ETYM French comédie, Latin comoedia, from Greek, a jovial festivity with music and dancing, a festal procession, an ode sung at this procession.
Light and humorous drama with a happy ending.
In the simplest terms, a literary work, usually dramatic, with a happy or amusing ending, as opposed to tragedy. The comic tradition has undergone many changes since its Greek and Roman roots; although some comedies are timeless, such as those of Shakespeare and Moličre, others are very representative of a particular era, relying upon topical allusion and current fashion.
The comic tradition was established by the Greek dramatists Aristophanes and Menander and the Roman writers Terence and Plautus. In medieval times, the Vices and Devil of the Morality plays developed into the stock comic characters of the Renaissance “Comedy of Humors” with such notable villains as Jonson’s Mosca in Volpone. The enduring comedies of Shakespeare and Moličre were followed during the 17th century in England by the witty “Comedy of Manners” of Restoration writers such as Etherege, Wycherley, and Congreve. Their often coarse but always vital comedy was toned down in the later Restoration dramas of Sheridan and Goldsmith. “Sentimental comedy” dominated most of the 19th century in England and the US, although little of it is remembered or revived today. Its close brought the realistic tradition of Shaw and the elegant social comedy of Wilde. “Slapstick comedy” went from the stage to silent films from 1900 to 1930. The sophisticated comedy of Coward and Rattigan from the 1920s to the 1940s was perfor.
Med on stage and in talking films, which also featured “screwball comedy.” These were eclipsed during the 1950s and 1960s by a trend toward satire and cynicism, as seen in the works of Samuel Beckett. In the 1970s “black comedy” was dominant in the US and England, but “situation comedy”, like Neil Simon’s, continued to win audiences of stage, film, and television during the 1970s and 1980s.