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Literature Glossary

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Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Tragicomedy

Definition:

Ah, the tragicomedy. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll eat a whole bag of popcorn. Tragicomedy is a mixed genre that blends tragic and comic conventions. We see it most in drama, but it pops up in novels, too.

Like just about everything else in literature it seems, the tragicomedy tradition has its roots in the Classical period. But it really took flight in the Renaissance. Even Shakespeare wrote a few tragicomedies in his day. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, tragicomedies referred to plays with high tragic plots about noble characters coupled with low comic plots involving marriage, like in John Dryden's Marriage a la Mode. The genre isn't hugely popular today, though there are some tragicomedies written in the 20th century. Samuel Beckett's plays like Endgame and Waiting for Godot are tragicomedies.