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Play Genres. Genres . Genre  is a French word meaning "category" or "type." The choice of  genre  reflects the writer's  point of view  towards his  subject . The two oldest  genres , dating back to the fifth century BCE, are tragedy and comedy . Comedy and Tragedy.

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  • Genre is a French word meaning "category" or "type."

  • The choice of genre reflects the writer's point of view towards his subject.

  • The two oldest genres, dating back to the fifth century BCE, are tragedy and comedy.

Comedy and tragedy
Comedy and Tragedy

  • In a tragedy, the protagonist goes down in defeat (hence the frown),

  • In a comedy he/she overcomes the dramatic obstacle and attains his/her major objective (which is why he's smiling).

Genres 6 common types
Genres – 6 Common Types

  • Comedy

  • Farce

  • Tragicomedy/Black Comedy

  • Tragedy

  • Drama

  • Melodrama


  • A play that makes you laugh, has plots that end happily and reaffirms the values you hold to be important.


The rungs on the

Ladder of Comedy

  • Comedy of ideas (satire).

  • Comedy of character,

  • Comedy of wit (the humor is in the lines themselves),

  • Comedy of situation (SitCom),

  • Comedy of pain (slapstick),

  • The "dirty" joke -- bathroom humor.

    The bottom four rungs -- the comedy of pain,

    situation, wit and the "dirty joke" -- are generally

    considered low comedy. The top two rungs, the

    comedy of character and idea, are high comedy.

High comedy
High Comedy

  • The subject of high comedy is usually serious and provokes "thoughtful laughter".

  • The action is both possible and probable and the comedy grows out of the character, not the situation. It is usually a realistic portrayal of life. 

  • Tends to be upper class

    • Oscar Wilde – The Importance of Being Earnest


Low comedy
Low Comedy

  • Low comedy refers to the type of humor that is focused primarily on the situation or series of events. This represents the lowest level of the comedy ladder.

  • It can include such things as

    • physical mishaps,

    • humor concerning the human body and its functions,

    • coincidences, and humorous situations.

Low comedy1
Low Comedy

  • The humor is straightforward and generally easy to follow and understand.

  • Characters are grossly exaggerated caricatures rather than fully developed characters.

    • These caricatures are likely to be caught in unlikely situations or to become victims of circumstances seemingly beyond their control. Thus, the plot takes priority over the characters.

Low comedy2
Low Comedy

  • Humor in what the characters do

  • Examples of low comedy might include

    • Dumb and Dumber, Scary Movie, and America’s Funniest Home Videos.

    • Shakespeare’s comedies, such as Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, are full of low humor.

      The Three Stooges


  • A wildly humorous play which emphasizes situation (or plot) over character or idea.

  • “Very fast tempo, with characters running in and out of doors and meeting the very characters they shouldn’t”.

    I Love Lucy

Black comedy
Black Comedy

  • Comedy that treads the fine line of good taste. Morbidly comic.

  • Arsenic and Old Lace



  • A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.

    • Hamlet

    • Oedipus

    • The Crucible


  • A play that is serious but not tragic.

  • Relies on the emotional and relational development of realistic characters. 

    12 Angry Men


  • A serious play with a trivial theme.

  • The conflict is usually between the forces of good and evil.

  • Excitement comes through physical action: chases, fist fights, shoot outs...

  • Many of the melodramas of the nineteenth century included a musical (hence melodrama) score.