Domestic comedy: Definition and Examples

Domestic comedy is a counterpart to domestic tragedy. It is a form of drama about, predominantly, upper-middle or middle-class life and characters. It has been particularly fashionable since late in the 19th c., and, as the words suggest, is often concerned with family situations and problems.

An early example is Philip Massinger‘s A New Way to Pay Old Debts (c. 1621). Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (1773) might also be taken as an instance.

In the 19th c. a most talented playwright in this form was T. W. Robertson whose best works are Ours (1866), Caste (1867), Play (1868), and School (1869). Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice (1915) is another excellent play in the genre. Several plays by Somerset Maugham in the 1920s were highly successful domestic comedies; particularly Our Betters, Home and Beauty, The Constant Wife, and The Breadwinner.

Domestic comedy continued to fill the theatres in the 1930s and during the post-war period. Other notable dramatists in the genre are Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams, Jean Anouilh, N. C. Hunter, Terence Rattigan, Alan Ayckbourn, and Bill Naughton.

Also read: Black Comedy or Dark comedy