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The Death of Comedy

English | ISBN: 0674006437, 067401247X | 2001 | 604 Pages | PDF | 2 MB

In a grand tour of comic theatre over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century BC Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett. The book illustrates comedy’s glorious life cycle from its first breath to its death in the Theater of the Absurd. An exploration of various landmarks in the history of a genre that flourished almost unchanged for two millennia, “The Death of Comedy” revisits the obscenities and raucous twists of Aristophanes, the neighbourly pleasantries of Menander, the tomfoolery and farce of Plautus. Segal shows how the ribaldry of foiled adultery, a staple of Roman comedy, reappears in force on the stages of Restoration England. And he gives us a closer look at the schadenfreude – delight in someone else’s misfortune – that marks Machiavelli’s and Marlowe’s works. At every turn in Segal’s analysis – from Shakespeare to Moliere to Shaw – another facet of the comic art emerges, until finally, he argues, “the head conquers and the heart dies”: Letting the intellect take the lead, Cocteau, Ionesco, and Beckett smother comedy as we know it.