Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


a. a drama in which aspects of both tragedy and comedy are found
b. the dramatic genre of works of this kind



a form of drama that combines elements of tragedy and comedy. Tragicomedy is based on a sense of the relativity of the prevailing values of life that manifests itself in drama during spiritual turning points in history.

The principle of tragicomedy emerged in the works of Euripides and was intensified in the drama of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The first tragicomedies were written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The genre combined humorous and serious episodes and noble and comic personages. Typical tragicomedies depicted idealized friendship and love borne through danger to safety and happiness. The genre was marked by pastoral motifs, intricate action and thrilling situations, prolonged uncertainty and unexpected surprises, and the predominance of chance. Characters as a rule did not remain static, although a single personality trait was often emphasized, reducing the character to a type, and events were generally not controlled by the heroes’ actions.

The tragicomic element was again intensified beginning in the late 19th century in plays by Ibsen, Strindberg, Hauptmann, and Chekhov, and later in those by O’Casey, Garcia Lorca, and particularly Pirandello. In the mid-20th century, elements of tragicomedy were found in plays by J. Giraudoux, J. Anouilh, F. Dürrenmatt, B. Behan, H. Pinter, E. Ionesco, S. Beckett, and C. Zuckmayer.

Modern tragicomedy is not a strictly defined genre and is characterized mainly by a general tragicomic effect. To attain this effect, the dramatist depicts reality in a simultaneously comic and tragic manner; the comic and the tragic often reinforce each other. The tragicomic effect is based on the incongruity between a hero and a dramatic situation, as when a comic hero finds himself in a tragic situation, or occasionally the other way around. The tragic effect can also be based on the inner irresolution of a conflict: the spectators’ sympathy for one character often conflicts with sympathy for another character, and the author refrains from taking sides.


Ratskii, I. “Problema tragikomedii i poslednie p’esy Shekspira.” Teatr, 1971, no. 2.
Styan, J. L. The Dark Comedy: The Development of Modern Comic Tragedy. Cambridge, Mass., 1962.
Guthke, K. S. Modern Tragicomedy, New York, 1966.


References in periodicals archive ?
If we look at the theoretical formulations of Giovanni Battista Guarini in his 1601 Compendium of Tragicomic Poetry, which Fletcher almost certainly had read and taken as a model for his 1609 preface to The Faithful Shepherdess (itself indebted to Guarini's II Pastor Fido), we can locate surprising political possibilities for tragicomedy.
The chapter on Jacobean tragicomedy, while certainly engaging, attempts to cover too much ground and leaves the reader somewhat dissatisfied with the cursory treatment of some texts.
She argues that scholarship so far has mostly focused on Aphra Behn and particularly on her comedies, while the contribution of other contemporary female dramatists to tragedy and tragicomedy has been neglected.
The theme of the tragicomedy 'The Restaurant' is similar to Friedrich DE-rrenmatt's 'The Visit' (in German 'Der Besuch der alten Dame'), which tells the story of an old lady who becomes the wealthiest person in the world and returns to the village that cast her out as a young woman.
Valerie Forman's excellent study of tragicomedy joins several other recent first books that treat a single genre and can be grouped under the rubric of "historical formalism," including Benedict Scott Robinson's Islam and English Literature: The Politics of Romance from Spenser to Milton (Palgrave, 2007), Scott Newstok's Quoting Death in Early Modern England: The Poetics of Epitaph Beyond the Tomb (Palgrave 2009), and Adam Zucker's The Places of Wit in Early Modern English Comedy (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
He explains that Latino comic "author-artists" work within the three narrative prototypes identified by Hogan--tragicomedy, heroic tragicomedy, and sacrificial tragicomedy and that their narratives tap on the brain's emotional wiring.
Within sections on Heywood's English landscape, staging Roman comedy in Stuart London, and street theater, he considers his and John Stow's role in the invention of the city staged, his divided households, trade and slavery in The Captives, the innovative tragicomedy of The English Traveller, out of the dripping pan into the fire in Loves Mistris, and whether the pageants reflect London's peaceable estate.
155) raised important analogies--and the evolution of the period's most popular dramatic genre: tragicomedy.
A vicious and bitchy mixture of Iggy Pop, Marlene Dietrich and Lilly Savage, he is a magnetic presence who stays the right side of camped up tragicomedy.
Researchers for British Shakespeare publisher Arden are to publish new evidence that the play Double Falsehood, a romantic tragicomedy by Lewis Theobald, was actually written by Shakespeare in collaboration with dramatist John Fletcher.
Though the definition of tragicomedy has evolved over the centuries, I favor the 16th century definition as most applicable to today.
This People's production is directed by first-time director Ben Jewell, who said: "Michael Frayn's translation bears his signature mastery of tragicomedy familiar to audiences of May's production of Democracy.