‘Tragi-Comedy’, as the very name signifies, is a mingling of the seriousness of tragedy and the pleasantry of comedy. It is both tragedy and comedy, padded together into one new form. It is in essence a tragedy, in its very atmosphere, but has a characteristic happy ending of a comedy. Tragi-comedy, indeed, implies a kind of happily ending tragedy.
Tragi-comedy lies on the borderline between a tragedy and a comedy. It does not strictly conform to the idea of comedy, although this is a comedy in its happy ending. The happy comic ending is found intimately blent with events and situations, quite serious, tragic, or painful.
This type of comedy flourished in the Elizabethan age in the hands of Shakespeare and his followers. Some famous examples of Shakespearean tragi-comedies are Much Ado About Nothing, All’s Well that Ends Well, The Merchant of Venice, and Measure for Measure. All these plays are found bound together by one bond of harmony which characterizes each of them. In fact, each of these plays presents some grave or serious matter, with certain gloomy problems, but the end is all happy. It is this happy ending that makes the play tragi-comedy, and not a tragedy.
The success of the Elizabethan tragi-comedy is also perceived in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Philaster, TheFair Maid of the Inn, The Prophetess, and A King and No king are some of the tragi-comedies, attributed to them.
The influence of the tragi-comedy is noticeable in the sentimental comedy of the eighteenth century and also faintly in the problem plays of modern time. In both these types, the serious theme has a happy ending. The sentimental comedy, however, has a far lesser dramatic effectiveness than the tragi-comedy while the modern problem play is far more realistic and didactic.
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