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Reflection Essay on Comedy in Literature and Film: A Case of “The Tempest” and “The Green Knight”

Comedy is a genre in which characters are placed in hilarious circumstances for the purpose of amusement. Comedy is frequently pitted against tragedy. Comedy, according to a literary definition, is a story about ordinary people with a happy conclusion, whereas tragedy is the demise of a great man. They have reversed paths and protagonists with polar opposite social standings in this capacity. While this is a strict definition, comedy frequently deviates from it. The term “comedy” is purposely wide in order to encompass the numerous tactics available for making people laugh. While comedy and tragedy are typically considered in opposition to one another, comedies also contain serious moments, and tragedies also have comedic relief.

All great comic artists have recognized that while dealing with meaningful interaction among human beings, they are confronted with a contradiction: underneath the social being lurks an animal being whose behavior frequently contradicts societal canons. From its ritualistic origins, comedy has lauded creative energy. The earliest revels from which comedy sprang openly acknowledged man’s animal character; animal masquerades and phallic processions bear evidence of this fact. While tragedy considers duality as a deadly contradiction in the nature of things, comedy views it as yet another manifestation of the discordant reality that everyone must live with to the best of their abilities. This reflective essay examines the comic aspect of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and the film “The Green Knight” critically. In art and literature, which both seem to be mirrors of something like the human condition, humor has a prominent role to play. All three basic theories of humor, relief, superiority, and incongruity, incorporate humor in their definitions, and art reflects individuals and civilizations through its use of humor (Heller, 2005). There are conceptual and analytical frameworks that can incorporate all three approaches.

The Tempest

Shakespeare’s The Tempest contains numerous instances of humor. The central characters and plot exhibit a more nuanced, ironic sense of humor. The indirect nature of the humor contributes to the play’s serious tone while also retaining the audience’s attention. In contrast to the play’s central comedy, from Act II Scene II through the halfway of Act III, the play’s comedic tone shifts dramatically from subtle to overt with the appearance of the inebriated duo of Stephano and Trinculo (Shakespeare & Homfrey, 1968). The sailors’ retorts to the other characters demonstrate another technique for capturing the audience’s attention: a complete lack of care for the other characters. Together, the two styles of comedy lend the play an unusual air within the chaos of the play’s events.

The Tempest is an obviously wonderful play, yet despite its classification as a comedy, its humor falls flat. At first look, the play appears to be more akin to Shakespearean drama than a comedy, but with closer examination, the underlying themes emerge in the form of tiny bits of wit in the dialogue. The play also contains instances of very frank humor, which, while not Shakespeare’s best, yet manages to elicit laughter. This precise humorous impact distinguishes The Tempest from many of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, making it a fantastic conclusion to an incredible writer.

It is Prospero, his daughter and Ferdinand who exhibit the more sophisticated aspect of the humour in The Tempest. Prospero, of all the characters in the play, has the most comedic ability because he adopts a recurring theme in Shakespearean comedies: deceit of one’s own self. For Prospero, this consciousness is the act of someone doing one thing wrong and convincing yourself that it’s the best thing to do. His friends frequently follow his example, but when things go wrong, Prospero criticizes them for not doing so (Shakespeare & Homfrey, 1968). Her father, Prospero, is a self-deceiver, while Miranda, his daughter, uses a different strategy. Her father’s decisions are often cruel, but Miranda is often deceived into thinking he is making the right decision. Despite her love for Ferdinand, she follows Prospero with an almost fanatical devotion to her father.

The Green Knight

An ax-wielding green super-being goes to a party and offers a game. The Green Knight then demands that anyone in the party challenge him on the condition that he returns the blow a year and a day later. Gawain agrees to take on the giant and cuts off the monster’s head in the hopes that it will die, but the giant gathers up his head and confirms their meeting at the Green church after a year and a day of preparation. Gawain stumbles onto Bertilak’s Castle while on the hunt for the Green Chapel, where he meets his wife and receives a gracious welcome (Gawain, 1925). This section of the novel is a crucial component of the story’s flow and shows the various themes that are employed in the work. The writer depicts a number of scenarios, including the host’s wife’s attempts to seduce him, the exchange of presents, and the meeting with the giant for revenge at the Green Chapel.

The manner Bertilak and Gawain used to swap their daily harvests is an example of comedy, and in the conclusion, humor is introduced when Gawain is given a fox in exchange for the three kisses he received from the hosts’ wife. Gawain’s encounters with the hosts’ wife also have elements of humor, as the wife attempts to seduce him and is kissed in return. Another instance occurs when the wife presents Gawain with a girdle that she thinks will shield him from harm, introducing elements of comedy and humor. After encountering the Green Knight in the Green Chapel, the giant swings back the axe twice and then lightly impacts Gawains on the third round, causing him only a prick (Gawain, 1925). Following this, the giant shows himself to be the lord of the Castle, revealing to him that the entire line of events had been arranged. Following his defeat and humiliation, Gawain goes to Chamelot and demands that knights wear green girdles in remembrance of his failure.

Comedy can be found in the section where actions of seduction and hunting are linked, as Gawain strives to evade death by the giant’s axe out of fear for his life. As a result, he deceives the host by refusing to give him the girdle, despite the understanding that it would protect him from the giants’ axe. In this situation, he resulted in the host employing gimmicks such as the fox in order to avoid handing out the girdle. The usage of these terms is intended to dramatize an unusual interaction between males and games. It is demonstrated in this story through the Green knight’s challenge at the party, the exchange of blows, and gifts, which are all symbolic of losing and winning within the story’s flow.


Humor also plays an important part in more modern civilizations and cultural activities. Because of this, Jenkins believes that humor is essential in fostering community and strengthening existing social ties, such as those found in fan communities (also known simply as “fandoms”), which may have formed initially solely out of a shared interest in a particular literary or cultural text, but which, over time, develop into much more. Humor can bring people together, but it can also emphasize divisions, convey hatred, and draw attention to problems (Heller, 2005). A few examples of this style of humor are caricatures, cartoons, and satire, all of which use humor to highlight and reinforce existing social differences between people of different socioeconomic statuses, races, ethnicities, and other social categories. “In our battle with one other, we savor situations that show oneself to be victorious, or others failing, and if the feeling of our dominance comes over us rapidly, we are likely to chuckle,” according to superiority theory.

The Tempest contains numerous instances of comedy, from the drunken Stephano and Trinculo to Prospero and his daughter’s self-deception. While the play is structured as a drama, the comedy is well done. Throughout the story, I was kept on my toes as I searched through the dialogue, each time gaining a new perspective on the subtle comedy of the play’s central characters and discovering new ways to enjoy the drunken sailors’ ranting in The Tempest, Shakespeare’s crowning achievement.

The writer employs humor and comedy as tools for communicating the work’s ideas more successfully and efficiently. As seen in this work, humor and comedy may have been used to pique readers’ interest by making the literature more enticing and also by assisting readers in following the story’s flow. Additionally, one could argue that the presence of comedy in a work can aid in its dramatization, as it will be easier to act a film based on a piece of artwork that incorporates elements of humor and comedy throughout its flow.

Work Cited

Gawain, S., 1925. the Green Knight (Vol. 21967). Oxford.

Heller, A., 2005. The immortal comedy: The comic phenomenon in art, literature, and life. Lexington Books.

Shakespeare, W. and Homfrey, L., 1968. The tempest (p. 130). NSW Department of Education Division of Guidance & Special Education.


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