The Name and Nature of Tragicomedy: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Name and Nature of Tragicomedy

1st Edition

By Verna A. Foster


232 pages

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Hardback: 9780754635673
pub: 2004-02-20
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Focusing on European tragicomedy from the early modern period to the theatre of the absurd, Verna Foster here argues for the independence of tragicomedy as a genre that perceives and communicates human experience differently from the various forms of tragedy, comedy, and the drame (serious drama that is neither comic nor tragic). Foster posits that, in the sense of the dramaturgical and emotional fusion of tragic and comic elements to create a distinguishable new genre, tragicomedy has emerged only twice in the history of drama. She argues that tragicomedy first emerged and was controversial in the Renaissance; and that it has in modern times replaced tragedy itself as the most serious and moving of all dramatic genres. In the first section of the book, the author analyzes the name 'tragicomedy' and the genre's problems of identity; then goes on to explore early modern tragicomedies by Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger. A transitional chapter addresses cognate genres. The final section of the book focuses on modern tragicomedies by Ibsen, Chekhov, Synge, O'Casey, Williams, Ionesco, Beckett and Pinter. By exploring dramaturgical similarities between early modern and modern tragicomedies, Foster demonstrates the persistence of tragicomedy's generic markers and provides a more precise conceptual framework for the genre than has so far been available.


'Foster is […] illuminating in her comments about style… an intriguing account of tragicomedy's emergence, its revival and its dramaturgical importance.' Early Modern Literary Studies 'Such a study, surely reflecting wide personal experience apparently acquired through extensive playgoing as well as teaching and research, is in many ways a welcome addition in an age of intense specialization… Foster engages the dynamics of audience response in nuanced and generating ways, as she demonstrates important family resemblances between Renaissance and modern tragicomedy: the central contribution of this book, and an important one.' Comparative Drama

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; The name of tragicomedy: problems of identity; Early English tragicomedy: from providential design to metatheatre; Shakespearean tragicomedy: Measure for Measure: the Duke's problem play versus Shakespeare's tragicomedy; The Winter's Tale: tragicomedy of wonder; The tragicomedy of sexuality and surprise: Beaumont and Fletcher and Massinger; Sexuality and tragicomic genre in the plays of Fletcher; The moral tragicomedy of Massinger; Tragicomedy in transition; Modern tragicomedy I: tragicomedy and realism: Ibsen: The Wild Duck; Chekhov: The Cherry Orchard; Synge: The Playboy of the Western World; O'Casey: Juno and the Paycock; Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire; Modern tragicomedy II: metatheatre and the absurd: Beckett: Waiting for Godot; Ionesco: The Chairs and The Killer; Pinter: The Caretaker and No Man's Land; Conclusion: the nature of tragicomedy; Select bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Verna A. Foster is an associate professor of English at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches courses in modern drama, Shakespeare, and dramatic theory. She has published numerous essays on early modern and modern drama.

About the Series

Studies in European Cultural Transition

Studies in European Cultural Transition
The European dimension of research in the humanities has come into sharp focus over recent years, producing scholarship which ranges across disciplines and national boundaries. Until now there has been no major channel for such work. This series aims to provide one, and to unite the fields of cultural studies and traditional scholarship. It will publish the most exciting new writing in areas such as European history and literature, art history, archaeology, language and translation studies, political, cultural and gay studies, music, psychology, sociology and philosophy. The emphasis will be explicitly European and interdisciplinary, concentrating attention on the relativity of cultural perspectives, with a particular interest in issues of cultural transition.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature