The Two Faces of Drama

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There are two general forms of drama:  comedy and drama.

"In comedy, the tone is for the most part light, the main effects are to engage and amuse the audience, the situations and characters tend to be drawn from ordinary life, as opposed to world shaking events and noble or royal characters, and the resolution is happy, at least for the major characters." (Hamilton 3)

"In tragedy, the tone is serious, and often somber; the effect is to involve and strongly move the audience; and the outcome is disastrous for the protagonist and, often, also for those associated with him or her." (Hamilton 4)

The reading we had that was a piece of drama, "Trifles," could fall under the tragedy label: its tone is serious, dealing with a murder; the details recounted throughout the play strongly move the audience to not only think Minnie killed her husband but to also feel sorry for her; and the outcome will be disastrous for whoever you may consider the protagonist. If you consider Minnie the protagonist, she may be convicted of murder and face a heavy sentence, or if you consider Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters the protagonists, they may be punished for hiding important evidence. Well, that last one is a bit of a stretch, but the other points are pretty valid. It's late, I'm just trying really hard.


Good point.... maybe Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are just supporting characters in Mrs. Wright's tragedy.

But Trifles also has elements of comedy. Not "ha ha" comedy, but all characters are all ordinary, not powerful nobles. And the men are pompous to the point of being caricatures. Comedy generally focuses on the rebuilding of a community, by excluding or absorbing the disruptive elements. Mr. Wright has certainly been excluded, and at the end Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale have formed a strong bond; Mrs. Wright will likely be released from prison, so that suggests there's the potential for a community of three women. So in a way, they have expelled the male interlopers from their community. Maybe that's not so much of a stress -- remember that Minnie Wright used to sing in a choir, which suggests a community that Mr. Wright disrupted.

Jessie Farine said:

True, I can see how it can be a comedy as well. Definitely not in a traditional sense of the word, with laughter and joking, but I can see how the elements of a comedy fit with the play. I was too accustomed to thinking that comedy meant laughter and tragedy meant sadness.

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