A comedy is a play which has a pleasant, amusing atmosphere and a happy ending. It can be satirical, because satire and comedy are related.
It begins with the ancient Greek comos ( a revel, a merry and noisy celebration) and the satyr plays, crudely comic plays which used to be performed after a tragedy, as a kind of comic relief.
The true origin of English comedy is to be found in the medieval Miracle Plays which, in spite of being based on Biblical stories, presented amusing characters and events.
Five main types of comedy are usually critics: romantic comedy, the comedy of humours, the comedy of manners, sentimental comedy, and black or dark comedy.
Is the most popular, because it contains a pleasant mixture of love and laughter – two powerful ingredients of success. William Shakespeare carried romantic comedy to perfection with plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream or As You Like It.
Comedy of humours
is normally mentioned in connection with Shakespeare’s contemporary Ben Jonson.
Comedy of manners
The definition comedy of manners is particularly applied to 17th and 18th century dramatists like William Congreve and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. In the late 19th century Oscar Wilde excelled in this genre, which makes fun of social groups and their fashionable manners, and is characterized by verbal wit and mild satire.
In the 17th century a sentimental comedy expressed moral sentiments. In the 20th many writers felt that comedy should be morally instructive as well as entertaining, and this caused a rebirth of the sentimental comedy, under new names like “the drama of the social consciousness” and so on.
Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida could be said to introduce the idea of dark comedy: when compared with romantic comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream they appear to be bitter and, in a way, unpleasant. They represent the darker side of comedy, a side which can be seen in later plays by dramatists like the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), and which is especially noticed in the modern English theatre.