Romantic Comedy in Literature

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       Romantic comedy is a popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love. This genre is based on Greek New Comedy and Roman commedia erudita, a composite genre which centers mostly on the vicissitudes of young lovers, who get happily united at the end. We find romantic comedy in Shakespearean plays and some Elizabethan contemporaries. These plays are concerned with idealized love affairs. It is a fact that the true love never runs smooth; however, love overcomes the difficulties and ends in a happy union.

      Romantic comedies are plays with light-hearted, humorous dramatic stories, centered on romantic ideals such as a true love able to surmount most obstacles. The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two people, usually a man and a woman, meet and then part ways due to an argument or other contrived obstacles. Initially, these two people do not become romantically involved, because they believe that they do not like each other, because one of them already has a partner, or social pressures. However, the playwrights leave obvious clues that suggest that the characters are in fact attracted to each other, or that they would be a good love match. While the two people are separated, one or both individuals then realize that they are ‘perfect’ for each other, or that they are in love with the other person. Then, after one of the two makes some spectacular effort to find the other person and declare their love, (this is sometimes called the grand gesture), or due to an astonishing coincidental encounter, the two meet again. Then, perhaps with some comic friction or awkwardness, they declare their love for each other and the play ends happily. The couple not necessarily, however, has to marry, or live together ‘happily ever after’. The ending of a romantic comedy is meant to affirm the primary importance of the love relationship in its protagonists’ lives, even if they physically separate in the end.

      The best examples for this genre are to be found in Shakespeare’s comedies, e.g.: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. A Midsummer Night's Dream, is a good example of a romantic comedy, presenting young lovers falling comically in and out of love for a brief period. Their real world problems get resolved magically, enemies reconcile and true lovers unite in the end. The essence of a Romantic comedy especially the Shakespearean kind lies primarily in the explorations of the depths of the lover’s hearts, their emotions, their feelings, their joyous outbursts and their momentary agonies. The way Shakespeare sounded the depths of passion in Viola and Olivia, in Hermia and Lysander, in Rosalind and Orlando, shows that the purpose of the Romantic Comedies is to explore in depth love, a deep attribute of the heart, as a value guiding human lives. This fathoming depth of cordial emotions is absent in a comedy of manners. In a comedy of manners love is a portrayal, but the purpose of the playwright is not to try and analyze the guiding spirit of this steadfast passion called love in the form of intrigues, just as a game of the two sexes presented only on the superficial social plane. Millamant and Mirabell are not Violas and Rosalind; the former take love as an intrigue, the latter are deeply swayed by it. As a natural consequence of the above observation, Shakespearean comedy or Romantic comedy in general, lays stress on individual character portraiture. In the Shakespearean Romantic comedies the major exponents are individualized, as also those popish dandies and fashionable beaux because the thrust of a playwright in the comedy of manners is not upon individual characters; for them the characters are more representative emblems of certain social groups mainly the urban upper classes.

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