What are the comic strategies used in The Playboy of the Western World?
Ans. According to modern views, Comedy refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or to amuse by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, television, film and stand-up comedy. In modern times the comic from has been exploited in different ways. As a result there is an extraordinary variety of comedy available in the twentieth century.
The term is dark comedy which is the title of the book from which the above quotation has been cited. The old tragicomedy also continues to be used. The dark comedy, is a sub-genre of comedy and satire where topics and events that are usually treated seriously (death, murder, mass murder, suicide, blackmail, violence, domestic violence, disease, insanity, handicaps, environmental disasters, famine, fear, child abuse, drug abuse, rape, castration, war, terrorism, racism, sexism, homophobia, bestiality, child pornography, line-cutting, etc.) are treated in a satirical manner while still being portrayed as the negative events that they are.
This form of humour will usually go beyond the mere act of telling jokes, some works focusing rather on situational comedy, Dr. Strangelove being one example. Movies that alternate between comedy and tragedy, like Full Metal Jacket, are not black comedy, since by definition Black Comedy draws humor from the tragic parts.
Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” is a dark comedy that explores what it is we value in our heroes. Christy, a man who allegedly killed his father, saunters into town and tell his gory story in mock humility. The women were the first to show him special attention. They adore Christy because he represents danger and excitement, any girl’s dream, compared to the dull, pious men like Shawn. Then the men begin to have respect for him, because he has done something they have all desired to do in a moment of rage. Pegeen even admires Christy’s feet; when he take off his boots she is “standing beside him, watching him with delight”. What normally would cause a person to look away in disgust is now a subject of appeal.
The play is about a woman’s sacrifice of her soul for starving people. It is short and brief like most of Yeats’ other plays; it is a one-act play with five short scenes. As characters we have Shemus, a peasant; and his wife, Mary; their son Teigue; Aleel, a poet; The Countess Cathleen; her foster mother, Oona; and two Demops disguised as Merchants. There are also peasant, servant of Countess Cathleen, and Angelical beings. In the first scene we are in the room where Shemus and Teigue are talking. There is a. fire in the room, and through the open door, the trees of a wood can be seen. The scene has the effect of a painting.
To sum it up, black humor is a type of comedy that deals with negative aspects of life, deriving humour due to it being shocking and unexpected, Family Guy having dead babies singing for example, being shockingly cruel (and thus unexpected,) and in part because it many time reflects a truth that might be too grim to state seriously, something quite common for example in Soviet Russia, and quite abundant in political humour.
Most of the characters in the play make us laugh because of their absurdities or weakness. Drunkenness is most often amusing and we here have four heavy drunkards-Michael James, Philly, Jimmy, and Old Mahon. Michael and his friends make it a point to go to a wake in order to drink the free liquor that is served there. Old Mahon once drank himself almost to a state of paralysis when he was in the company of Limerick girls. Cowardice is another comic trait. Shawn Keogh of Killakeen amuses us not only by his refusal to fight Christy but by refusing even to feel jealous of “a man did slay his da.”
The dialogue in the play too is a source of rich comedy. Leaving aside a few speeches which may momentarily depress us or put us in a serious mood, the rest of the dialogue amuses us greatly. The verbal duel between Pegeen and Widow Quin is one of the comic highlights of the play. Widow Quin slanders Pegeen by saying that the latter goes “helter-skeltering” after any man who winks at her on a road, and Pegeen accuses the widow of having reared a ram at her own breast. Then there are the satirical remarks Pegeen makes to Shawn. She tells him that he is the kind of lover who would remind a grit of a bullock’s liver rather than of the lily or the rose. And then she ironically advises him to find for himself a wealthy wife who looks radiant with “the diamond jewelleries of Pharaoh’s ma.
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