Comedy Timeline

Ancient Greek Comics

Face Masks used in Greek Comedy

Face Masks used in Greek Comedies

Greek Comedy was one of the dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece (other being tragedy and satyr). Greek comedy was very popular and performed across ancient Greece from around the 6th century BCE. The most famous playwrights were Aristophanes and Menander. Their works give an indirect but important insight into Greek society at the time. The performers were all male professional dancers, actors and singers and would dress in outlandish costumes and highly decorated face masks to represent human and inhuman characters. Often each performer had to take on multiple roles due to the restricted number of actors in that time period. A average greek comedy play would follow a conventional structure. The first part was the ‘parados’, where the Chorus of as many as 24 performers entered and performed a number of songs and dances. The second part was the ‘agon’, often a witty verbal contest or debate between principal actors with plot elements and fast paced scenes. The third part was the ‘parabasis’ where the Chorus spoke directly to the audience. It ended with the ‘exodus’ where the Chorus gave the last song and dance routine.

Jester

Jester

Medieval Comics

During the Medieval era almost every nobel employed a jester (also referred to as a clown, buffoon or or a fool) for the entertainment. The jesters of royal courts were considered very powerful, and had a huge influence over medieval society. They were often considered to ease down tensions of a king or noble, to bring a smile on their face whenever they were ill, tensed, angered of worried. Jesters often performed at celebrations and palace parties. They also used to depict the plays and and dramas written by the famous writers of the time. Jesters dressed in a certain way to help make their masters laugh. They had shaved heads, coats with mixed bright colors, tight breeches and a ‘fool’s hat’. The fool’s hat was considered to most distinctive attire of a jester, it consisted of three points with a jingle attached to each end. To make their master laugh they often mocked and criticised other members of the court which was allowed, if were to be done in a jesting manner.

Renaissance Comics

Commedia dell’arte

Commedia dell’arte

At the end of the 15th century a new type of play appeared called ‘Interludes’. They were short plays performed at noble households and courts including much comedy. In England in the 16th century, interlude comedy blended in with Latin classic comedy producing Elizabeth comedy. Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were the biggest comedy playwrights at the time. While Shakespeare wrote tragicomedy and romantic comedy plays which brought massive audiences to theatre, Jonson wrote caustic, rich satire comedy. Another type of comedy during this time was Commedia dell’arte, which originated in Italy. Commedia dell’arte comedy was consisted of a cast with colorful stock characters and improvised dialogue. Performances were based on a basic plot, often a familiar story in which the actors improvised their dialogue.

Melodrama

Melodrama

Melodramatic Comics

Melodrama was a style of drama during the 18th and 19th centuries. This type of drama was very dramatic and had exaggerated plots and stereotyped characters in order to appeal to the emotions. The protagonists may be ordinary people caught in extraordinary solutions, or highly exaggerated and unrealistic characters. Melodrama has 6 characters called the stock characters; the hero, villain, heroine, sidekick, servant and and parent. Melodrama was known to have key constitutive factors; pathos, heightened emotion, moral polarisation (good vs. bad), non-classical narrative structure and emphasis on action and thrills. Orchestral music and songs were used to accompany the action. Melodrama is still widely popular in the modern world, particularly in Asia and Hispanic countries.

Circus Comics

A clown

A clown

The circus is a company of performers which may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, tightrope walkers, jugglers and many others. The first circus was opened by Philip Astley in 1768 in England. The types of performances in circuses has changed since then, but circuses are still being widely performed in the world today. Clowns are one of the biggest parts of the circus. Clowns perform slapstick and other types of physical humor, often in a mime style. Some examples are getting pies in their face and squirted with water. Clowns dress many different ways to make the audience laugh but one of the most common looks is the ‘auguste’ or also known as the ‘red clown’ in which the clowns have colorful wigs, distinctive makeup, exaggerated footwear and colorful clothing.Clowns do not only appear in circuses but have also appeared in films, television, plays and opera.

Cinematic Comedy (silent films, movies, television, web)

Cinematic comedy are light hearted dramas made to amuse and entertain their

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

viewers. The situation, language, characters and action are often exaggerated, and usually have happy endings. Cinematic comedy can be used in films, movies and television. It is considered one of the oldest film genres. Silent comedy, a silent film of comedy was very popular during the 1900s to the 1920s, as at the time there was no sound to films. Because of the lack of sound these films were very dependent on  visual and physical humor. For example ‘slapstick’; and exaggerated for a violence. It was used often because it needed no sound and relied mostly on the visuals. An example of a silent film with cinematic comedy is ‘The Tramp’, featuring one of the most memorable on-screen characters Charlie Chaplin at the time. The silent film was one of the most iconic films of that era. Cinematic comedy is still widely popular today.

Bibliography

Bellinger, Martha Fletcher. “The Commedia Dell’arte.” Theatre History. N.p., 1927. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.theatrehistory.com/italian/commedia_dell_arte_001.html>.

Cartwright, Mark. “Ancient_Greek_Comedy.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. VOX, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Comedy/>.

Cash, Justin. “Melodrama.” Theatre Links. N.p., 2016. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.theatrelinks.com/melodrama/>.

“Comedy.” Infoplease. Sandbox Networks, n.d. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/entertainment/comedy-evolution-comedy.html>.

Jando, Dominique. “SHORT HISTORY OF THE CIRCUS.” Circopedia. Mediawiki, 2008. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.circopedia.org/SHORT_HISTORY_OF_THE_CIRCUS>.

Jokinen, Anniina. “Renaissance English Drama: From Medieval to Renaissance.” Luraminarium. N.p., 2 Aug. 2006. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/dramamedren.htm>.

Newman, Simon. “Jesters in the Middle Ages.” The Finer Times: War, Crime and History Resource. Copyscape, n.d. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.thefinertimes.com/Middle-Ages/jesters-in-the-middle-ages.html>.

Images
Greek Face Masks
Jester
Commedia Dell’arte
Melodrama
Clown
Charlie Chaplin