Media Studies

  • noun tragicomic plays or literary works considered as a genre
  • noun an event or situation that has both tragic and comical aspects


  • A genre that blends elements of tragedy and comedy. Tragicomediestend to fall into two main categories; those in which a potentiallytragic series of events is resolved happily and those in which thecomedy has dark or bitter overtones.

    Although the form can be traced back to Euripidesand Plautus, tragicomedy first emerged as a recognizablegenre in the Renaissance. In Spain, Fernando de Rojas's frequentlystaged dialogue novel La Celestina (1499) was subtitled theTragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, while in 16th-century Italythe term was applied to several plays by Giovanni Giraldi (seeIl Cinthio). A number of Shakespeare's works - most notably, perhaps, The Merchant of Venice, Measurefor Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and Cymbeline - are regularly described as tragicomedies.

    Many pastoral works of the 16th and 17th centuriesare essentially romantic tragicomedies. The first French tragicomedy,Robert Garnier's Bradamante, was published in 1582. AlexandreHardy (c. 1575 - c. 1632) developed the genre inthe early 17th century, influencing his countrymen Molièreand Corneille, whose Le Cid (1637) has been called the perfecttragicomedy. He was also imitated by the Jacobean and Caroline dramatistsin England. The last example of a romantic tragicomedy in Englishis probably Dryden's Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen (1667).

    Although it has disappeared as a distinct genre, tragicomedyhas arguably become the dominant mode of serious dramatic writingin the 20th century. The works of Chekhov, O'Casey,Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter could all bedescribed as tragicomic.