What Is the Definition of a Shakespearean Comedy?

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In general, the 18 Shakespeare plays commonly classified as comedies share characteristics that include an overarching theme of love culminating in marriage, complex plots with a climax in the third act, cases of mistaken identity and frequent use of clever wordplay. Scholars have not come to a consensus on an exact definition for Shakespearean comedy.

The definition of the word "comedy" has changed since Shakespeare's time. The plays classified as Shakespearean comedies aren't strictly humorous like modern productions. In fact, some of them contain elements of tragedy, leading some literary critics to categorize these as tragi-comedies. Examples of plays generally agreed to be true Shakespearean comedies include "The Taming of the Shrew," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "All's Well That Ends Well." Examples of tragi-comedies are "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Merchant of Venice."