Definition of Farce
A farce is a literary genre and the type of a comedy that makes the use of highly exaggerated and funny situations aimed at entertaining the audience. Farce is also a subcategory of dramatic comedy that is different from other forms of comedy, as it only aims at making the audience laugh. It uses elements like physical humor, deliberate absurdity, bawdy jokes and drunkenness just to make people laugh and we often see one-dimensional characters in ludicrous situations in farces.
Examples of Farce from Literature
Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Importance of Being Earnest, is one of the best verbal farces. Just like a typical farce that contains basic elements like mockery of upper class, disgraceful physical humor, absurdity and mistaken identities, this novel also contains demonstrates these features of a farce. The most absurd thing in this is the fact that Miss Prism commits a blunder by leaving her manuscript in perambulator and instead putting her child into her handbag.
In Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, the farcical elements are manifested in terms of characters, plot and particularly writing style. The play contains stereotype characters that are typically farcical in nature such as Katherina is an excellent instance of the farcical character. Although Katherina is a stereotype and a boisterous shrew, Shakespeare portrays her as an individual needing sympathy because Bianca is favorite child of her father, Baptisa. As in this line, “She is your treasure, she must have a husband: I must dance barefoot on her wedding day” it becomes clear that Baptista prefers Bianca to Kate. As far as the plot is concerned, Shakespeare develops the plot to look like a situational comedy. Though subplot is romantic, nevertheless, both main plot and the subplot move around an idea of the favoring father whom his daughter and her lover outwit. In terms of its writing style, the author has used three basic comical techniques to produce humorous effects, such as the statements of Kate and her husband’s replies demonstrate verbal humor. All these three elements demonstrate this play as a farce.
Oliver Goldsmith’s play, She Stoops to Conquer, is another good example of farce or comedy of errors, as it contains multiple misunderstandings. It uses comedy of manners in which the author ridicules manners of a particular society specifically the upper class. She Stoops to Conquer includes several farcical elements such as themes, human manners and even the plot itself. In the play, two Londoners search for Mr. Hardcastle’s home which when they find, they are deceived to believe that they have reached in an inn not home; thus they conduct themselves according to the situation. One of the gentlemen, Marlow pursues Kate Hardcastle, however, she pretends to be a maid until the he reveals his passionate feelings for her, and plans to elope with Kate. She, on the other hand, looks bawdy in her manners. As the gentlemen do not know the reality, they behave rudely with other household members. All such misunderstandings create humor and give farcical touches to this play.
We find several farcical situations in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. However, most of these situations have deeper meanings than just apparent meanings. For instance, we have a funny situation where Vladimir and Estragon put on and put off their hats as well as they do it with Lucky. Though it is a farcical situation, nevertheless, the aim is to tell the audience that the world of tramps have no significant actions and place except to do trivial things. Perhaps, the most hilarious farcical situation occurs when the tramps test the strength of a string in order to hang themselves. The trousers of Estragon come down to ankles while pulling the cord, and due to strain, the cord breaks.
Function of Farce
The basic purpose of a farcical comedy is to evoke laughter. We usually find farces in theater and films and sometimes in other literary works too. In fact, these combine stereotype characters and exaggeration to create humor. Although a farce may appear only funny, however they also contain deeper implications on account of the use of satirical elements. In terms of plots, farces are often incomprehensible; hence, the audiences are not encouraged to follow the plot in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and confused. Moreover, farces also contain improbable coincidences and generally mock at weaknesses of humans and human society.