chapter  1
74 Pages

The Comical, or Imitation of Inferior People

Let us begin with the classic defi nition of the comical, found in Aristotle’s Poetics (II, 1448а, 16-18; V, 1449а, 32-36). Many theorists still consider it almost ideal. Aristotle distinguishes between tragedy and comedy thus: the former represents people as better than they are today, while the latter, as worse. “Comedy,” he continues, “is a representation of inferior people,1 not indeed in the full sense of the word bad, but the laughable is a species of the base or ugly. It consists in some blunder or ugliness that does not cause pain or disaster, an obvious example being the comic mask which is ugly and distorted but not painful.”2