Chapter 4
TRAGICOMEDY

IN Giambattista Guarini Il Compendio della Poesia Tragicomica ( 1601) there is a description of tragicomedy that provides a useful starting-point for a consideration of Fletcher's writing in this genre:

He who composes tragicomedy takes from tragedy its great persons but not its great action, its verisimilar plot but not its true one, its movement of the feelings but not its disturbance of them, its pleasure but not its sadness, its danger but not its death; from comedy he takes laughter that is not excessive, modest amusement, feigned difficulty, happy reversal, and above all the comic order.1

Guarini Il Pastor Fido, as we have seen in Chapter II, furnished the model for The Faithful Shepherdess, and in his address to the reader prefixed to the published text Fletcher probably remembered Guarini's account of the tragicomic kind:

A tragicomedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy: which must be a representation of familiar people, with such kind of trouble as no life be questioned; so that a God is as lawful in this as in a tragedy, and mean people as in a comedy.

Characteristically, Fletcher's comment is more that of the plain man than we find in Guarini: he expresses himself in relation to practical problems of decorum, such as the

____________________
1
A. H. Gilbert, Literary Criticism: Plato to Dryden, New York, 1940, p. 511.

-77-

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The John Fletcher Plays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - The Problem Of Approach 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Dramatic Mode Of John Fletcher 24
  • Chapter 3 - Comedy 48
  • Chapter 4 - Tragicomedy 77
  • Chapter 5 - Tragedy 108
  • Chapter 6 - Fletcher And Shakespeare 144
  • Appendix 169
  • Index 175
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