Greek and Roman Comedy
Scan day: 01 February 2014 UTC
Description: A history of the comic drama, focusing on its origins and development in the works of Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus and Terence.
Announcement: This document was originally published in . Brander Matthews. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1912. pp. 74-106. THE law of the theater, as M. Brunetière has formulated it, is that the drama must deal with an exercise of the human will, and that therefore a struggle of some sort is an essential element in the pleasure we take in a play. A clear understanding of this law is helpful in any question of classification--for example, in the difficult attempt sharply to set off tragedy from melodrama and comedy from farce. If the obstacle against which the will of the hero finally breaks itself is absolutely insurmountable, the Greek idea of fate, for example, the Christian decree of Providence, or the modern scientific doctrine of heredity, then we have tragedy pure and simple. If the obstacle is not absolutely insurmountable, being no more than a social law, something of man's own making and therefore not finally inexorable then we have the serious drama. If the obstacle is only the desire of another human being, then the result of the contention of these two characters is likely to give us comedy. And if the obstacle is merely one of the minor conventions of society, then we may have farce. But as there is no hard-and-fast line separating these several obstacles which the several heroes are struggling to overcome, so the different types of play may shade into one another, until it is often difficult to declare the precise classification. Who shall say that the 'Comedy of Errors' is not, in fact, essentially a farce? Or that the Elizabethan tragedy-of-blood is not essentially a melodrama?
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Total pages in the index, 1050