what is comedy of manners?

what is comedy of manners?

Introduction: Comedy of manners is a literary genre that emerged during the Restoration period in the late 17th century and reached its zenith in the 18th century.

This distinctive form of comedy is characterized by its witty and satirical depiction of the manners and social conventions of a particular class or social group.

Rooted in the societal norms and behaviors of the time, comedy of manners serves as a mirror reflecting the foibles and intricacies of a society.

Key Elements:

  1. Satire and Wit:
    • Central to the comedy of manners is satire, a sharp and often humorous critique of societal norms and individual behavior. The genre uses wit and clever dialogue to expose the follies and pretensions of the upper classes.
  2. Social Critique:
    • Comedy of manners often serves as a commentary on the manners, attitudes, and values of a specific social class or group. Through exaggerated characters and situations, it illuminates the absurdities and shortcomings of the society it portrays.
  3. Setting and Social Context:
    • The settings of comedy of manners are typically urban and sophisticated, representing the upper echelons of society. The characters engage in intricate social rituals, highlighting the importance of etiquette and social standing.
  4. Complex Plots:
    • While the plots of these comedies may seem simple on the surface, they often involve intricate schemes, mistaken identities, and romantic entanglements. These complexities contribute to the humor and create opportunities for satirical exploration.
  5. Character Types:
    • Characters in comedy of manners are often archetypal, embodying specific social roles or stereotypes. These characters are exaggerated to emphasize their flaws, making them vehicles for social critique.

Prominent Examples:

  1. “The School for Scandal” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1777):
    • Sheridan’s play is a classic example of comedy of manners, satirizing the gossip and hypocrisy prevalent in the upper echelons of British society.
  2. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen (1813):
    • While Austen’s work is often considered a novel of manners, it contains elements of comedy of manners through its satirical portrayal of the social conventions and marriage market of the early 19th century.
  3. “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde (1895):
    • Oscar Wilde play, although written towards the end of the Victorian era, embodies the spirit of comedy of manners with its witty dialogue and critique of societal norms, particularly in matters of love and marriage.

Conclusion: Comedy of manners remains a timeless genre that continues to captivate readers and audiences. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to entertain while providing a sharp commentary on the social mores of its time. Through clever dialogue, satire, and intricate plots, comedy of manners offers a delightful exploration of human behavior and societal expectations.

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