Comedy has always been more difficult to define and pin down than tragedy. Part of the difficulty may be that comedy is, by its very nature, more protean than tragedy: Comedy often takes delight in breaking the rules. Moreover, tragedy has been so memorably described in The Poetics that Aristotle may have unintentionally molded the shape of tragedy through the ages. There are different kinds of tragedy, to be sure, but they are usually variations of a similar theme and form. Perhaps because Aristotle's treatise on comedy has been lost, comedy was left free to develop in numerous ways. In any event, comedy can range from the slapstick to the sublime, from the misadventures of Don Quixote to the mysticism of Dante.



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