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Book Review: Romantic Comedy by Trevor R Griffiths

Academic in style, this mid-length volume covers a variety of examples of romantic comedy. Covering classical Greek drama to Chinese pear garden theatre and cabaret to kathakali, it aims to equip readers with models and methodologies for analysis. Romantic Comedy is published as part of the Forms of Drama collection by Methuen. Written by Trevor R Griffiths after meticulous research, and edited by series editor Simon Shepherd, the book is split into three main sections along with an introduction. The style of writing is of a more scholarly nature and at times wordy. This makes it a bit of…

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Romantic Comedy exposes readers to various models of this theatrical genre and is well-suited to undergraduates who are looking for a deeper understanding.

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Academic in style, this mid-length volume covers a variety of examples of romantic comedy. Covering classical Greek drama to Chinese pear garden theatre and cabaret to kathakali, it aims to equip readers with models and methodologies for analysis.

Romantic Comedy is published as part of the Forms of Drama collection by Methuen. Written by Trevor R Griffiths after meticulous research, and edited by series editor Simon Shepherd, the book is split into three main sections along with an introduction.

The style of writing is of a more scholarly nature and at times wordy. This makes it a bit of a challenging read if you’re engaging with it as a leisure activity, so it may not be appropriate if you are after an easy-reading overview. The introduction is useful for leisure readers though, setting out historical contexts of romantic comedy and touching upon how they have influenced each other over time.

Taking you back to Ancient Greece and Rome, where the first examples of the genre can be found, attention is drawn to changing attitudes over time. Themes such as sexual activity, gender roles in society and morals around love and romance generally look very different in ancient writings compared to contemporary works. The author makes reference to this before continuing on through a chronological timeline of romantic comedy.

The historical background then explains the development of English romantic comedy and the influence of ancient writers like Plautus and Terence on this work; comedies of manners popular post-1660; 19th-century romantic comedy and the change in social attitudes; and finally, comedies against the grain, in which women’s altered place in society impacts upon the romantic comedy form.

Sections one to three then analyse a selection of plays within the genre from Shakespeare onwards. Plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night to works from the following three or four centuries including The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer, London Assurance and The Importance of Being Earnest are discussed. Examples analyse the language in parallel with the social norms, expectations and values of the time it was written. This helps give the reader a holistic view of how romantic comedy has changed across time and why. Romantic Comedy is a worthy read for those studying the genre or interested in generally deepening analytical thinking around this text type. The book is limited by the works it has chosen to include as exemplars and by focusing on Western interpretations of the form, but as an opener to further reading on the topic, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It serves as a good starting point and helps readers develop a base of foundational knowledge to work from.

Written by: Trevor R Griffiths
Published by: Methuen Drama
Series editor: Simon Shepherd

Romantic Comedy is availble now from Bloomsbury and all good booksellers.

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