The word comedy is derived ultimately from a Greek term denoting revelry. As such its origins were religious, associated with fertility rituals within the cult of Dionysus. In a seminal essay, Northrop Frye (1912–1991) described comedy as the “mythos of spring,” and the spirit of joy, renewal, and fecundity remains central to the European comic theatrical tradition that has now merged with native traditions of comic theater around the world, including the Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tamil. Although the Greeks established two important comedic patterns within their drama festivals, namely the Old Comedy exemplified most richly by Aristophanes and the new comedy as developed particularly by Menander, the spirit of comedy spreads far wider than mere dramatic performance. Any literary or artistic genre involving character ...

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