Literature and Performance of Comedy

Definitions and sources

Comedy appears to have derived from the Greek verb that means to “revel,” It developed from the revels tied to the rituals of Dionysus, a god of vegetation. Thus, the roots of comedy are tied to vegetation ritual. In his book Poetics, Aristotle claims that comedy originates in phallic songs and that, like tragedy, it started as improvisation. While the development of tragedy may be traced through distinct stages, comedy’s evolution went unrecognized because it was not taken seriously. Poets responded to tragedy and humor as they saw fit, writing one or the other. Poets of a lower kind, who had previously used invectives to describe the conduct of the lowly, switched to comedy; poets of a graver sort, who might once have been inclined to glorify the great in epic poetry, turned to tragedy. According to Aristotle, the fundamental difference between tragedy and comedy is that the former imitates those who are better than average, while the latter imitates worse men.

The paradox of human nature

When dealing with people as social beings, all great comic book creators have understood that they are dealing with a contradiction: beneath the social being, lain an animal being whose behavior frequently conflicts significantly with societal norms. Comedy has honored creative force since its ritual inception. The early celebrations that gave rise to comedy openly acknowledged man’s animal character; the phallic processions and animal masquerades are the apparent witnesses. Comedy demonstrates physical health, joy in life, and the will to keep living. When this rhythm of existence can be affirmed inside the orderly framework of human civilization, comedy is at its merriest and most joyous.