Comedy Timeline

1. Ancient Comics 

Greek Comedy

Comedy was one of the most popular and influential theaters during the 6th century BCE across ancient Greece. Performances were often movement and verbal performances. They would perform comical tragedies to intrigue the audience with emotion while still also making them laugh. They would often have stereotypical roles such as a hero, maiden, a jealous man, and an evil villain. Aristophanes and Menander had the most famous playwrights of the time work consisted of poking fun at politicians, philosophers, and other fellow artists. At the same time, they were able to give insight to Greek society including, institutions and religion etc. Although we do not know precisely about the origins of Greek comedy, the first indication of comedy was on a pottery piece from 6th century BCE.



2. Medieval Comics (Court Jesters from the Middle Ages)???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The Medieval entertainers of the Middle Ages  included Jesters (A fool or buffoon at medieval courts), Mummers (Masked or costumed merrymaker or dancers at festivals), Minstrels and Troubadours, acrobats and jugglers and conjurers. The jester would be a master in juggling, singing, dancing, acrobatic feats, mimicking, voice tricks (including some ventriloquism), all round joke telling, or any combination thereof. A medieval mummer possessed the skills of acting in plays, this included skills such as acrobatics, singing, mimicry, and other kinds of entertainment.  Most commonly, medieval mummers performed in open spaces where a stage could be set for the performers. Mummering parties were sometimes also held by nobles and monarchs in which case the plays took place indoors.



3. Renaissance Comics (Commedia dell Arte, Shakespearean plays etc)

During the Renaissance, comedy meant something different from what it currently means today. People think of modern comedies as funny, but comedy in the Renaissance meant a play with a happy ending. Many plays included some type of irony. Though comedies do not have to be funny, they had the potential to be. Characters in Shakespeare’s comedies sometimes embarrass themselves during the play. Shakespeare comics were the iconic plays of this time period. Shakespearean comedies would usually be made up by a conflict, which would be solved at the end. These could be funny, but were more about being resolved with a happy ending.



4. Melodramatic Comics

Melodrama was the primary form of theater during the 19th century however it is still popular to this day. In the early 1800’s most were romantic, exotic, or supernatural. In the 1830’s they became more elevated as a “gentlemanly” melodrama. Melodrama is a type of narrative in which the over-dramatic plot-line is designed to play on people’s emotions. They often use overexaggerated stereotypical characters and plot lines.

A typical story includes:

  • A hero, who is moral, handsome and manly.
  • A heroine, who is also beautiful but likely needed saving (helpless).
  • A villain, who is evil. These characters are often dishonest, greedy, vengeful and corrupt.
  • A villain’s accomplice, who is usually rather idiotic and serves as comic relief.

5. Cinematic Comics

A silent film is a film which consists of only the picture, that is, it has no sound. Because they told stories without words, in the beginning of 1890’s in the earliest of American Film history, they were appealed to the illiterate immigrant population in the United States. Showings of silent films usually were not actually silent: they were commonly accompanied by live music. Early in the development of the motion picture industry, it was learned that music was an essential part of any movie, as it gave the audience emotional cues for the action taking place on the screen. Small town and neighborhood movie theaters usually had a pianist accompany the film. Large city theaters would have an entire orchestra. The silent films required a greater emphasis on body language and facial expression so that the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and portray it on screen.


Wikipedia. “Silent Film.” Filmbug Birthdays RSS. CC-BY-SA, 2016. Web. 03 June 2016.

Sparknotes. “Film History: Silent Period (1895–1929).” Sparknotes. SparkNotes, 2011. Web. 03 June 2016.

NRMS English 7HA. “Shakespearean Comedy.” The World of the Renaissance. Wiki-Spaces, n.d. Web. 03 June 2016.

Roberts, Mike. “Medieval Mummers.” Medieval Chronicals. Medieval Chronicals, 2016. Web. 03 June 2016.

N/A. “Entertainment in the Middle Ages.” Middle Ages for Kids. Siteseen LTD, 2014s. Web. 03 June 2016.

Depue, Troy. “Medieval Jester; More than Just a Fool.” Medieval Fact Examiner, 2 Apr. 20122. Web. 24 May 2016.

Dr. Eric. W. Trumbull. “19th Century Melodrama.” Introduction to Theatre — 19th-Century Melodrama. Northern Virginia Community College, 3 Nov. 2004. Web. 03 June 2016.

White, David. “What Is a Melodrama? – Definition, Characteristics & Examples.”, 2016. Web. 03 June 2016.

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

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