The Comedy-Tragedy Connection:
Comedy/Humor's Analog in Tragedy
ITCHS has always maintained that humor and comedy were distinct realities. In more recent decades ITCHS has explored the structural and artistic interworking of humor and formal comedy, particularly in Comedic Tenor, Comic Vehicle: Humor in American Film Comedy and A Cheshire Smile: Humor Texture and Personality in Shakespeare's Comedies, using the Humor Quotient Test as a backbone for this investigation. The advances in understanding resulting from this approach begged the question could a better understanding of tragedy, and particularly Shakespearean tragedy, be found by seeking analogs between comedy/humor and Shakespearean tragedy/Shakespearean tragedic language. The first steps of this investigation have resulted in In Search of Shakespearian
Tragedy: Tragedic Language, Tragedic Form (Dusseldorf: Lap Publishing, 2016).
For a condensed version of ISST's arguments, see
Since the publication of ISST, ITCHS has further explored analogs of comedic form and language to tragedic form and language in Shakespeare’s Great Tragedies: Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet. The resultant volume, Exploring Shakespearean Tragedy, adds studies of Form and Spirit to Special Language to propose a dynamis for each of the four Great Tragedies as well as a dynamis for the four taken together, a dynamis quite different from Aristotle’s expurgation of pity and fear. A working draft of that volume is now available:
ITCHS studies have shown that typically various forms of humor can be seen as the special language of comedy, creating the overall texture of various forms of comedy and that the various forms of humor can profitably be divided into four sub-forms of comedic special language.
It, therefore became, necessary to ask what Shakespeare's special language was for tragedy and what were its sub-forms. ISST's answer is to establish a quadrilateral of four basic sub-types of poetic language: Aptness, Assessment, Eloquence, and Elegance.
The first two of these are approaches to truth. The second two are approaches to beauty. In this truth-and-beauty sense, Shakespeare anticipates Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Shelley, and the Romantics.
Equally, our quadrilateral divides between matters of expression (Aptness and Eloquence) and deep thought (Assessment and Elegance). The thought/expression dichotomy is typical of Roman classical rhetoric whether in Horace, Longinus, Cicero, or Virgil.
A quadrilateral preference test of these four subtypes of poetic language was simultaneously administered with a preference test for painterly qualities using paintings at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. Empirical testing of this tragedic language quadrilateral has established its validity in nearly forty high-confidence discoveries, including discovery of relationship between appreciation of forms of Shakespearean rhetoric and appreciation for particular painterly qualities (like abstraction, light, and movement) in modern art. For an in depth report on the MMAM investigation and its results, see Final Report, Tragedic Language/Painterly Qualities Experiment, Minnesota Marine Art Museum.