Recently in Drama, we have been studying comedy and how it works. Comedy started far back in time, and has a very interesting history behind it. Here is the timeline for Comedy and clowns.
It is said in Ancient Greek times (5th centuries), commonly called Aristophanes as he was well known for his mastery of old comedy. Many comedies at that time had a very weak plot line and had a very loose storyline, yet the comedies he wrote were simple, easy to understand jokes such as scatological humour (toilet jokes) and sexual jokes. He also liked to made fun of the politicians, philosophers that existed during that age, as shown in few of his plays. He mocked the Peloponnesian Wars and the governors who were fighting against. Even after Aristophanes died, Menander has taken upon his place to create new comedy. In the new comedy, stereotypes were born as part of the humour. People used less sexual jokes and political jokes, but based on their comedy off of everyday situations.
During the Medieval ages, churches tried to keep comedy and joyous aspects of a comedy to the minimum, which lead to danger of extinction. Yet comedy survived through medieval folk plays and festivals.
Renaissance comedy is one of the well known comedy periods. One of the most famous scriptwriter known at this age was Shakespeare. He not only created famous scripts such as Romeo and Juliet, but as well as Macbeth, and more, he have also written different comedy scripts. In this age comedy was very known to be something different than we know it today. Today, we all think comedy is something funny and something we’ll be able to laugh at, but comedy in the Renaissance period was known to be something that had a good ending. One of the famous comedy during this time was the ‘commedia dell’arte’ in Italy, where people acted out wearing a mask.
Tzhe Melodramatic comedy was more focused on exaggeration. Melodramatic comedy started to appear present in the 18th centuries to until today, through movies, television shows, and even in radio formats. Because of the such late melodramatic comedy existed in a long time period and still exists in comedy today, it is difficult to justify and define what melodrama is. Usually in Melodrama the plots and characters are all over exaggerated, so they would be able to strongly show their emotions and their stereotypes. The term ‘melodrama’ were used negatively, as it meant unsophisticated or lack of delicacy. In melodrama, there was 6 stock characters that usually existed. A hero: acts upon justice, but sometimes doesn’t follow the rules. A heroine: is innocent, normally the damsel in distress. A villain: evil, greedy, selfish. The villain’s accompany: a goofy dumb sidekick who serves as the comic relief. A faithful servant: a maid that is loyal to the hero and helps him save the heroine, but also serves as comic relief yet not as goofy as the villains accompany. A maid servant: Unlike the faithful servant the maid servant is flirty, funny and is very loyal to the heroine.
Circus comedy was one of the important style of comedy in the timeline. The most famous one are the clowns. The clown comedy started around in the late Middle Ages. Court jesters and fools were a good example of a clown in the middle age. Arlecchino (Harlequin) is one of the famous clown actor that best represented this style. Harlequin started off as a comic valet, or zanni (types of character in dell’arte), but soon began to form his own style of comedy which was the soon to be known slapstick. There are 3 major clown types. One of them is the White-face clown. They are the most well known and oldest clown. They are usually associated with the circus and the White-faces had a high status among other clowns with intelligence. Auguste clown were the ones who had the lowest status among the other clowns, and was the most zaniest and unintelligent clown. The Auguste clowns wear mismatched and over sized clothes, with big noses. They appeared together with the White-face clowns and was usually the one messing things up. Character Clown is the third clown type. The hobo or The Tramp is one of the well known character clowns. Character clowns are clowns that have a specific character such as the police officers, women, babies, anything at all.
Cinematic comedy could be considered as the ‘oldest film genre’ as this comedy style mainly appeared in silent films, televisions and movies. Comedy was very suitable for silent films, as it required more of a visual action and audio. Slapstick was also another type of comedy used in cinematic comedy, as it portrayed the hilarity of ridiculous situations of physical mishap and indignity. Charlie Chaplin was the most famous comedy star known in this age and even today. He was a silent actor and pantomimist and was recruited at 1913 as a comedy actor.
As you can see, comedy has a very interesting history, and we are able to see how humour changes over time.
Carroll, Heather. “Elements of Melodrama: From Early Theater to the Modern Soap Opera.”Study.com. Study.com, n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.
Dirks, Tim. “Comedy Films.” Filmsite. American Movie Classics Company, n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.
“History of Clowning.” Clown Doctors. The Humour Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.
Johnson, Flint. “Ancient Greek Comedy: Definition & Plays.” Study.com. Study.com, n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.
Mason, Craig. “A Melodramatic Look at Melodramatic Comedies.” Theatrefolk. Theatrefolk, Winter 2014. Web. 23 May 2016.
“Shakespearean Comedy.” The World of the Renaissance. The World of the Renaissance, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 May 2016.