difference between a comedy and tragedy

What is the difference between a comedy and tragedy?

You might not think about it, but the difference between comedy and tragedy have to do with many small factors. Find out in this article all of the main elements that ensure whether you laugh or cry!

What is Tragedy?

Tragedy is an event or situation that causes great suffering, destruction, and grief. It is often seen as a Sign of the times. A tragedy can be caused by natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods, or by human actions, such as war or murder. Tragedies often have a profound effect on those who witness them and can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

What is Comedy?

Comedy and tragedy are two of the most common genres of literature and film. Both genres explore human emotions and experiences, but they do so in different ways.

Comedy is a genre that typically explores the lighter side of human experience, often using humour as a way to explore the foibles and follies of its characters. Tragedy, on the other hand, is a genre that delves into the darker side of human nature, often depicting stories of loss, heartbreak, and despair.

While both genres can be moving and thought-provoking, they tend to appeal to different audiences. Those who prefer comedy often appreciate its ability to offer levity and escapism, while those who prefer tragedy may find themselves more drawn to its more introspective look at the human condition.

Difference between the two: comedy and tragedy

There are many differences between comedies and tragedies, but the most fundamental one is that comedies end happily while tragedies end tragically. This difference is usually determined by the plot: in a comedy, the characters generally overcome obstacles to achieve a happy resolution, while in a tragedy, the characters encounter increasingly insurmountable problems that ultimately lead to their downfall.

Other important differences include the tone and style of the two genres. Comedies are typically light-hearted and often make use of humour, while tragedies tend to be more serious and often deal with weighty topics. The language used in each genre also differs significantly: comedies tend to employ colloquialism and wordplay, while tragedies often utilise elevated rhetoric and poetic devices. 

Ultimately, the key distinction between comedies and tragedies lies in their respective outcomes. While comedies tend to end on a note of hope and optimism, tragedies emphasise the harsh realities of life and invariably end in disaster.

How do comedy and tragedy relate to each other?

Comedy and tragedy are two of the most common genres in literature and film. They are often compared to each other, but how do they actually relate to each other?

On the surface, comedy and tragedy seem to be complete opposites. Comedy is all about making people laugh, while tragedy is all about making people cry. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see that there are actually quite a few similarities between the two genres.

Both comedy and tragedy rely on strong emotions to work. In order for a comedy to be successful, it needs to make its audience laugh. In order for a tragedy to be successful, it needs to make its audience feel sadness or grief. Without these emotional responses, neither genre would be effective.

Both genres also deal with some of the same subjects. Death, for example, is a common theme in both comedy and tragedy. In fact, many of the greatest works in either genre deal with death in some way. This is because death is one of the most universally relatable experiences we have. Everyone will experience it at some point in their lives, so it’s something that both comedians and tragedians can use to connect with their audiences.

Of course, there are also differences between comedy and tragedy. The biggest difference is probably the tone of each genre. Comedy is typically light-hearted and meant to entertain its audience. Tragedy, on the other hand, is usually more serious and deals with  heavier subject matter.

However, the line between comedy and tragedy is often blurrier than it may seem. Many works of art that are classified as one genre often contain elements of the other. For example, a tragic play might have a few humorous moments to lighten the mood, or a comedy might have a few sad moments to add depth to its characters. In the end, it’s up to the creators of each work to decide how much comedy or tragedy they want to include.

difference between a comedy and tragedy

Use of comedy in tragedies

Aristotle believed that the purpose of tragedy was to evoke feelings of pity and fear in order to achieve a cathartic release for the audience. This is why he felt that the use of comedy in tragedies was essential.

Comedy can provide a much-needed relief from the tension and suspense of a tragedy, while also serving to heighten the emotional impact of the more serious moments. In addition, comedy can help to humanise the characters in a tragedy, making them more relatable and sympathetic to the audience.

The use of comedy in tragedies is not without its risks, however. If not handled skillfully, it can disrupt the flow of the story and derail the emotional journey that the audience is supposed to be taking with the characters. It is therefore crucial that any comedic elements are carefully integrated into the overall structure of the play. 

Done well, the use of comedy in tragedies can add an extra layer of richness and complexity to the story, and help to create a truly memorable and moving experience for the audience.

Three Examples of Comedy and Tragedy

Aristotle famously said that tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude. Comedy, on the other hand, is an imitation of an action that is laughable.

There are many ways to define comedy and tragedy, but at their core, they are two genres that explore very different aspects of the human experience. Tragedy often deals with universal themes of suffering and loss, while comedy usually focuses on the foibles and foils of its characters.

Here are three examples of each genre to illustrate the difference between comedy and tragedy:


The Importance of Being Earnest – In this classic play by Oscar Wilde, two young men go to great lengths to maintain their false identities in order to woo the women they love. While the stakes are low and the overall tone is light-hearted, there are still some poignant moments as the characters grapple with the shallowness of their society.

As You Like It – This comedic play by Shakespeare follows a group of friends and lovers as they navigate their way through marriages, infidelity, mistaken identity, and exile. As with most Shakespearean comedies, there is plenty of physical humour and shenanigans throughout.

The Honeymooners – This beloved sitcom from the 1950s centres on working-class husband and wife Ralph and Alice Kramden who constantly butt heads but always end up back where they started. The show was known for its humour based  on the everyday struggles of marriage and work.


Macbeth – In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth murders his way to the throne only to find that his guilt and paranoia have destroyed everything he holds dear. The play is a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and the corrupting influence of power.

Oedipus Rex – Another classic Greek tragedy, this play tells the story of Oedipus, a man who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. The play explores the themes of fate and destiny, and how humans are often powerless against the forces that control them.

Death of a Salesman – In this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Arthur Miller tells the story of Willy Loman, an ageing salesman whose life is falling apart. The play is a poignant portrait of the American dream gone wrong, and how one man’s desperate search for success leads to his downfall. 

As you can see, comedy and tragedy are two very different genres that explore different aspects of the human experience. Tragedy often deals with universal themes of suffering and loss, while comedy usually focuses on the foibles and foils of its characters.


There is no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on the interpretation of the individual viewer. However, generally speaking, a comedy is a play or film that is light-hearted and ends happily, while a tragedy is a play or film with a more serious tone that often ends in disaster. 

Some people might argue that the ending is not necessarily the most important factor in distinguishing between a comedy and tragedy. For example, a play could have a tragic ending but be considered a comedy because it is full of humorous moments. It is up to the interpretation of the individual viewer to decide which label best fits a particular work.

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