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Comedy of manners

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The comedy of manners also called anti sentimental comedy is a form of comedy that satirizes the manners and affectations of contemporary society and questions societal standards. Social class stereotypes are often represented through stock characters such as the miles gloriosus ("boastful soldier") in ancient Greek comedy or the fop and rake of English Restoration comedy, which is sometimes used as a synonym for "comedy of manners".[1] A comedy of manners often sacrifices the plot, which usually centers on some scandal, to witty dialogue and sharp social commentary. Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which satirized the Victorian morality of the time, is one of the best-known plays of this genre.

The comedy of manners was first developed in the New Comedy period of ancient Greek comedy and is known today primarily from fragments of writings by the Greek playwright Menander. Menander's style, elaborate plots, and stock characters were imitated by the ancient Roman playwrights, such as Plautus and Terence, whose comedies were in turn widely known and reproduced during the Renaissance. Some of the best-known comedies of manners are those by the 17th-century French playwright Molière, who satirized the hypocrisy and pretension of the ancien régime in plays such as L'École des femmes ([The School for Wives], 1662), Tartuffe ([The Imposter], 1664), and Le Misanthrope ([The Misanthrope], 1666).

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Hi everyone. I'm rincey and i am one of the contributing editors over at book riot. So one sort of storytelling theme or idea that I really enjoy is sort of like comedy of manners sort of thing. I feel like this was really common or still is kind of common in like British literature. I feel like the first instance I had of it was reading Jane Austen and I feel like a lot of sort of classic British literature but, or even just like modern British literature deals a lot with class structure because it's a very clear class structure sort of set in place in those periods. But I've been really enjoying seeing it reimagined or explored in modern-day literature. The two sort of examples that I'm going to talk about today also deal with cultures that are not the Western based, which is probably another reason why I find it really interesting because they are more open about I guess class structures you could say. So the first set of books that I have to talk about is actually a trilogy and that is the crazy rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan. This first one is really shiny so I'm not going to hold up for too long. But the first book is crazy rich Asians the second book is China rich girlfriend and then the third book in the trilogy just came out and it's called rich people problems. I love these books so much. They're so much fun. And crazy rich Asians is actually being made into a movie that's supposed to come out in 2018 I believe which I am super excited about. But yeah this was sort of like my first example of like a modern-day version of comedy of manners books. And it really reminded me of how much fun that these can really be. So comedy of manners, I should probably explain what that means in case you haven't heard that phrase before, is basically like a satirical look at upper classes of society. And so a lot of what is explored in these types of books are the traditions and the sort of like rules of living in an upper-class society and how ridiculous some of those things can really be sometimes. In the crazy rich Asian series you are mainly following a couple of different families. The two main characters are Nick and Rachel. Nick comes from a really rich, powerful, influential family in Singapore and Rachel was born here in the United States. So it's sort of this perfect combination of an outsider looking in on this crazy world and being sort of like a surrogate for the reader or the audience of like exploring what this world is really like, what the rules are, what their values are, what they seem to care about, things like that. Yeah it's just really so so so much fun. Kevin Kwan does a really great job of finding this balance of like talking about how like elegant and opulent all of these people are but also talking about how like crazy and insane some of their ideas are and it's just so so much fun. It's sort of like the perfect fun, light again just comedy a manners sort of book that really does a great job of exploring this upper class of society that the vast majority of us will never have exposure to. The other one that I recently read is a new release and that is the windfall by Diksha Basu. This one takes place in Delhi in India and it follows this family who recently came into a lot of money because the father created this website and sold it for a significant amount of money and so they are moving from one part of Delhi, like this apartment complex to having their own house and a much richer part of Delhi. And it's again just a really fun read. It explores a lot about the idea of like of keeping up with the Joneses sort of society, wanting to have the best things possible and looking over your shoulder or looking over your neighbor's fence to see what they have and then figuring out how you can sort of like top that or at least meet it. Again, like I said, this family moves from an apartment complex to this house so part of it is sort of them, you see their thinking and what they perceive to be what rich people do and then you see sort of like the rich people in their new neighborhood and what they actually do and how they perceive things might be different. There's like one scene in here that I thought was really great where the family the father of the family was going out to buy luggage. And he saw that the luggage with the like name-brand logo over it -- I don't think it was Louis Vuitton but something like a similar type of brand -- like the one with the logo all over it was cheaper than the version that was just like all-black and you couldn't see the logo at all. And the father was so confused about why that would be because like clearly you would want the one that shows off the logo so that way everyone knows you're carrying this sort of like name-brand luggage around. And yet like the way the sort of like even higher class thinks is like you don't want to be sort of showing off. If you are part of that class and culture you already know what these name-brand bags look like and you don't need to have the logo like plastered all over it. So it's just like that really interesting contrast of what someone who's new to that society would perceive to be what a rich person would do and then sort of like what the rich people are actually doing in that world and how they view sort of the things that you know one person thinks as being extravagant is really not extravagant to another person. It's just like this fun sort of satirical analysis of these upper classes of society that's just yeah a lot of fun. And then it also just sort of weaves in Indian culture which I found really amusing as I'm someone who's of Indian descent. So yeah those are the examples that I have for you guys in this video. If you have any other examples of modern comedy of manners, I would love to hear about them down in the comment section below especially if they take places in like sort of other countries or other cultures that might not be as like well represented in this genre. Like if it's not an English is basically sort of comedy of manners I would love to hear about it. But you can leave your English ones that down in the comment section as well because I think especially modern-day takes on it are really interesting to me since we don't think about class system quite as much. Or we at least like to pretend that it doesn't exist quite as strongly in our modern world but it definitely does. So yeah leave those suggestions down in the comments below and I will see you guys next week. Bye.


