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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Journalism annuls history, never more so than in war, where it promotes a depthless present, most tragicomically in television "coverage," the reporters--actors in fact--having mostly as little relationship to reality as the Greek chorus in the Agamemmon debating among themselves what Clytemnestra is up to ("Is that a noise I hear?") as she hacks the King to death.
This much, however, is clear: In the world according to Kafka, belief has grown increasingly suspect, the prospect of life without faith terrifyingly bleak, and the individual absurdly, tragicomically free.
Tragicomically, Mourinho waxed lyrical about Xherdan Shaqiri to confidants during the World Cup and then witnessed him execute an overhead kick as Liverpool whipped United.
Forgetting -- tragicomically -- that the most successful countries in Europe, with respect to their economy and democracy, like Germany, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, are almost always governed by coalition cabinets and are either monarchies or strong parliamentary republics.
"Mutaciones posmodernas: del vampiro depredador a la naturalizacion del monstruo" (Postmodern Mutations: from the Predatory Vampire to the Naturalization of the Monster) offers a succinct but nuanced history of the development of the vampire figure (a quintessential fantastic monster), arguing that the postmodern vampire, tragicomically epitomized in the Twilight series, has become effectively naturalized or normalized to such a degree that it is no longer exceptional or impossible and therefore not a fantastic creature.
He went on to tragicomically illustrate the generally adopted view on Lebanese sectarianism with the following anecdote: "When I am abroad, and people ask me what I am, I always answer: I'm Lebanese.
Restless eros has been converted into sculpture, the eros tragicomically struggling to invent a shape adequate to its intensity, the restlessness transformed into the theatrical eccentricity that shows there is no s uch shape.
Similarly, in a selection of Novellen by Droste-Hulshoff, Keller, and Storm, the Doppelganger figure presents 'the condition of subjectivity under nineteenth-century realism as tragicomically divided' (p.
Information from the free world and some kind of opportunity to broker his views had to fit (almost tragicomically) into that chock-full day.
"You don't get it, he blanks you and he says to the physio, while you're there so he knows what he's doing, 'How long?' And the physio would say, 'Couple of days' and he'd just walk out." It was just over a year ago that Mourinho used his press conferences to air motivational sermons to the 'cautious' Jones and Chris Smalling after they succumbed to injury on international duty, with Smalling tragicomically breaking Jones' toe.
Even more, tragicomically Erdoy-an said in the same speech that Turkey maintains strong ties with the European Union, the US and NATO.
Youth was just as troubling and just as hopeful, and it ushered in a whole new set of sexual feelings, which were the perfect comic fuel for Jean-Pierre Leaud, the matchless actor who immortalized Truffaut's tragicomically self-dramatizing alter ego, Antoine Doinel, in five movies over twenty years: The 400 Blows (1959), the "Antoine and Colette" episode of the 1962 omnibus effort Love at Twenty, Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970), and Love on the Run (1979).