Comedy Timeline | Drama


Menander (Image)

Ancient Comics

Greek comedy was one of the most popular and influential forms of a theater during the 6th century BCE across ancient Greece. The most famous playwrights were by Aristophanes and Menander. Ther play consisted of  mocking politicians, philosophers, and fellow artists. In addition, the plays indirectly included crucial insight into Greek Society such as details about legal systems, religious practices, education and welfare in the Hellenic world. Some Egyptian comedy can be seen through texts and scribes, however, there aren’t any ‘official’ sources to explain the comedy during that period. The Roman comedies that survived are all fabula palliata which is based on Greek Subjects. They come from two dramatists; Titus Maccius Plautus and Publius Terentius Afer. Plautus admired for the wit of his dialogue and use of various poetic meters. Terence’s were had complex plots, combining various Greek originals and was sometimes denounced. However, the double plots allowed a contrasting sophisticated demonstration of human behavior. There aren’t any Roman tragedy that survived to this day, however, it was highly considered in its day.

Medieval Comics

Court Jesters of the Middle Ages

Court Jesters of the Middle Ages
(Image Source)

In the Middle ages, kings and nobleman would employ court jesters to be entertained. If a monarch was unwell or upset they were in charge of making them happy and putting a smile on their face. In addition, jesters were to bring liveliness at meals to help with their lord’s digestion. The medieval jesters had their head shaved, wore multicolored coats, and tight breeches where one leg would have a different color from the other. Their head was covered in a garment which resembled a monk’s cowl and dropped down till their shoulders and chest. Also, the fool’s hat was most distinctive due to the jingles attached at three points. They would also hold a bauble (mock scepter). Jesters were allowed to mock, and joke about lords, ladies and nobles of the court without causing offense. Medieval Jesters were also referred as a fool, buffoon or clown. You can think of the court jesters as the clowns of the middle ages.



Renaissance Comics

Commedia Dell'arte Stock Character (Image Source)

Commedia Dell’arte Stock Character (Image Source)

Commedia dell’Arte was a popular form of comedy which developed in the 16th to 18th century in Italy. It included improvised dialogue and masked characters. The ‘masks’ (characters) of the Commedia dell’Arte was unique and original. The most important were Zanni or servant types such as Arlecchino, or Harlequin. He was a wit, childlike and amorous. He wore a catlike mask, multicolored mask and carried a bat or wooden sword that is the ancestors of slapstick. Also, the mask Brighella was a cowardly villain who would do anything for money and was more sophisticated and deceitful. Influences from the Commedia dell’Arte can be seen through the French Pantomime and the English Harlequinade. Shakespear’s ‘comedies’ have some grim themes and tragic situations. However, the tragedies had high comical moments. The Shakespeare’s ‘history’ plays included everything from comedy to tragedy. Shakespeare simply wrote his plays to entertain.


Melodramatic Comics

Example of Dramatic Scene (Image Source)

Example of Dramatic Scene (Image Source)

France is told to have put input for creating Melodrama in the late 18th to 19th century as part of the Romantic literary period. Romantics wanted to express their emotions through art, and this new dramatic form caused many to feel strong emotions throughout the spoken lines, sound effects and music to show the battle between good and evil. There are 6 stock characters. A hero is moral, handsome and manly. He believes in justice, however, he does not always follow the less important rules of society. A heroine is moral and innocent. She is courageous, beautiful but in the end needs to be saved. A villain is dishonest, greedy, vengeful and evil. A villain’s accomplice is often idiotic and acts as a comical relief. A faithful servant helps the hero uncover useful information for the hero. This character also acts as a comic relief, however, is not as idiotic as the villain’s accomplice. A maidservant is flirty, fun and loyal to the heroine. Melodrama has three main plot elements; provocation is anything that causes the villain to do something evil to the hero; pangs are the pains that the good characters (eg. hero) feel because of something evil the villain did; finally penalty is the last part of the play, where to villain gets punished for his wrong doings.

Circus Comics

4 Main Types of Clowns (Image 1, 2, 3, 4)

4 Main Types of Clowns
(Image 1, 2, 3, 4)

There are four main types of clowns. The Whiteface clown is pleasant looking and is mainly artistic in his performance and has good manners. He often is in charge of any situation and bosses the other clowns. His face is painted completely white, and his facial features are painted in black and red. The features can look neat or freakish. They are the only type in which uses sequins, rhinestones, or other flashy material on his suit. The Auguste clown is the most comedic out of all the clowns since his actions are broader, wilder and quite a troublemaker using slapsticks to get away from pranks. The makeup is a variation of pink, red and tan while his features are exaggerated. They’re dressed in well-fitted grabs or costumes that don’t fit. The Tramp is the low man on the totem pole, that cleans up after the other clowns. The face is painted with either pink or tan flesh colors. The makeup includes a beard and white highlights around the eyes and mouth. The costume is often dark colored suits with many patches. The Character clown portrays a specific character or occupation. The makeup can be any of the three other clowns’ and it should compliment the specific character being portrayed.

Cinematic Comics

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin (Image Source)

Cinematic comics are considered to be one of the oldest film genres. The comedy was an essential in the silent films since it depended on visual actions and physical humor. Slapsticks were used in laughable situations such as physical mishaps and indignity. The silent film titled “Watering the Gardener” by the Lumiere Brothers, that are known to be the pioneers of early silent films and film-making, included a man being tricked to being soaked by a garden watering hose. Matt Sennett’s Keystone Studio was a training ground for almost all silent film phenomenon. And people who did not work at the studio served as apprentices for those who did. The Keystone comedies were rough with heavy slapsticks and were light on plots. Famous silent film stars, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand were featured in many of the Keystoners films.

Works Cited
    Alchin, Linda. “Medieval Jesters.” Medieval Jesters. June 2014 Siteseen Ltd., n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    Bailey, Jason. “A Brief History of Movie Comedy Cliques.” Flavorwire A Brief History of Movie ComedyCliques Comments. Flavorpill Media, 08 Mar. 2012. Web. 08 May 2016.

    Carroll, Heather. “Elements of Melodrama: From Early Theater to the Modern Soap Opera.” 2003- 2016, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    Cartwright, Mark. “Greek Comedy.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2009-2016 by Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 May 2016.

    “Commedia dell’arte.” The Renaissance. 2008. 8 May. 2016

    Dirks, Tim. “Comedy Films.” Amc Filmsite. 2016 American Movie Classics Company LLC, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    Kevin, and Dee Dee. “Types of Clowns.” All About Clowns. 2009 – Infinity… and Beyond!, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    King, John, and Warren King. “Shakespeare’s History Plays.” No Sweat Shakespeare. 2004 – 2016 No Sweat Shakespeare, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    “Theatre of Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

    Tour Egypt. “Tour Egypt :: Egypt: Humor in Ancient Egypt.” Egypt: Humor in Ancient Egypt. 1996-2013 Tour Egypt, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.

kimk • May 26, 2016

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