Comedy Vs Tragedy


Comedy Vs Tragedy Essay, Research Paper

Shakespeare’s Comedy vs. Tragedy

Certain parallels can be drawn between William Shakespeare’s plays, “A

Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Romeo and Juliet”. These parallels concern

themes and prototypical Shakespearian character types. Both plays have a

distinct pair of ?lovers’, Hermia and Lysander, and Romeo and Juliet,

respectively. Both plays could have also easily been tragedy or comedy with a

few simple changes. A tragic play is a play in which one or more characters is

has a moral flaw that leads to his/her downfall. A comedic play has at least one

humorous character, and a successful or happy ending. Comparing these two

plays is useful to find how Shakespeare uses similar character types in a variety

of plays, and the versatility of the themes which he uses.

In “Romeo and Juliet”, Juliet is young, “not yet fourteen”, and she is beautiful, and

Romeo’s reaction after he sees her is,

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear

Beauty to rich for use, for the earth too dear!”

Juliet is also prudent, “Although I joy in thee, I have no joy in this contract

tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden.” She feels that because they

have just met, they should abstain from sexual intercourse.

Hermia is also young, and prudent. When Lysander suggests that “One turf shall

serve as a pillow for both of us, One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one

troth,” Hermia replies “Nay, good Lysander. For my sake, my dear, Lie further

off yet; do not lie so near.” Although this couple has known each other for a

while (Romeo and Juliet knew each other for one night when the above quote

was spoken), Hermia also abstains from even sleeping near Lysander even

though she believes he does not have impure intentions.

Romeo’s and Juliet’s families are feuding. Because of these feuds, their own

parents will not allow the lovers to see each other. In the a differnet way Hermia

is not allowed to marry Lysander. Hermia’s father Egeus says to Theseus, Duke

of Athens,

“Full of vexation come I, with complaint

Against my child, my daughter Hermia.

Stand fourth, Demetrius. My noble lord,

This man hath my consent to marry her.

Stand forth, Lysander. And, my gracious Duke,

This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child.”

Egeus tells the Duke that his daughter can marry Demetrius, not Lysander.

Hermia replies “. . . If I refuse to wed Demetrius,” Egeus replies “Either to die the

death, or to abjure for ever the society of men.” If Hermia does go against her

father’s wishes, and weds Lysander, she will either be put to death, or be forced

to become a nun.

Both pairs of lovers also seek help from another. Juliet and Romeo seek Friar

Lawrence, and Lysander and Hermia seek Lysander’s aunt, who lives in the

woods near Athens. Both sets of youths have the same character type. They are

young, their love is prohibited, both women are prudent, and both seek the help

of an adult. Yet they have their subtle differences. For example, Lysander, never

mentioned a love before Hermia. Romeo loved Rosaline, before he loved Juliet.

Hermia’s family and Lysander’s family were not feuding, whereas the Montagues’

and Capulets’ feude was central to the plot of the play.

The stories of “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are very

different however. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a comedy. Oberon, king of

the fairies, sends a mischievous imp named, Puck, to play a trick on the queen of

the fairies, Titania, and on a pair of Athenian youth. Puck turns Nick Bottom’s

head into that of an ass (Nick Bottom is the man in the play production within “A

Midsummer Night’s Dream”; he tried to play every part), and places an herb on

Titania that causes her to fall in love with him. This is quite humorous. However,

at the end of the play all the couples are back together, with the ones they love.

Thus Lysander and Hermia do get married. If Egeus had showed up at the

wedding, he could have killed her. Egeus’ dominate nature is his ?flaw’, and if he

would have attended the wedding, and killed his daughter, this play could have

been a tragedy.

Likewise, “Romeo and Juliet”, could have been a comedy. The first two acts of

this play qualifies it as a comedy. In act I, Sampson and Gregory, servants of the

Capulets, “talk big about what they’ll do the Montagues, make racy comments,

and insult each other as often as they insult the Montagues.” (”Barron’s, 45). In

act II, Romeo meets Juliet. All is going well until Tybalt, a Capulet kills Romeo’s

best friend, Mercutio. Things go continue to go wrong from here, until at the end

of the play Romeo, thinking that Juliet is dead (she is in fact alive, she took a

drug to fake her death), drinks poison, and when Juliet awakens from the spell of

the drug, seeing her dead lover, stabs herself. If the families’ pride had not been

so great that they would murder one another, or prohibited true love, this play

could have been a comedy. This play is a tragedy, not because one character has

a flaw, but both families have a flaw- pride.

Prohibited love, romance, controlling families, both plays have it all. With a few

simple modifications, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” could have been a tragedy,

and “Romeo and Juliet” could have been a comedy. Shakespeare however, uses

many of the same character types, young, prudent, rebellous lovers, and

controling family members, in both comedies and tragedies. The end results are

character molds, along with theme molds that can be easily translated into almost

any plot, in any

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