The success of the tragic comedy genre is confined to such dramatic effects as recognition and reversal. These devices contribute to the complexity of the plot and allow the reader to gain the depth of pity, tragedy, and fear experienced by the main protagonists. In particular, the recognition and reversal add up to the contrastive characteristic of the play by providing shifts from knowledge to ignorance, from friendship to enmity, from love to hatred.
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In this respect, such plays as Tartuffe by Moliere, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and The Way of the World by William Congreve apply to similar approach either to bring protagonists in close bond or create enmity with one another. In such a way, the playwrights create patterns of affliction and prosperity.
In the play Tartuffe by Moliere, the protagonists are initially recognized as a picture of zeal and holiness. Everyone in the house praises these qualities and approves of Tartuffe’s highest moral principles. In the play, Madame Pernelle expresses her admiration about the protagonist “He is a righteous man; you should listen to him.
I cannot bear to see him challenged by a fool like you” (Moliere 5). At the same time, other characters in the play shed light on Tartuffe’s hypocrisy. All other characters who withdraw Tartuffe as an honest and noble person strive to unmask him and reveal his actual plans and goals. In such a manner, the recognition and reversal approach allows the readers to understand the characters’ traits.
The Importance of Being Earnest also reveals the triviality of human life through the concept of recognition and reversal. In the play, John Worthing leads a dual life and names himself Ernest to arrive in London and propose to his friend’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax. The latter accepts his proposition because Ernest is the exact name she is fond of: “my ideal has always been to love some one of the names of Earnest.
There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence” (Wilde 17). Hence, John Worthing wants to be recognized and, therefore, he decides that his second name will be Earnest, which provides him a chance for a happy life. The reversal phase, however, allows the readers to experience frustration and fear, which is an important element of the tragedy.
The complex relationships between Mirabell and Millamant provide an alternative outlook on the traditional relationship between males and females, as well as the role of material values within this context. The material gain, therefore, is much more important than spiritual fulfillment.
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All the characters recognize and withdraw each other because of the material welfare. Specifically, couples deceive each other; women have to play socially acceptable roles; marriage loses its value. In particular, Mrs. Marwood expresses one of the most common ideas of the play: “this better to be left than never to have been loved” (Congreve 30). In this context, recognition is a starting point, a necessary experience that will further lead to a reversal. In such a way, the author attempts to reach the tragic effect.
In conclusion, all the plays under analysis reveal the importance of recognition and reversal as a vital dramatic device for reaching the complexity of the plot. Through this approach, the protagonists undergo several stages of self-actualization and development to define that the society they live will eventually withdraw them as personalities.
Congreve, William. The Way of the World. US: Forgotten Books, 1949. Print.
Moliere, Tartuffe. US: Hackett Publishing, 2008. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. US: Forgotten Books, 1993. Print.