as a Literary Genre
According to http://www.theatrelinks.com/farce.htm
"The word farce derives from Old French, meaning 'stuff' or 'stuffing'
and may have originated in the comic interludes of medieval French
religious plays serving as light-hearted stuffing in between more serious drama.
Historically, the term meant a literary or artistic production of little merit.
Farce is a type of comedy that uses absurd and highly improbable events in the plot.
Situations are humorous because of their ludicrous and often ridiculous nature.
The choice of setting is a key factor in farce, as the protagonist is sometimes
at odds with the environment. Often the central character in a farce does not
(or should not) belong in the place of the action. The audience will only accept
the situation if they follow the conventions previously established.
But characters in a farce can also quite logically belong in the setting
they are placed in.
Examples of farce can be found in the ancient Greek comedies of Aristophanes,
the plays of Shakespeare and the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Farce in film includes the works of Charlie Chaplin, Keystone Cops
and the Marx Brothers. On television, the best examples of farce surround British
actor John Cleese. Ridiculous situations abound in the 1970ís television series
Monty Pythonís Flying Circus and later in the wonderful, but short-lived series
Fawlty Towers. There are also several Monty Python films
that are excellent examples of farce. Few actors possess the ability to create
pure farce better than Cleese."
It is important to note that farce is both a verbal and physical humour,
using deliberate character exaggeration by the actor. The Marx Brothers
were renowned for using their bodies in such a way as to exaggerate the situation,
thus making it even more farcical. Whether it was using on-screen props
or simply their arms and legs, this famous team made farce a very physical
form of comedy. Similarly, John Cleese also uses his body to extraordinary effect.
By nature a very tall man, Cleese manipulates his body to create silly walks
by simply extending his legs outward and exaggerating his movements
for extreme comic effect."
Many aspects of farce are quite prominent in Arcadia.
For example, the use of word play and puns is prominent in Arcadia.
Oftentimes characters are interrupted or the audience is ambiguous,
which adds to the confusion and humor intended by the word play.
In Arcadia, entrances and exits are used very effectively particularly in scenes one and two.
They are well-timed and often occur at critical moments or add to Stoppard's humor.
Arcadia also requires the audience to accept an odd situation as it is.
Since it takes place in two time periods and yet little is done to change the set,
the audience must be willing to deal with a time warp.
Also, the audience must accept the existence of characters in the last scene
who the other characters present cannot see.
For more information about farce and humor in Arcadia visit
adapted and created by Rocio Sanchez-Moyano, June 2005
Back to Literary Terms.