What is Sentimental Comedy?

Read this article to know about the sentimental comedy of the 18th century.

Also read:- Characteristics of Neo-classical Drama

Sentimental Comedy

In the 1800s, in Britain, a new form of drama emerged, known as Sentimental

sentimental comedy

Source: Wikipedia

Comedy. The basic premise of all Sentimental Comedies was that man was good, but capable of being misled.

So plays of this genre had characteristics, which were noble, got into trouble & then found the road to salvation.

Strangely these comedies were more likely to bring an audience to tears than to offer them laughter.

Sentimental Comedies were considered by many to be realistic depiction of everyday life and this was part of their appeal.

Best example is Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers. (buy now)

The Sentimental Comedy of 18th century was, in fact a reaction against the Comedy of Manners which was popular during the Restoration Period.

The Comedy of Manners was characterised by light-hearted fun, rude and severe dialogues. The aim of the writers of Comedy of Manners was to make fun of holy characters.

Middle class morality was ridiculed and the writers made attempt to bring virtue and virtuous characters were satirised.

The Sentimental Comedy of the age was a reaction against the Comedy of Manners. In this comedy, laughter and humour were completely driven out and in place of comedy, sadness was introduced.

The Sentimental Comedy lacked true spirit of comedy, comparatively.

Main Features of Sentimental Comedy

  • Humour was replaced by pathos and humorous situations by pathetic situations.
  • Writers introduced characters from middle class life characterised by virtue without any gain of vice in them.
  • The writers of Sentimental Comedy were moralists and wanted to teach morals through the medium of their plays.
  • The Sentimental Comedies were really moral comedies and a sense of morality and virtue governed them from beginning to end.
  • The dialogues were neither severe nor sparkling.
  • It remained popular for nearly half a century.
  • It drove out genuine comedy from the English Stage.
  • It provided moral lectures in place of entertainment.
  • It awakened tears instead of laughter.
  • It was characterised by emotions of pity and sympathy and lacked wit or humour.
  • It was serious from beginning to end and was entirely removed from the realities of life.
  • Its characters were not real men and women, but production of minds of playwrights.
  • The keen observations and realistic touches which had always brightened the earlier comedy completely disappeared.

Thus it is misnomer to call it comedy. It is rather homily of dialogue.

Also read:- Characteristics of Neo-classical Drama

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