“comedic literature entertains rather than instructs, it aims only to please”
In the ‘Importance Of Being Earnest’, comedy certainly entertains through the fast pace series of events from beginning to the very end of the play. Oscar Wilde trivialises what it most important. The conspicuous character Mr John Worthing takes on the disguise of being “jack in the country” and “Earnest in town”. This immediately serves to cause comedic confusion amongst the audience. The play is a comedy of manners and a farce, which contains some references to contemporary historical events. Wilde includes references to historical events to show just how much of a troubled society it was during the 18th century.
The meaning of the name/noun “Earnest” refers to being truthful, when in fact both the male figures in the play Algernon and Jack who adopt the name ‘Earnest’ aren’t honest. Algernon states Jack looks as if his name “was Earnest”. Algernon’s assumption is proved right during the plays conclusion.
The overbearing nature of the protagonist of the play; Lady Bracknell seems to play a pivotal part of the entertainment. Although, her demeanour proves differently through her abrupt behaviour. During the opening of the play in Act 1 Lady Bracknell of her arrival asks if there were any “nice cucumber sandwiches?”. Lane replies “there were no cucumbers left in the market”. Immediately Wilde creates a sense of tension over such a trivial matter. This is later heightened during the play. Wilde constructs Lady Bracknell to be an authoritative figure but simultaneously mocks her, being a member of the aristocrats. Wilde exaggerates the upper class’s shallowness and frivolity to exemplify the corrupt morals they have.
Wilde’s characters are unnaturally eloquent therefore uses an anti-naturalist stance. All characters are required not to break the ‘comedy of manners’. At a point in the play Algernon seems to break the ‘comedy of manners’ by pretending to cough: “ahem ahem”. Cecily rebukes him and states “oh don’t cough Earnest, when one is dictating one should speak fluently...” the adverb “fluently,” suggests not only were women expected to behave in a certain manner but men too.
Entertainment is also conveyed through the joyous mood created by Burns in ‘Tam O’ Shanter’. This poem is crafted light heartedly throughout the entirety of the poem. One way in which humour is created is by using an anti-climax when Tam reaches the church. “By alloways auld and haunted kirk”. Burns builds up tension by using a gothic theme and listing sinister places. He uses a speedy rhyme scheme, fast metre, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. These are used when he describes his journey to the church. Once all these features are put together speed and tension is then created. The satire used in this poem are about an 18th century gothic novel. The entertainment at climax during this poem as a narrative is told to the audience about “Brownyis and of Bogillis”.
Another poem which heavily relies on comedy to entertain is ‘The Flea’. The woman in this poem is persuaded to give up her virginity. Donne states: ‘‘our two bloods be mingled thee” He uses assonant rhyme to create a rhythm and a fast rhyme scheme. Through personal pronoun “our” Donne perhaps makes a statement as to not consider the loss of the woman’s virginity as a great deal. This is because the flea has already “[sucked] thee” The monosyllable is used to symbolize they both have a close relationship thus, having sex would make their relationship even more intimate. He promotes pre-martial sex to seem acceptable, when in fact goes against moral boundaries. Donne does this by stating “our marriage bed and marriage temple” conveying sex as a sanctity of life. The letter ‘s’ has a double meaning, thus it could imply the derogatory term if it was to be replaced with the letter ‘f’. The character is crafted in such as way that he is also on an intimate level with the audience. Thus, exposing his conniving self of how he cannot be trusted.
‘The Flea’ is a dramatic monologue. Donne revolted against the sonnet form giving the poem an alternating metre and an AABBCCDDD rhyme scheme. Donne was a metaphysical poet and so uses the fleas as a conceit and a symbol of love. Contrastingly, ‘Tam O Shanter’ is a mock-epic poem written in iambic tetrameters usually with three or four stressed syllables per line. The lines are arranged in couplets giving an overall lively vibe of the poem.
Furthermore, another poem, which certainly entertains through the plot of the poem, is ‘My Rivals House’. Lochheads motif of the poem is to demonstrate; beneath the glossiness of the poem, the characters more specifically the two females namely the mother [“rival”] and her sons partner have a bitter antagonism towards one another. In stark contrast to ‘the Flea’ and ‘Tam O Shanter’ the form of the poem is a oral, along with being sardonic comedy. The onomatopoeia in the verse “what squirms beneath her surface i can tell” perhaps demonstrates the poem would almost be spoken with clenched teeth, to emphasise the bitter sweet relationship. To compensate for her inadequacy the speaker mocks the lavishness of the house which is what the homeowner takes pride in. She sneers at the “silver-sugar tongs” and polished “parquet floor”. The hidden feelings are a façade to hide the deep seated feelings of envy and ‘rivalry’.