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Comedy Of Manners

  Comedy of Manners is a term generally applied to English comedies from the Restoration period—those of Etherege and Vanburgh are typical—and to similar works (such as Molière\'s plays or the comedies of Lonsdale or Coward in this century) in which the social conventions and customs of a leisured class sustain the dramatic impetus. Although it is often defined in terms which suggest a frivolous and superficial concern with fashions, decorum and etiquette, Comedy of Manners can be far more than a mirror-like recreation of fashionable life held up on stage to an audience who can admire their own reflection. Its starting point is the view that human behaviour is patterned and consists of systems of codes and conventions (often implicit rather than explicit), which impose an order on experience by making it predictable and manageable; we send signals to others which they use (again often unconsciously) to ‘place’ us. Comedy of Manners is concerned with the gap between the outward conventional appearance of good order and the inner turmoil beneath the smooth surface. The discrepancy between outward appearance and inner reality can be a powerful means of investigating the relationships between the values enshrined in the code and the values people actually live by. TRG SS

See also bourgeois drama; comedy; humours; romantic comedy.Further reading David L. Hirst, Comedy of Manners.



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