What Is the Difference Between a Comedy & a Tragedy?

By Lindsay Pietroluongo
A theater mask.

Aristotle created the model for tragedies and comedies, archetypes that are still respected today. Both have simple layouts that have been repeated in modern times, in cinema, theater and literature.

Plot

A tragedy's plot consists of a serious action that stirs up feelings of pity and fear. A comedy's plot focuses on an ordinary problem that regular people face. Comedies aren't necessarily funny; they're stories of worthy people who succeed.

Characters

A tragedy's central characters are nobles. The main character is the tragic hero. A comedy's main character is the comic hero, who has average morals. Comic heroes are generally ignoble.

Settings

Tragedies often occur on a battlefield or in the great hall of a palace. A comedy occurs in an ordinary room, like a bathroom.

Events

Tragedies have episodes that provoke feelings of disappointment and fear. Due to the tragic hero's ego and tragic flaw, along with an error, he will encounter a semi-undeserved tragic fall. The charismatic comic hero will prosper and his innate nobility will be shown by way of tests of character.

Audience

Since the tragic hero's fall is not entirely deserved, the audience will still admire the hero. The hero will learn from his fall and, along with the audience, experience a catharsis. While the comic hero will not have high morals, he will have enough magnetism to win the audience over.

About the Author

As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.