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Comedy of manners, please

posted Jul 7, 2011, 3:07 PM by J S
In the history of comedy no other genre has been more respectful than the "comedy of manners" genre.

The first foray into this genre was Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which was significant for heralding a polite phrase for the term "overrated." Etiquette demands that when one is criticising a humorous piece which relies heavily on tired gags, cardboard characters and hackneyed dialogue that one use the title of Shakespeare's greatest overvalued work.

Later in the 1800s the Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, had the good graces to tactfully pull himself away from his full-time job creating genteel quips for the sophisticated, so that he could further the genre by writing The Importance of Being Earnest (which I sincerely loved) and Lady Windermere's Fan (of which I am not an admirer). Both plays courteously dissect Victorian norms to create comedies of a highly deferential nature.

In the 1900s writers like Noel Coward, P.G. Wodehouse and Talbot Rothwell had the sense of propriety to take the comedy of manners into the 20th century with good form and a proper sense of protocol. 

If nothing else comedy of manners give due respect to the objects of their ridicule.