Tragedy and Comedy

No, this isn’t an emo blog about my life. I’m going to waffle on about these two most ancient story forms and how they are related. I personally think tragedy is easier to write than comedy. Why?


To start, I’ll define tragedy as I refer to it. I may well have the same definition as in a dictionary, but I can’t guarantee that. Essentially a tragedy is a story that you wanto have a happy ending, but you just can’t see it having one. You hope against all odds that things work out, but you know they won’t and in the end you are right. They don’t work out happy. Probably the most famous tragedy is Romeo and Juliet. Two lovers separated by a feud between families, they try a desperate plan to be together. As you know, they do manage to be together, but only ironically in death. Right until the last moment, just before Juliet (I think it was Juliet) stabs herself in the heart you are hoping the monk arrives and tells her Romeo is just asleep. Even if he did, is there any way they could really be together?


Comedic writing is difficult. I know this because I’ve tried it and I’ve read a fair bit of it. There are many, many comedic writers but only two that really spring to mind; Romeo and Juliet. No, just kidding. I was trying to demonstrate the similarity between comedy and tragedy. The two writers are Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. They both write in a similar style, though different genres. Comedy works in many different ways, but in particular when comparing with tragedy you can think of it as anti-tragedy. You see the end coming from a mile off and you think you know how it will be but at the last-minute it turns on itself in a happy way. Like I attempted with my sentence above about there being two writers. I was hoping you were thinking of two writers, most likely Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett but then I turned back and brought up the same example I used for the tragedy. The juxtaposition and disruption of expectation should have made you split your sides laughing. I know it didn’t, though, and that’s just something I’m going to have to live with.

Which do I prefer?

I think, like everyone, I have a perverse love of the tragedy. You see the build up, you know it is hopeless but you really wish for something to happen, a deus ex machina like superman to save the day. In Romeo and Juliet you are left with a bittersweet ending where the two lovers express their eternal devotion in the most dramatic and permanent way they could. Though they died, in truth they managed to be together. It is that ironic poetry that calls to me and I think to everyone. The mysterious popularity of vampire romance stories amply demonstrates our love for tragedy. What could be more hopeless than a romance between predator and prey? (Other than the wagon loads of appalling fan fic it generates)


Why do I write these blogs? In part it is to keep myself writing, in part it is for me to practice writing and in part because I’m so vain as to think I’ll be famous one day and people will care. Mostly it is the vanity. OK, it is entirely the vanity. My blogs will be the first digital exhibit at the Louvre that will draw crowds like the Mona Lisa. There I said it.

About sjohnhughes

Author, nerd, father, runner and more View all posts by sjohnhughes

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