Encyclopedia > Farce

  Article Content


A farce is a comedy written for the stage which tries to entertain the audience by means of unlikely and extravagant yet possible situations, mistaken identities, crude verbal humour including puns and sexual innuendo, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases even further towards the end of the play.

As opposed to romantic comedies, farces usually do not contain a traditional love interest or boy meets girl situation. Rather, they focus on the protagonist's urge to hide something from the other characters and the unforeseen chain reaction triggered by this attempt. Usually, there is only one setting throughout the play, in the majority of cases the drawing room of a family home which has numerous doors (and possibly French windows) leading to bedrooms, the kitchen, cupboards, and the garden. Alternatively, the setting can be a hotel or hospital room or an office.

Having no time to step back and consider what they have been doing or will be doing next, the protagonist has soon passed the point of no return, erroneously believing that any course of action is preferable to being found out or admitting the truth themselves. This way they get deeper and deeper into "trouble".

Many farces move at 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. To the audience's delight, however, the convention of poetic justice[?] is not always observed: The protagonist may get away with what they have been trying to hide at all costs, even if it is a criminal act.

This skeleton in the closet[?] may be real or just imagined (i e based on some misunderstanding or a misinterpretation of facts); a secret which concerns the immediate present or the long-forgotten past and has just re-emerged and started to threaten the main character's security or peace and quiet, at least seemingly. The subject-matters chosen by the various writers of farce reflect the social mores of the time: In the late 19th century, it can be a woman lying about her real age, or a man having an illegitimate child. In the course of the 20th century, it is mainly infidelity[?], with the protagonist trying to prevent their extra-marital affair from becoming publicly known.

As far as ridiculous, far-fetched situations and quick and witty repartee are concerned, there are parallels between farces on the one hand and TV sitcoms (such as John Cleese's Fawlty Towers) and, in film, screwball comedies on the other. See also bedroom farce.

Table of contents

Representative examples: A chronology

Great Britain




United States

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Kings Park, New York

...   Contents Kings Park, New York Kings Park is a town located in Suffolk County, New York. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 16,146. ...

This page was created in 77.7 ms