1st July 2021

The relationship between comedy and tragedy is far more complex than could ever be indicated by the simplistic reversal of a smile into a sneer on the archetypal theatric masks exhibited so generally through history.  

Tragedy, according to the ancient Greeks is a performance of epic poetry designed to captivate and inspire the general populus, for performance ever has ever been the elites tool to captivate and control the hoi polloi. In turn tragedy begat comedy, an entertaining but wholly harmless medium for poking fun at the wielders of power, whether princes, rulers, or gods, whilst highlighting the average citizens place as mere bit performers forever under the direction of their betters. Comedy performances included the added panache of song and dance, the Broadway musical equivalent of the Grecian era.

Each new age from Athenian to current times facilitated entertainments, servicing the human need for mass public emotional release. The bread and circuses of Rome, the wandering minstrel shows of the dark ages, reaching an early zenith in the Elizabethan rhyming ramblings of Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights. Then arrived the enlightened and often bawdy presentations of the mid seventeenth century, reflecting the less austere hierarchy of society, happily continuing in similar vein till the first tremors struck from the change of a largely agricultural to mainly industrial productive economy.  

In the late eighteenth century there came a realization that careful use of plot and verbosity could orchestrate almost any audience, or at minimum a significant percentile, towards political and social aspirations far beyond their usual understanding. So in some small way vibrant social theater became as much an educating tool as the medieval miracle plays. but expounding dogma or precepts political as opposed to religious morals.

Movies, television, streaming, live events, all are the 21st century currency lavished in the continuing game of mass influence. Careful thought should be spent before opening eyes or ears to any and every such presentation.

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