Early examples

The comedy of manners has been employed by Roman satirists since as early as the first century BC. Horace's Satire 1.9 is a prominent example, in which the persona is unable to express his wish for his companion to leave, but instead subtly implies so through wit.

William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing might be considered the first comedy of manners In England, but the genre really flourished during the Restoration period. Restoration comedy, which was influenced by Ben Jonson's comedy of humours, made fun of affected wit and acquired follies of the time. The masterpieces of the genre were the plays of William Wycherley (The Country Wife, 1675) and William Congreve (The Way of the World, 1700). In the late 18th century Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, 1773) and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (The Rivals, 1775; The School for Scandal, 1777) revived the form.

More recent examples

The tradition of elaborate, artificial plotting, and epigrammatic dialogue was carried on by the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In the 20th century, the comedy of manners reappeared in the plays of the British dramatists Noël Coward (Hay Fever, 1925) and Somerset Maugham. Other early twentieth-century examples of comedies of manners include George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion (later adapted into the musical My Fair Lady), E. M. Forster's A Room with a View, and the Jeeves and Wooster stories of P. G. Wodehouse.

The term comedy of menace, which British drama critic Irving Wardle based on the subtitle of The Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace (1958), by David Campton, is a jocular play-on-words derived from the "comedy of manners" (menace being manners pronounced with a somewhat Judeo-English accent).[2] Pinter's play The Homecoming has been described as a mid-twentieth-century "comedy of manners".[2]

Other more recent examples include Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, Barbara Pym's Excellent Women, Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees in Honey Drown, The Country Club, and The Little Dog Laughed. In Boston Marriage (1999), David Mamet chronicles a sexual relationship between two women, one of whom has her eye on yet another young woman (who never appears, but who is the target of a seduction scheme). Periodically, the two women make their serving woman the butt of haughty jokes, serving to point up the satire on class. Though displaying the verbal dexterity one associates with both the playwright and the genre, the patina of wit occasionally erupts into shocking crudity.

Comedies of manners have been a staple of British film and television. The Carry On films are a direct descendant of the comedy of manners style, and elements of the style can be found in The Beatles' films A Hard Day's Night and Help!. Television series by David Croft in collaboration with Jimmy Perry and later with Jeremy Lloyd are also notable examples of the genre. These notably include You Rang, M'Lord?, Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, and Are You Being Served?. Television series such as George and Mildred, Absolutely Fabulous, The Young Ones, and The League of Gentlemen also contain many elements of the genre. Though less common as a genre in American television, series such as Frasier , Ugly Betty, Soap, and The Nanny are also comedies of manners.


  1. ^ George Henry Nettleton, Arthur British dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan p.149
  2. ^ a b Susan Hollis Merritt, Pinter in Play: Critical Strategies and the Plays of Harold Pinter (Durham & London, 1990: Duke UP, 1995) 5, 9–10, 225–28, 240.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 February 2019, at 06:07
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