A comedy is a play, script or a live performance meant to entertain the audience and make people laugh. Comedy comprises of jokes and satirical lines. Subversive comedy and social comedy are among the broader categories of drama. Subversive comedy reveals the different fissures under the smooth surface of official ideology in society and the play ends in a ritual celebration such as a marriage.
On the other hand, social comedy addresses threats against hegemonic cultures by disciplining upstarts and the commonwealth man in society. Careful analysis of William Wycherley’s play “The Country Wife”, as an example of a subversive comedy, and Aphra Behn’s play “The Rover”, as an example of a social comedy, reveals a clear distinction between the two categories.
Subversive comedy defines the cracks on the unscathed surface of the official ideology. These cracks exist in the Restoration comedy “The Country Wife” through the oppression of the Puritans Commonwealth during their reign from 1642 to 1660.
The play displays how the present government oppresses its citizens to the right of public expression and mocks the societal view of marriage and sexuality in London.
The cynical view of the shift that occurred in the English attitude towards marriage in the middle of 1670’s has portrayed in Harry Horner’s explanation of how he plans to have sexual escapades with London’s upper class women and how they still keep their honor in society as moral beings (Norman 40).
These sexual escapades are carefully planned by Horner’s lie of being a eunuch after recovering from a venereal disease that rendered him impotent. It aims at fooling the husbands and fiancée of the women who get involved with Horner to allow them do so without raising eyebrows.
Major themes, such as hypocrisy, are addressed through the wants of men and women to appear as being more virtuous than they actually are. The importance placed on money in the society given rise to capitalism and absurdity that drives humans to yearn for sex without love is also tackled. Norman’s comment reveals the different fissures in society that are hidden under the smoothness of official ideology (Norman 52).
Social comedy in contrast to the latter reveals the rebellion against the ruling élite and main virtues in the society. It addresses threats against hegemonic culture by disciplining upstarts.
In the play “The Rover”, the characters revolt against vulnerability of women towards sexual abuse, and the men that marry women whom they consider of a higher social class as compared to the women considered of low social status and hence branded as whores. Angellica is sexually exploited by Willmore for mistakenly falling in love with him.
Willmore wants Angellica Bianca to marry Hellena but Angellica goes against the society’s view of women being sexual objects and she threatens revenge on Willmore. Hellena’s sister, Florinda, revolts against the practice of women being married off to suitors chosen for them.
She goes against her brother’s will and chooses to marry her true love, Colonel Belvile. Women are also portrayed as capable of being thieves as the girl who according to the false assumption of provincial Blunt, has fallen in love with him (Carlson 530).
In conclusion, it is fair to stress that the comedy mocks the underlying issues in society. Subversive comedy reveals the fissures under the smooth surface of official ideology as the play ends in ritual celebrations while Social comedy addresses threats against the hegemonic culture by disciplining upstarts and commonwealth men in the society.
Carlson, Susan. “Cannibalizing and Carnivalizing” Reviving Aphra Behn’s The Rover. Theatre Journal 47.4 (1995): 517-539.Print.
Norman, Holland. The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve Massachusetts: Cambridge, 1959. Print.