Archive for October 3rd, 2014

October 3, 2014

Comic Relief


Comic relief is the inclusion of a humorous character, scene, or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension. It is a narrative technique that momentarily alleviates the stressful emotions and angst building up in a dramatic story. Comic relief often takes the form of a bumbling, wisecracking sidekick of the hero or villain in a work of fiction. The secondary character will often remark on the absurdity of the hero’s situation and make comments that would be inappropriate for a character who is to be taken seriously. Other characters may use comic relief as a means to irritate others or keep themselves confident.

Comic relief can also occur during dramatic moments in comedies. Greek tragedy does not allow any comic relief. Even the Elizabethan critic Sidney following Horace’s ‘Ars Poetic’ pleaded for the exclusion of comic elements from a tragic drama. But in Renaissance England, Marlowe among the University Wits (a group of late-16th-century English playwrights and pamphleteers who were educated at Oxford or Cambridge) introduced comic relief through the presentation of crude scenes in ‘Doctor Faustus’ following the native tradition of Interlude which was usually introduced between two tragic plays. In fact, in the classical tradition the mingling of the tragic and the comic was not allowed.