Literature? Definition, Examples of Comedic Writing

Comedy definition: Comedies are amusing and entertaining works of writing that are written for the purpose of evoking positive reactions from the audience.

What is a Comedy in Literature?

Initially, comedies referred to specifically plays that were amusing or entertaining; however, today, the term comedy more broadly encompasses any type of writing that was composed for these purposes.

Example of Comedy

A modern example of a comedy would be the popular television series Seinfeld. This sitcom was written for the purpose of entertaining the audience with clever, dry humor.

Types of Comedy

There are different categories in which comedies are organized under depending on their characteristics. It is important to remember that while today we see any literary work that is amusing as a comedy, the term comedy is more specifically used to identify dramatic works that are written for these purposes.

Here are the different categories of comedies:

Romantic Comedy: A romantic comedy involves a love between people that results in a happy ending. While they may still endure struggles, the couple ultimately achieves a positive conclusion.

  • An example of a romantic comedy would be the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

Comedy of Manners: This type of comedy is satirical in nature and makes fun of sophisticated society.

  • Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is an example of a play that would be categorized as a comedy of manners.

Sentimental Comedy: A sentimental comedy involves characters that despite being closely tempted to bad or evil, eventually triumph over these forces and have a happy ending. Unlike the comedy of manners, these characters represent the everyday, middle-class versus the upper class.

  • Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers is an example of a sentimental comedy.

Tragicomedy: A tragicomedy utilizes elements from both comedies and tragedies. These plays often begin tragically and end happily.

  • William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is an example of a tragicomedy.

The Function of Comedy in Literature

Comedies are an important genre in literature because they allow for audiences to be uplifted. By posing humorous situations to the audience, they allow for laughter and happiness as the effects of watching them. Because the purposes of comedies are to amuse and entertain, they may appeal to broader audiences such as young children as well as adults.

Comedy Examples in Literature

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an example of a romantic comedy. In this play, the characters experience comical situations of confused love, but in the end, they are reunited with feelings for their true loves.

George Bernard’s Pygmalion is an example of a comedy of manners. In this play, a gentleman of the high society attempts to refine a lower-class woman through lessons on how to act properly.

Summary: What Are Comedies?

Define comedy in literature: A comedy is defined as a dramatic work that is written for the purpose to amuse or entertain the audience.

Final Example:

The television show The Big Bang Theory is an example of a comedy. It follows the ups and downs of life endured by a group of mostly nerdy young adults.

Throughout the comedy, the characters may suffer comedic misfortunes, but more often than not the outcomes are positive.