Shakespeare – Module 3: Comedy – What does comedy in Shakespeare look like? – 1 of 4

WHAT: Hello Year 7! We are going to be learning how Shakespeare made some of his plays so funny! No, that was not a joke – he genuinely did write about things other than people being very sad and broken-hearted! Your idea of what’s funny might not be the same as your teacher’s, admittedly, but there are some key features of Shakespearean comedies that you might actually recognise even in films and plays you see today…

By the end of this session you will be able to:

✔ List some conventions (ingredients) of comedy
✔ Use some comedy conventions in your own writing!

Today you will need:
✎ A pen
☰ Some paper to write on
♫ Some headphones or a space where you can play videos out loud

YOU DO: 1) Watch the video below and bullet point the 3 main types of comedy used in Shakespeare’s plays:

YOU DO: 2) So there are 3 main ways Shakespeare made things funny. Can you list some real life examples of when someone or something made you laugh?

  • Through banter
  • Innuendo (saying something that suggests something naughty or unpleasant, without directly saying it)
  • Slapstick – being silly by falling over, pulling funny faces or generally being clueless

YOU DO: 3) Below is a more detailed list of the comedy conventions Shakespeare used. For a bit of creativity, write your own 100 word short story (about anything) and see how many of them you can squeeze into it! Then read it aloud to your family: did they laugh? If so, which comedy convention did the trick!?

  • Happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters
  • Light-hearted tone
  • Separation and re-unification, eg. lovers who overcome obstacles and re-unite in harmony
  • Mistaken identities and deception
  • Disputes between characters
  • Complex plot with several, intertwining plot-lines
  • Heavy use of comic devices
  • Comic language full of clever puns, metaphors and insults
  • Country setting which is often idealised
  • Main theme: love
  • Gender mix-up and disguise (men dressing as women and vice versa; ie. male )
  • Frequent use of improbable, fantastic, or supernatural elements
  • The best comedies often contain a philosophical or moral message

Frequent plot structure in Shakespearean comedies:

1. Introduction of main character(s)
2. Tragic Event
3. Journey (physical or self-discovery or both)
4. Reconciliation
5. Resolution
6. Happy Ending

The climax of the play most often occurs in the third act. The final scene has a celebratory feel with declarations of love.

YOU DO: 4. Try to learn the following key words and their definitions. Make flash cards or posters for each key word, as you will be needing them for the next few weeks. You could draw pictures too to help you remember them.

Convention: In literature, conventions are the defining characteristics, or must-haves, of a given genre.

Pun: a joke which is based on two words which sound similar but mean different things

Earthy humour: a kind of humour which involves the body and sex

Practical jokes: tricks played on people to annoy them or make them look silly

Slapstick: a kind of comedy which is based on clumsy and embarrassing actions and mild comic violence

Witty banter: amusing conversation

And that’s it for today! Well done.