In theatre, a farce is a comedy which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include sexual innuendo and word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases, culminating in an ending which often involves an elaborate chase scene. Farce is also characterized by physical humor, the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense, and broadly stylized performances. Farces have been written for the stage and film.
Many farces move at a 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. The convention of poetic justice is not always observed: The protagonist may get away with what he or she has been trying to hide at all costs, even if it is a criminal act.
Farce in general is highly tolerant of transgressive behaviour, and tends to depict human beings as vain, irrational, venal, infantile, neurotic and prone to automatic behaviour. In that respect, farce is a natural companion of satire. Farce is, in fact, not merely a genre but a highly flexible dramatic mode that often occurs in combination with other forms, including romantic comedy. Farce is considered a theatre tradition.
As far as ridiculous, far-fetched situations, quick and witty repartee, and broad physical humor are concerned, farce is widely employed in TV sitcoms, in silent film comedy, and in screwball comedy. See also bedroom farce.
Japan has a centuries-old tradition of farce plays called Kyōgen. These plays are performed as comic relief during the long, serious Noh plays.
Representative examples: A chronology
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