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Aristotle's Observations on Comedy

Updated: Mar 31, 2022


The roots of comedy lie in satirical verse like the tragedy in epic poetry. In fact, the satirical verse has its origin in the earlier phallic songs. Satirical verse and phallic songs represent men as worse than they are. Satire ridicules personalities and comedy ridicules general vices- ‘sinner’ and ‘sin’. In a comedy, the character should be, ‘some deft or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. I.e. provoking laughter, but leading to no harm or pain either to themselves or to others. Aristotle again disagrees with Plato saying malicious pleasure is the basis of comedy.

Comedy shares the generalizing power of poetry, says Aristotle. It equally represents not what happened but what may happen. The characters in comedy suggest a section of humanity rather than particular men (e.g. Brain worm, Backbite, etc.). So they represent more or less universal rather than individual frailties.


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