The Development of the Drama

By Brander Matthews | Go to book overview
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III.
GREEK AND ROMAN COMEDY

I

THE law of the theater, as M. Brunetière has formulated it, is that the drama must deal with an exercise of the human will, and that therefore a struggle of some sort is an essential element in the pleasure we take in a play. A clear understanding of this law is helpful in any question of classification -- for example, in the difficult attempt sharply to set off tragedy from melodrama and comedy from farce. If the obstacle against which the will of the hero finally breaks itself is absolutely insurmountable, the Greek idea of fate, for example, the Christian decree of Providence, or the modern scientific doctrine of heredity, then we have tragedy pure and simple. If the obstacle is not absolutely insurmountable, being no more than the social law, something of man's own making and therefore not finally inexorable, then we have the serious drama. If the obstacle is only the desire of another human being, then the result of the contention of these two charac

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