Comedy (The New Critical Idiom) by Andrew Stott

By Andrew Stott

What's comedy? Andrew Stott tackles this query via an research of comedian varieties, theories and methods, tracing the old definitions of comedy from Aristotle to Chris Morris's Brass Eye through Wilde and Hancock. instead of trying to produce a totalising definition of 'the comic', this quantity specializes in the importance of comedian 'events' via examine of varied theoretical methodologies, together with deconstruction, psychoanalysis and gender idea, and gives case stories of a few subject matters, starting from the drag act to the simplicity of slipping on a banana dermis.

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Cornford was part of a Cambridge-based movement of anthropological classicists, and The Origin of Attic Comedy, like James George Frazer’s enormous anthropological survey The Golden Bough (1890–1915), is part of a broader school of Edwardian scholarship that examined the ceremonies and beliefs of primitive communities in an effort to see their influence on modern thinking and social organization. Cornford’s text looks in detail at the structure of Greek Old Comedy, especially that of Aristophanes, and demonstrates its ceremonial roots and the relationship of its characters to significant elements of seasonal rituals.

In city comedy, the slave girl is displaced and the energetic pursuit of the commodity becomes the new object of desire. William Haughton’s Englishmen for My Money (1598) is generally held to be the first play to fit this description exactly, but it was Ben Jonson (1572–1637), the dramatist who most aggressively asserted his erudition, whose work most clearly exemplified the revived and anglicized Roman form. Jonson believed that comedy was a weapon aimed at the faults, follies, and hypocrisies of the world.

His report differs considerably from modern readings of the play as it concentrates almost exclusively on the clown character of Autolycus, which leads him to conclude that the play is about ‘feigned beggars or fawning fellows’ (Rowse, 1976:310). Similarly, the Swiss tourist Thomas Platter, in the playhouse for a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Globe in 1599, mentions little about the tragedy aside the dance that followed it, which was performed ‘exceedingly gracefully, according to their custom, two in each group dressed in men’s and two in women’s apparel’ (quoted in Shakespeare, 1998:1).

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