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Comedic Value In "In Praise Of Comedy"

1216 words - 5 pages

In the book, In Praise of Comedy, by James Feibleman, he mentions, “Where tragedy deals with the substance of power, comedy is more concerned with contradictions revealed in the form of the absence of power. Thus tragedy is largely an affair of feeling, the feeling of the inexorable power of fate, while comedy is largely an intellectual affair, being concerned with the issue of logical contradictions.” (Page 77). The contradictions Feibleman mentions can be identified as major comedic tools both in Aristophanese's play, “The Clouds,” and in the short film, “A Dog's Life,” by Charlie Chaplain. Vicki Janik, Henri Bergson, and Leon Golden identify many of these tools through their published ...view middle of the document...

Strepsiades is an embodiment of physicality, as all of his worries and concerns are focused around earthly desires and wants, with his anxiety stemming from not having enough money to support his wife and son's lifestyle, and his solution being to learn 'wrong logic' or in essence be able to manipulate language to his gain. Chaplain too creates a very physical presence, with many of his props being phallic shaped, and especially in the bar scene from, “A Dog's Life,” where he sneaks the dog into the bar in his pants. The dog, Scraps, has his tail sticking out of a hole in the rear of Chaplain's pants and the visual pun is played up several times with Chaplain leaning over at one point, while several people note the appendage with surprise. By drawing attention to the physical self, through either grotesque images or through actions that seem to defy physics, comic events create a contradiction from which the audience finds humor.
Henri Bergson presents the idea that the perception of a human being as a machine, combined with repetition of movement is another building block of comedy in his essay, “Laughter: Essay on the meaning of the Comic.” During the scene in, “The Clouds,” where Right and Wrong Reason were arguing, this repetition is highly evident as at one point Right Reason's response to every question is, “From the Faggots!” turning himself into a more regulated being than is normal for humans. Chaplain is a master of behaving in mechanical fashions, repeating the motion of trying to get to an open station at the unemployment agency despite the fact that he always arrives just a second too late, and the attempts create almost a dance. Even during ancient times when machinery was not a part of culture, the repetitive nature of comedy was still a part of theater because it is an element that appeals to the audience. The contradiction of an organic human performing actions that are normally carried out by machines changes the way an audience views the characters, creating comedic atmospheres.
Leon Golden discusses the idea of imitating an action in his essay, “Aristotle on Comedy,” that is also apparent in, “The Clouds,” and, “A Dog's Life.” Aristophanes includes plenty of lewd behavior as a means of creating an environment on the stage that seems almost unreal, in that the actions being performed were so ridiculous as to not be a part of general life (Golden). This leads back to Bergson's theory that comedy often exists as sort of a dreamlike state, where characters perform common activities with uncommon results (Bergson). Charlie Chaplains tramp character...

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