General English

Media Studies

  • noun the humorous imitation of another object or text or style


  • In drama, as in literature and the other arts, a work or partof a work that mimics in a humorous and distorted way the style ofan author or genre. The word comes from the Greek paroidiā,meaning a song that mocks another song.

    Examples survive from the earliest days of the theater. Aristophanesparodied both Aeschylus and Euripides, making the two great tragedianscompete against each other in his comedy The Frogs (405 BC).The Second Shepherd's Play of the medieval Towneley mysterycycle contains a parody of the Nativity scene, in which a stolen sheepis disguised as a baby. The heroic dramas of the 17th and 18th centurywere parodied in Buckingham's The Rehearsal (1671) and Sheridan'sThe Critic (1779), as well as in numerous burlesqueplays. Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1723) parodied the fashionableoperas of his day. Modern examples include Tom Stoppard's The RealInspector Hound (1968), which sends up the conventions of themurder mystery, and Michael Frayn's Noises Off (1982), whichparodies bedroom farce.

    Several passages in Shakespeare reveal him as a master oflinguistic parody. In the play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night'sDream (see Pyramus and Thisbe) he burlesques theexaggerated rant of much Elizabethan tragedy:

    O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black!
    O night, which ever art when day is not!
    O night! O night! alack, alack, alack,
    I fear my Thisbe's promise is forgot!