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Problem of Genre in Drama When a reader thinks of a play that has been labeled a comedy he thinks of light-hearted and happy plots. The reader would not think of family tension, arguments or even perversion. The genre of comedy takes on the responsibility of making the audience laugh and walk away from the production with a satisfied feeling. But when comedy is subverted by tragedy the reader or audience leaves the production wondering if what they just experienced was correct. The play The Homecoming is a perfect example of this in the way that tragedy always seems to distort the plot in a way that affects the entire plot. One such example of how tragedy corrupts the plot in the play The Homecoming is during the conversation between Lenny and Ruth.
For starters, the greeting between the two leaves the reader bewildered and uneasy. Lenny offers Ruth a drink and when she refuses he replies, I m glad you said that. We haven t a drink in the house. The reader is left wondering why he even bothered to ask. Next, the reader witnesses in the conversation Lenny s admittance to killing a woman with small pox. The normal reaction would be horror, yet Ruth simply asks, How d you know she was diseased?
This is a way is a funny response, but then taken out of context the reader realizes how bizarre an answer to his admittance this is. Finally, the most disturbing aspect of this conversation is the ending. Ruth is not ready to give up her glass, but Lenny is determined to take it. After a somewhat comedic scene of the two of them arguing over a drinking glass Ruth says something that completely takes the comedy out of the scene. When Lenny finally tells her he is just going to take her glass her response is If you take the glass I ll take you.
Lenny is stunned at her response yet goes along with it. But suddenly you can feel the uneasiness of the situation when she not only verbally but also physically tells him to come sit on her lap. The reader realizes that what was at first a funny interaction between the two characters, is now a strange and somewhat tragic relationship. Another example of tragedy subverting comedy in the play The Homecoming happens in the end of the play. Teddy and Ruth are preparing to return home when Lenny says something so out of line that the reader is taken aback.
What would usually be an occasion for farewells and tears turns out to be a perverse occurrence. Lenny tells Teddy to wait because he wants Just one dance with her brother-in-law before she goes. The two then dance and end up on the sofa where Joey joins them and then proceeds to kiss her passionately. Here the tragedy is obvious when her husband Teddy does nothing to stop his brothers from acting this way with his wife. Then, as nonchalantly as this scene happened a comedic scene of arguing over a cheese-roll begins.
It is as if the entire cast of characters sees nothing wrong with the previous actions, and expects the reader not to as well. Next, to add to the absurdity of the situation we see Joey returning from being upstairs with Ruth. The final straw is pulled during this scene during a conversation between Lenny, Max, and Teddy. Lenny says to the other man The girls a tease she s had Joey on a string. Max the asks his meaning of such a comment and Teddy answers for him by relying He had her up there for two hours and he didn t go the whole hog.
This is his wife he is talking about! His comment is funny until the reader realizes the comment came from her husband. Tragedy continuously overturns the comedy throughout this play, leaving the reader not only stunned, but also disturbed. The Homecoming is not only an entertaining piece of drama, but is also a disturbing one. The plot of prostitution in the end leaves the reader wondering if what they just experienced really happened. The husband Teddy just walks away as if nothing just happened.
This gesture is the prime example of layering comedy with tragedy. His reaction is funny, but also horrific in the same. Putting a play into a genre usually works to label the type of drama the audience or reader is about to take on. But in the case of The Homecoming and others how is one to label a play that is encrusted with both comedy and tragedy? When reality becomes unreal, and images are both true and false, the reader is confused and disturbed, but entertained all the same. 328
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