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an actor performing comic roles; a theatrical role specialization.
The comedian was the central figure of the old folk street theater, the articulator of its satire and the embodiment of folk humor and common sense. In Renaissance theater, particularly in the works of Shakespeare (for example, the Fool in King Lear), the comedy roles had philosophical and dramatic content. Classicism drove the comedian from the genre of tragedy to the fringes of the “low” genres. However, cheerful comic characters embodying folk wit and vitality were used by Molière (for example, Scapin in Les Fourberies de Scapin) to satirize the ruling estates.
In 19th-century theater the comedian’s role was to satirize society and be the spokesman for humanist tendencies in progressive drama. The comedian approaches the tragedian when he reveals the dichotomy between the external humor and inner drama of the hero’s lot—for example, Kuzovkin in Turgenev’s The Parasite and Shmaga in Ostrovskii’s Guilty WithoutGuilt. In the theater and motion pictures of the 20th century, the range of comedians has expanded, and they play both true-to-life, psychologically profound roles and parts that retain slapstick traditions.
T. M. RODINA