TRAGICOMEDY AND "ROMANCE"
THE term tragicomedy in the abstract is a misnomer, and involves a contradiction; for the dramatic conflict between the will of the protagonist and universal law cannot be conceived of as at once a triumph and an overthrow for each of the contending principles. Nor can the mere infusion of a comic episode or two, or even the relief of a somber tragic plot by an underplot of comedy be said logically to justify the appellation tragicomedy. None the less, both the word, tragicomedy, and the thing are to be reckoned with; for the Jacobeans themselves employed this dubious term to denote a romantic drama involving serious passion, yet ending happily; and this species of play speedily acquired a popularity above all other kinds of drama. Tragicomedy is not necessarily melodrama, but it may readily degenerate into such. Its besetting sins are false sentiment and a sacrifice of dramatic logic to surprise, perverted ethics, and an overthrow of the laws of cause and effect. As early as Greene James IV of Scotland ( 1590), we have a romantic story rising almost to tragedy, yet ending in reconciliation; and Marston fine comedy, The Malcontent ( 1601), might readily have reached a violent dénouement, in place of its skillful unravelment of intrigue. In later times, Suckling actually wrote his Aglaura (printed in 1638) as a tragedy with an alternative fifth act ending happily, as Kipling