Sentimental Comedy | Definition and Characteristics


In the 1800s, in Britain, a new form of drama emerged, known as The Sentimental Comedy of 18th century was, in fact, a reaction against the Comedy of Manners which was popular during the Restoration Period.

The Comedy of Manners was characterized by light-hearted fun, rude and severe dialogues. The aim of the writers of Comedy of Manners was to make fun of holy characters.

Middle-class morality was ridiculed and the writers made an attempt to bring virtue and virtuous characters were satirized. The Sentimental Comedy of the age was a reaction against the Comedy of Manners.

In this comedy, laughter and humour were completely driven out and in place of comedy, sadness was introduced. The Sentimental Comedy lacked the true spirit of comedy, comparatively.

Sentimental Comedy Characteristics

  • Humour was replaced by pathos and humorous situations in pathetic situations.
  • Writers introduced characters from the middle-class life characterized by virtue without any gain of vice in them.
  • The writers of Sentimental Comedy were moralists and wanted to teach morals through the medium of their plays.
  • The Sentimental Comedies were really moral comedies and a sense of morality and virtue governed them from beginning to end.
  • The dialogues were neither severe nor sparkling.
  • It remained popular for nearly half a century.
  • It drove out genuine comedy from the English Stage.
  • It provided moral lectures in place of entertainment.
  • It awakened tears instead of laughter.
  • It was characterized by emotions of pity and sympathy and lacked wit or humour.
  • It was serious from beginning to end and was entirely removed from the realities of life.
  • Its characters were not real men and women, but the production of minds of playwrights.
  • The keen observations and realistic touches which had always brightened the earlier comedy completely disappeared.

Thus it is misnomer to call it a comedy. It is rather a homily of dialogue.