Aristophanes, Aristotle, Beren and Luthien, C.S. Lewis, Captain America, Christianity, Comedy, Crime and Punishment, Dagor Bragollach, Dostoevsky, Eucatastrophe, Groundhog Day, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lego Movie, MCU, nihilism, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, On Fairy Stories, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Shakespeare, Silmarillion, Star-Lord, Tolkien, Tragedy, Turin Turambar, Waiting for Godot
As I’ve posted earlier, I’m re-reading the Silmarillion, and this week’s readings have brought me to the passages that are among the highest – and lowest – in this whole book of profound joy and sorrow: the stories of Beren and Luthien, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and Turin Turambar. And this gets me to thinking, as it often does, about the nature of comedy and tragedy and how they function in our artistic world today.
Common wisdom reveals that tragedy makes for almost universally higher art than comedy. Shakespeare’s comedies, while often powerful and admirable, are almost always revered less than his four great tragedies. Likewise, Aristotle held that tragedy far outshone comedy (which may well be a product of that culture alone: Aristophanes does seem to rely fairly heavily on the Greek equivalent of fart jokes). And all of these observations would seem to be confirmed, if on a fairly shallow level, by our own artistic landscape’s insistence on equating “dark” or “edgy” material with maturity and worldly-wisdom. (I’ll not dwell on that subject – my thoughts on nihilism are well-documented) But I think, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, that this is largely a blind: tragedy is simply easier to pull off well than comedy is.