Romantic Comedy VS. Satiric Comedy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Romantic Comedy VS. Satiric Comedy

A romantic comedy is one that usually ends in a happy marriage. It is a form of comic drama in which the plot focuses on one or more pairs of young lovers who overcome difficulties to achieve a happy ending. It is less concerned with fixing misdeeds and folly than with following the delightful and embarrassing behavior of imperfect but mostly likeable characters. It also encourages the viewer to accept and forgive human faults and frailties. (Kennedy & Gioia 1466)
On the opposite end of the spectrum from romantic comedy, you have satiric comedy. Satiric comedy is where you use derisive humor to ridicule human weakness and folly or attack political injustices and incompetence. It often focuses on ridiculing characters or killjoys, who resist the festive mood of comedy. Such characters, called humors, are often characterized by one dominant personality trait or ruling obsession.
A play that uses both of these types of comedy well is A Midnight Summer Night’s Dream. William Shakespeare is the author of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. He was born in 1564 to his well-to-do parents John and Mary. At age eleven, he entered the grammar school of Stratford, King’s New School, where he most likely started studying theater. After completing school he married Anne Hathaway and had three children. In the early years of his marriage to Anne he worked at The Globe theatre which is where he started writing poems. His works consist of playwrights, sonnets, poems. Shakespeare’s favorite type of playwright was a romantic comedy.

Romantic Comedy

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There are several couples that are utilized to depict romantic comedy. “Four discrete but intersecting story lines mesh in smooth conjunction. Serving as an outer frame for the play is the pending wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and his captive bride Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. No conflict as such characterizes their plot function. As monarchs of a peaceful land, they are to establish a festive tonic key for the play and to establish a four-day time frame for the other plots.
First of the active stories to unfold concerns four young lovers caught up in dispute. Hermia and Lysander love one another and want to marry; Helena loves Demetrius who in turn, however, does not love her but rather Hermia. Egeus, Hermia's father, wants Demetrius for his daughter, not Lysander. The four end up wandering the woods near Athens. Their bizarre adventures furnish one main source of laughter, because with the help of a magical love potion, the affections of the lovers are shifted several times. Eventually, as in most comedies, the right pairs will match up to join Theseus and Hippolyta in a grand marriage festival at play's end.” (Gianakaris)The main squabble scene between the four young lovers--Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander and Helena--is a prolonged exercise in slapstick. How the actors manage to continue speaking their lines and keep their puff while doing so much physical argy-bargy, including one wince-making kick to the groin, Lord knows. Their constant batting to and fro of affections is a super illustration of how denial, in love, only ever seems to intensify longing. Is there anything more alluring than a refusal? (Letts)
“A Midsummer Night's Dream exhibits reduced reliance on classical antecedents as Shakespeare worked toward developing his own more romantic style of comedy. In the world of this play, audiences certainly laugh with, not at, the objects of the jokes. Blank verse is the author's main staple in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Still, there are passages of rhymed verse, too, at moments of high passion in the love plot and during the several songs and invocations that dot the play. Distinct social classes are delineated by different dialogue patterns as often is true in Shakespeare's dramas. Courtiers and royalty of both human and fairy realms speak in blank verse with some rhymed couplets ending scenes. The aristocratic lovers in the play likewise use blank verse though with frequent splurges of rhymes, given the intense nature of young love. At times, the verse spoken in the fairy realm especially during songs and Puck's casting of spells shifts into a brisker meter, usually octosyllabics. Prose dialogue, on the other hand, dominates the speech of the workmen who prepare a play for the nuptial revels of Theseus and his bride Hippolyta. The poetry permeating this comedy needs to be well-rendered, because it is poetry which creates the shifting moods and the prevailing fantastic tonality.” (Gianakaris)

Satiric Comedy
external image 36469.jpgThere are just as many couples and story lines that depict satiric comedy. One such story line is Titania, Queen of the fairies, and Oberon, King of the fairies. They are married but currently agitated by each other. Because of a mistake made by the fairies, Titania falls in love with Nick Bottom. Puck, King Oberon’s servant, plays a trick on Bottom by turning his head into a Jackass. This is where the comedy changes from romantic to satiric. “One of the most ubiquitous epithets in Shakespearean drama is "ass." Since it carries the primary significance of an ignorant fellow, a perverse fool, or a conceited dolt, the word can be counted upon to stimulate audience laughter. An examination of the ass motif's appearance in these plays can illuminate Shakespeare's inventive transformation of this seemingly unassuming word into a complex verbal cipher.“ (Wyrick) The fairies put a spell on Titania to make her fall in love with Bottom who looks like a Jackass which provides for the humorous setting making fun of the characters. “Traditionally, Titania's infatuation with translated Bottom has been seen as the most intense point at which the play moves across authoritative centers, Bottom's head and Titania's misplaced, misrecognizing desire representing acute distillations of the categories of base-bodily and aristocratic-visual that organize the comedy, amplified to the point of absurdum.” (Stott)
The artisans that bottom was associated with were another satirical focus throughout this work of literature. "From the mid-seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth century, the aristocrats were viewed as the play's main focal point, while the artisans were seen as incongruous comic elements in an essentially aristocratic pageant. Strict neo-classical views of genre caused the "low comedy" of the "rude mechanicals" performing a travesty of Pyramus and Thisbe to be removed entirely from productions of the play and, in some cases, to be performed separately as a brief farce (Williams 38). During the nineteenth century , when the artisans were reintroduced into stage productions, their portrayal as bumbling fools led one contemporary newspaper critic to ask in 1854, "Why were [Shakespeare's] honest laborers always greasy, dirty, stupid and slavish?" (qtd in Williams 117)"(Riga)

Works Cited
Gianakaris, C.J. "A Midsummer Night's Dream: Overview." Reference Guide to English Literature. Ed. D. L. Kirkpatrick. 2nd ed. Chicago: St. James Press, 1991. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. Print.
Letts, Quentin. "Belly Laughs and a Brummie Bottom." Daily Mail (22 Apr. 2005): 54. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Vol. 112. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
Riga, Frank P. "'Where is that worthless dreamer?' Bottom's fantastic redemption in Hoffman's A Midsummer Night's Dream." Mythlore 25.1-2 (2006): 197+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.Williams, Gary. Our Moonlight Revels: A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Theatre. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1997.Wyrick, Deborah Baker. "The Ass Motif in The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night's Dream." Shakespeare Quarterly 33.4 (Winter 1982): 432-448. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 82. Detroit:Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.