The main difference between Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy is that Shakespearean comedies end in marriages or reunion, but Shakespearean tragedies usually end in the death of the tragic hero.
Shakespeare’s plays have been basically categorized into three main categories as comedies, histories, and tragedies. However, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the genre or of some plays, as they show elements of several categories. Literature scholars have identified several common characteristics for comedies as well as tragedies so that they can be identified correctly.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Shakespearean Comedy
– Definition, Common Elements, List of Comedies
2. What is Shakespearean Tragedy
– Definition, Common Elements, List of Tragedies
3. What is the Difference Between Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy
– Comparison of Key Differences
Shakespeare, Shakespearean Comedy, Shakespearean Tragedy
What is Shakespearean Comedy
Shakespearean comedies can be defined as plays of Shakespearean plays that end with a union or marriage. In act, Shakespearean comedies are not ‘comedies’ in the modern sense of the world. Plots and characters of the play are rarely comic or laugh-out-loud funny. In addition, not everything that happens in them is happy or light-hearted.
Shakespearean Plays Generally Classified as Comedies
- As You Like It
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- All’s Well That Ends Well
- The Taming of the Shrew
- The Merry Wives of Windsor
- Much Ado About Nothing
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- The Comedy of Errors
- Love’s Labour’s Lost
- Measure for Measure
- The Merchant of Venice
- Pericles, Prince of Tyre
- Troilus and Cressida
- Twelfth Night
- The Two Noble Kinsmen
- The Winter’s Tale
Main Characteristics of Shakespearean Comedies
Literature scholars have identified several common characteristics in Shakespearean comedies. These include:
Love and Marriage – The themes of love and marriage and separation and reconciliation are prominent in Shakespeare’s comedies. Almost all these comedies end marriage, or at least a betrothal.
Mistaken Identity and Misconception – Characters disguise themselves or impersonate others, or they are mistaken for someone else, creating a comic effect.
Complex Plots – When compared to Shakespearean tragedies and histories, comedies have more twists and turns, making the plot complex and unpredictable.
Furthermore, the language in Shakespeare’s comedies uses clever word plays, metaphors and insults. Another notable feature in these comedies is their setting. Most of these comedies have idyllic settings such as the mysterious island of Illyria (Twelfth Night) or the Forest of Arden (As You Like It).
What is Shakespearean Tragedy
Shakespeare is perhaps more famous for his tragedies. Tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello are well-known all over the world. Moreover, scholars have identified several common characteristics in Shakespearean tragedies. All these plays have a protagonist with a tragic flaw, which leads to his downfall. Also, this protagonist is often a nobleman, with great power and wealth. The tragic hero faces both internal and external struggles in the play. Although the tone of the plays is quite serious, you’ll find some passages or characters that act as comic relief.
You’ll find one or more of the following elements in Shakespearean tragedies:
Elements in a Shakespearean Tragedies
- A tragic hero
- A dichotomy of good and evil
- Issues of fate or fortune
- Foul revenge
- Supernatural elements
Shakespearean Plays Generally Classified as Tragedies
- Titus Andronicus
- Romeo and Juliet
- Julius Caesar
- Troilus and Cressida
- King Lear
- Antony and Cleopatra
Difference Between Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy
Shakespearean comedies are plays of Shakespeare that end in marriages or reunions, but Shakespearean tragedies are plays of Shakespeare that usually end in the death of the tragic hero.
Comedies generally have a happy ending, but tragedies have a sad ending.
Shakespearean comedies tend to focus more on situations than characters, while Shakespearean tragedies tend to focus more characters.
Shakespearean comedies can involve common-born or middle-class main characters, while tragedies mainly involve characters from the nobility.
The theme of love and marriage, complex plot, mistaken identities or misconceptions, clever wordplay are some elements of Shakespearean tragedies, while tragic heroes, a dichotomy of good and evil, hamartia, issues of fate or fortune, foul revenge, supernatural elements, and catharsis are some elements in Shakespearean tragedies.
The main difference between Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy is that Shakespearean comedies end in marriages or reunion whereas Shakespearean tragedies usually end in the death of the tragic hero. The theme of love and marriage, complex plot, mistaken identities or misconceptions, clever wordplay are some elements of Shakespearean tragedies, while tragic heroes, a dichotomy of good and evil, hamartia, issues of fate or fortune, foul revenge, supernatural elements, and catharsis are some elements in Shakespearean tragedies.
1. Jamieson, Lee. “4 Ways to Identify a Shakespeare Comedy.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 10 Aug. 2019, Available here.
2. Edley, Luke, et al. “Elements of Shakespearean Comedy.” Thanet Writers, 5 Nov. 2019, Available here.
3. Jamieson, Lee. “What Makes Shakespeare’s Tragedies Tragic?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 24 Dec. 2018, Available here.