A Comedy of Thoughts (AKA In Lieu of an Article)

What is a comedy of thoughts? I don’t know. As far as I know, I just made it up. In this case, it’s like a comedy of manners but in your head. Sounds awful, right?

Responsibility: Weren’t we supposed to do a post today?

Panic: You mean, we didn’t do it? We-

Memory: Relax. We did one.

Responsibility: We did? I don’t see it?

Memory: We scheduled it.

Responsibility: Are you sure? When did we do it?

Memory: Last weekend, we did both posts – you remember.

Wit: No. You remember.

Memory: Right.

Responsibility: And you’re sure we did this week’s? Because I don’t see any listed.

Logic: If they’re not in the list of posts, we didn’t schedule them.

Memory: Doesn’t matter. We did them.

Logic: Then, they should be in the drafts.

Memory: This is a private conversation.

Responsibility: They’re not in drafts.

Logic: He must be remembering last week.

Memory: I am not!

Responsibility: We still have to do today’s post then.

Panic: But it’s already today! It’s afternoon! We can’t-

Creativity: -Oooh! More to write? Can we do something crazy? Something out there! Or, I know, we could draw a picture – or paint one! Painting’s even-

Panic: -We don’t have time to paint! We don’t have time to do anything!

Logic: We could do it on our lunch break.

Wit: Could we? Are you sure?

Responsibility: Yes. That’s fine. We’ll do it on our lunch break.

Memory: We already did it.

Panic: But what will we write about? How can we even think of an idea that fast?

Creativity: Are you kidding? We have lists of ideas! Have you been-

Memory: We already did it!

Creativity: -listening?

Logic: If you two keep arguing, we will run out of time.

Panic: See? I told you we didn’t have enough time!

Wit: That helped.

Panic: We’ll never get it done!

Memory: We. Already. Did. It.

Responsibility: Guys, put it aside. We need to work on other things. Today’s article can wait until-

Memory: WE ALREADY DID IT!!! [Storms off.]

Logic: …he’s going to spend the whole afternoon nagging us that we already did it, isn’t he?

Wit: Nope. Absolutely not.

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Imagine If Book Genres Were Like Theatrical Genres

When I think of book genres, I think of things like sci fi, fantasy, mystery, western, romance, and horror; when I think of theatrical genres, I think of things like comedy, tragedy, comedy of manners, musicals, dramas, and histories. The book genres tend to be named after the plot’s focus (magic, something scary, a love story, etc.). With theatrical genres, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

For example, a man and woman fall in love, but her father objects and forbids the marriage. The rest of the story is about the conflicts they encounter in their efforts to be together.

In a book, it would be a romance. In a play? I don’t know. How does it end? If one or more of the couple dies, or they end up parted forever, it’s a tragedy. If they marry and get rich, it’s a comedy. If there’s a lot of witty dialogue and mix-ups that lead to them marrying other people but living happily by having an affair, it’s probably a comedy of manners. If they sing and dance, it’s a musical.

This could go on for a while…

Honestly, theatrical genres are alternately vague and oddly specific. With some, it’s all about the ending. Others are more like book genres, and they’re about the focus of the plot. Yet others are defined by how the play is performed.

Can you imagine if books were like that?

I’m picturing a man going up to the librarian for help finding a book. He doesn’t know the author or the title, but he knows it’s in a magical world with dragons. The librarian frowns and ask, “how does it end?” The man frowns back and says he thinks it ends badly for all involved. The librarian leads him to the left side of the library, saying, “It’s in here somewhere. Don’t look on the right side. That’s the comedy section.”

Yeah, I know. No librarian would have a tragedy section without a fantasy tragedy subsection. But it’s a funny image (or not. My humor’s warped). On a more serious note (and partly due to flashbacks of trying to find plays in the library), maybe, we should be more grateful for fiction genres. As a general rule, they’re much better for browsing than theatrical ones.

What on Earth Is a Comedy of Manners?

So I mentioned them as a Restoration innovation in “Shakespearian Tragedies & Happy Endings,” but what exactly is a comedy of manners? To be honest, it sounds pretty dull, right? (If I tried to think of a comical topic, manners wouldn’t be first on my list…at least not for wit) Yeah, well, although the genre does have to do with manners, it’s more about making fun of the upper classes. Mostly the English ones made fun of the aristocracy under Charles II.

Sounds a lot more interesting now, right?

Life under Charles II was a bit racy, especially compared to the previous Puritan regime (I know that’s not saying much, but this was an exponential difference). The dramas of the time played up on the scandalous affairs and behavior, making them the centerpieces of the convoluted plots, secondary only to the witty dialogue.

Granted, the English weren’t the first to write a comedy of manners. The genre goes back at least to Roman times, and even Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is older than the Restoration plays; however, when you hear the term, it’s usually in reference to either Restoration comedy or Moliere’s plays, which were written during the same period (but in France). Oscar Wilde’s plays are the exception to this rule, especially The Importance of Being Ernest, which is a barrage of witty lines (One warning: watching it is hilarity – reading it is torture.).

Hmmm. The fact that they’ve been written for centuries makes me wonder about the modern version. What would a comedy of manners be like today? (Anyone want to make fun of rich people?)