tragicomic /traj'i kom"ik/, tragicomical, adj.tragicomically, adv.
/traj'i kom"i dee/, n., pl. tragicomedies.
1. a dramatic or other literary composition combining elements of both tragedy and comedy.
2. an incident, or series of incidents, of mixed tragic and comic character.
[1570-80; < LL tragicomoedia, syncopated var. of L tragicocomoedia. See TRAGIC, -O-, COMEDY]

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Literary genre consisting of dramas that combine elements of tragedy and comedy.

Plautus coined the Latin word tragicocomoedia to denote a play in which gods and mortals, masters and slaves reverse the roles traditionally assigned to them. In the Renaissance and after, tragicomedy was mainly comic, though Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies almost always include some comic or grotesque elements. Modern tragicomedy is sometimes used synonymously with absurdist drama, which suggests that laughter is the only response left to people faced with an empty and meaningless existence.

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▪ narrative property
      dramatic work incorporating both tragic and comic elements. When coined by the Roman dramatist Plautus in the 2nd century BC, the word denoted a play in which gods and men, masters and slaves reverse the roles traditionally assigned to them, gods and heroes acting in comic burlesque and slaves adopting tragic dignity. This startling innovation may be seen in Plautus' Amphitryon.

      In the Renaissance, tragicomedy became a genre of play that mixed tragic elements into drama that was mainly comic. The Italian writer Battista Guarini defined tragicomedy as having most of tragedy's elements—e.g., a certain gravity of diction, the depiction of important public events, and the arousal of compassion—but never carrying the action to tragedy's conclusion, and judiciously including such comic elements as low-born characters, laughter, and jests. Central to this kind of tragicomedy were danger, reversal, and a happy ending. Despite its affront to the strict Neoclassicism of the day, which forbade the mixing of genres, tragicomedy flourished, especially in England, whose writers largely ignored the edicts of Neoclassicism. John Fletcher provides a good example of the genre in The Faithful Shepherdess (c. 1608), itself a reworking of Guarini's Il pastor fido, first published in 1590. Notable examples of tragicomedy by William Shakespeare are The Merchant of Venice (1596–97), The Winter's Tale (1610–11), and The Tempest (1611–12).

      Nineteenth-century Romantic writers espoused Shakespeare's use of tragicomedy in the belief that his plays closely mirrored nature, and they used him as a model for their works. The dramas of Georg Büchner, Victor Hugo, and Christian Dietrich Grabbe reflect his influence. With the advent of realism later in the 19th century, tragicomedy underwent yet another revision. Still intermingling the two elements, comic interludes now highlighted the ironic counterpoints inherent in a play, making the tragedy seem even more devastating. Such works as Henrik Ibsen's (Ibsen, Henrik) Ghosts (1881) and The Wild Duck (1884) reflect this technique. George Bernard Shaw said of Ibsen's work that it established tragicomedy as a more meaningful and serious entertainment than tragedy. Anton Chekhov's tragicomedies include Uncle Vanya (1897) and The Cherry Orchard (1904).

      Modern tragicomedy is sometimes used synonymously with Absurdist drama, which suggest that laughter is the only response left to man when he is faced with the tragic emptiness and meaninglessness of existence. Examples of this modern type of tragicomedy are Samuel Beckett's Endgame (1958) and Harold Pinter's The Dumb-Waiter (1960).

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tragicomedy — (n.) 1570s, from M.Fr. tragicomédie (1540s), from It. tragicommedia, from L.L. tragicomoedia (c.325), contraction of tragicocomoedia (Plautus), from tragicus (see TRAGIC (Cf. tragic)) + comoedia (see COMEDY (Cf. comedy)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • tragicomedy — ► NOUN (pl. tragicomedies) ▪ a play or novel containing elements of both comedy and tragedy. DERIVATIVES tragicomic adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • tragicomedy — [traj΄i käm′ə dē] n. pl. tragicomedies [Fr tragicomédie < LL tragicomedia, contr. of L tragicocomoedia: see TRAGIC & COMEDY] 1. a play or other literary work combining tragic and comic elements 2. a situation or incident in life like this… …   English World dictionary

  • Tragicomedy — Literature Major forms Novel · Poem · Drama Short story · Novella Genres Epic  …   Wikipedia

  • tragicomedy — UK [ˌtrædʒɪˈkɒmədɪ] / US [ˌtrædʒɪˈkɑmədɪ] noun [countable] Word forms tragicomedy : singular tragicomedy plural tragicomedies literature a play, story, or situation that is both sad and humorous Derived word: tragicomic UK [ˌtrædʒɪˈkɒmɪk] / US… …   English dictionary

  • tragicomedy — noun Etymology: Middle French tragicomedie, from Old Italian tragicomedia, from Old Spanish, from Latin tragicomoedia, from tragicus + comoedia comedy Date: circa 1580 a drama or a situation blending tragic and comic elements …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tragicomedy — noun A drama that combines elements of tragedy and comedy …   Wiktionary

  • tragicomedy — Synonyms and related words: Thalia, arlequinade, black comedy, broad comedy, burlesque, burletta, camp, comedie bouffe, comedie larmoyante, comedie rosse, comedietta, comedy, comedy ballet, comedy of humors, comedy of ideas, comedy of intrigue,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • tragicomedy — tra|gi|com|e|dy [ˌtrædʒıˈkɔmıdi US ˈka: ] n plural tragicomedies [U and C] a play or a story that is both sad and funny >tragicomic [ˌtrædʒıˈkɔmık US ˈka: ] adj …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • tragicomedy — trag|i|com|e|dy [ ,trædʒi kamədi ] noun count a play, story, or situation that is both sad and humorous ╾ trag|i|com|ic [ ,trædʒi kamık ] adjective …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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