In this brief study, originally published in 1984, David Hirst examines the meaning of the term ‘tragicomedy’ by elucidating the most important theories of the genre and by analysing those plays which represent its most vital and influential expression. He draws a distinction between tragicomedies and conceived as a careful fusion of contrasted dramatic elements and as a mixed genre which seeks to exploit a volatile combination of theatrical extremes.
In the first part he compares neo-classical romance and satire. The plays of Shakespeare, Fletcher and Corneille, seen in the context of the literary theory of Guarini, are contrasted with Marlowe and the writers of revenge tragedy. The second part examines the conflict of Romanticism and realism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century theatre. Shaw, Chekhov and the Absurdists are viewed in relation to the key theories of tragicomedy expounded by Brecht, Artaud and Pirandello. The study concludes with a consideration of certain significant contemporary plays – by Edward Bond, Peter Nichols and Peter Barnes – in the context of the historical development of the genre.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements. Preface. Part I: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Neo-classical Romance and Satire 1. Introduction 2. Seventeenth-century Pastoral and Tragicomedy 3. Comedy in Tragedy: Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre 4. French Seventeenth-century Tragicomedy Part II: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Modern Romanticism and Realism 5. Melodrama 6. Variations of Melodrama: Chekhov and Shaw 7. Twentieth-century Pioneers 8. Old Ways, New Directions. Select Bibliography. Index.
David L. Hirst