Definitions

farce

farce

[fahrs]
farce, light, comic theatrical piece in which the characters and events are greatly exaggerated to produce broad, absurd humor. Early examples of farce can be found in the comedies of Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence. During the Middle Ages the term farce designated interpolations made in the church litany by the clergy. Later it came to mean comic scenes inserted into church plays. The farce emerged as a separate genre in 15th-century France with such plays as the anonymous La farce de Maǐtre Pierre Pathelin (c.1470). In England two of the earliest and best-known farces are Ralph Roister Doister (1566) and Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors (c.1593). Instances of farcical elements, such as broad, ribald humor, physical buffoonery, and absurd situations can be found in many plays that are not termed farces, such as the comedies of Molière. In the 19th and early 20th cent. plays called "bedroom farces," best exemplified in the works of Feydeau, were popular. Usually French or modeled on the French, they had suggestive dialogue, and they usually concerned erring husbands and wives, silly servants, and mistaken identity. In the 20th cent., farce found new expression in the films of Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Kops, and the Marx Brothers.

See A. Bermel, Farce (1983).

Light, dramatic composition that uses highly improbable situations, stereotyped characters, violent horseplay, and broad humour. Farce is generally regarded as intellectually and aesthetically inferior to comedy in its crude characterizations and implausible plots, but it has remained popular throughout the West from ancient times to the present.

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A farce is a comedy written for the stage or film which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include sexual innuendo and word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases, culminating in an ending which often involves an elaborate chase scene. Farce is also characterized by physical humour, the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense, and broadly stylized performances.

Many farces move at a frantic pace toward the climax, in which the initial problem is resolved one way or another, often through a deus ex machina twist of the plot. Generally, there is a happy ending. The convention of poetic justice is not always observed: The protagonist may get away with what he or she has been trying to hide at all costs, even if it is a criminal act.

Farce in general is highly tolerant of transgressive behavior, and tends to depict human beings as vain, irrational, venal, infantile, and prone to automatic behavior. In that respect, farce is a natural companion of satire. Farce is, in fact, not merely a genre but a highly flexible dramatic mode that often occurs in combination with other forms, including romantic comedy. Farce is considered a theatre tradition.

As far as ridiculous, far-fetched situations, quick and witty repartee, and broad physical humor are concerned, farce is widely employed in TV sitcoms, in silent film comedy, and in screwball comedy. See also bedroom farce.

Japan has a centuries-old tradition of farce plays called Kyogen. These plays are performed as comic relief during the long, serious Noh plays.

Representative examples: A chronology

Britain

France

Germany

Italy

Japan

Russia

United States

Performing teams who have appeared in farces:

Actors and actresses who have appeared in farces

References

External links

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