The Death of Comedy

by Erich Segal

Harvard | October 30, 2003 | Trade Paperback

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In a grand tour of comic theater over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century B.C. Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett. With fitting wit, profound erudition lightly worn, and instructive examples from the mildly amusing to the uproarious, his book fully 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 neighborly 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 Molière 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. The book is a tour de force, a sweeping panorama of the art and history of comedy, as insightful as it is delightful to read.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 608 pages, 8.86 × 5.94 × 0.05 in

Published: October 30, 2003

Publisher: Harvard

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 067401247X

ISBN - 13: 9780674012479

Found in: Entertainment

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– More About This Product –

The Death of Comedy

by Erich Segal

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 608 pages, 8.86 × 5.94 × 0.05 in

Published: October 30, 2003

Publisher: Harvard

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 067401247X

ISBN - 13: 9780674012479

Table of Contents

Preface

1. Etymologies: Getting to the Root of It

2. The Song of the Komos

3. The Lyre and the Phallus

4. Aristophanes: The One and Only?

5. Failure and Success

6. The Birds: The Uncensored Fantasy

7. Requiem for a Genre?

8. The Comic Catastrophe

9. O Menander! O Life!

10. Plautus Makes an Entrance

11. A Plautine Problem Play

12. Terence: The African Connection

13. The Mother-in-Law of Modern Comedy

14. Machiavelli: The Comedy of Evil

15. Marlowe: Schade and Freude

16. Shakespeare: Errors and Eros

17. Twelfth Night: Dark Clouds over Illyria

18. Molière: The Class of ''68

19. The Fox, the Fops, and the Factotum

20. Comedy Explodes

21. Beckett: The Death of Comedy

Coda

Notes

Index

From the Publisher

In a grand tour of comic theater over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century B.C. Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett. With fitting wit, profound erudition lightly worn, and instructive examples from the mildly amusing to the uproarious, his book fully 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 neighborly 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 Molière 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. The book is a tour de force, a sweeping panorama of the art and history of comedy, as insightful as it is delightful to read.

About the Author

Erich Segal taught at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and was a Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. He is the author of nine bestselling novels.

Editorial Reviews

Erich Segal''s book The Death of Comedy is without a doubt the most comprehensive treatise to have been published for many a year about this marvelous genre.
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