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Related to tragicomedies: tragicomic, Tragic comedy


a. a drama in which aspects of both tragedy and comedy are found
b. the dramatic genre of works of this kind
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
But where such self-conscious artistic design in Shakespearean tragicomedy evokes providential design, the more attenuated form of metatheater in Fletcher's tragicomedies points only to the author-ity of the dramatist himself." (28) But where Foster reads this authorial self-indication as a flaw of the play, I contend that this pointed reminder is an essential element of its argument.
Here, Munro validates the repertory approach by reconsidering Fletcher's defense of his unpopular 1608 tragicomedy The Faithful Shepherdess, which has led to the common scholarly reading of the play as one of the first English tragicomedies. Reading the play within the Queen's Revels repertory, Munro shows that the genre's origins 'cannot be found in any one play or author' (96), but can be detected within the repertory of the Queen's Revels company.
The plays in question are the tragicomedies written by Shakespeare and Fletcher (the latter in collaboration with Beaumont), especially Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, Philaster, and A King and No King.
This was especially evident in the late tragicomedies, which adapt the mode of the Italian 'grotesque', offering spectacle, wonder, and the acceptance of 'unknowing'.
She counters charges that Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess was out of keeping with the "railing" plays of the Queen's Revels and points out that pastoral could also be used for social commentary, citing traditions of political pastoral and pointing out that the company's tragicomedies tended toward the comic and satiric.
First looking at literary, legal, and religious sources, Walen establishes cultural context, then moves to comedies, tragedies, tragicomedies, the "predatory lesbian erotic" and the "utopian lesbian erotic."
In 'Massinger's Tragedies and Satiric Tragicomedies in their Social and Family Settings' Clark shows that problematic family issues, especially those concerned with patriarchal rights, run parallel to political issues, and he has much of interest to say about feminine experience.
Their names are always linked because of the plays on which they collaborated; these include such tragicomedies as Philaster, A King and No King (1611), and The Maid's Tragedy.
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher inaugurated their collaboration on a series of popular tragicomedies with their play, Philaster, Or Love Lies a-Bleeding, a success soon followed by A King and No King.
Flattery soon won him the favor of Cardinal de Richelieu, under whose patronage he held a succession of important government posts and wrote a number of tragedies and tragicomedies, the best of which was Les Visionnaires (1637).
(8) The Renaissance rediscovery of the so-called Byzantine novel popularized stories of shipwreck and captivity set in the southern coast of the sea and supplied the plots for countless tragicomedies in France in the early part of the seventeenth century.
In the subsequent chapters, she analyzes the staging of the bed-trick in Renaissance comedies, tragicomedies, and tragedies in the context of marriage and then in reference to sexual fantasies and the desire for mastery by male characters who disturbingly remain unpunished.