Tragedy, Comedy – Part II

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One thing that has been synonymous with not only theater, but life, is that there is a fine balance of tragedy and comedy; sad and happy; negative and positive. In the last post, we highlighted the darker side of performing arts, tragedy. This time, we will tackle the lighter side of the arts – comedy, or Thalia.

As aforementioned, this blog is the second to the two-part series highlighting the faces of theatre: Thalia and Melpomene. If one didn’t study theater and performing arts, those names may be obscure references. Melpomene is the muse of tragedy – representing the darker side of theater; Thalia is the muse of comedy – a symbol for the light side of performing arts. In Greek theater, Thalia and Melpomene were masks used to differentiate emotional states as these performances were in front of thousands of people – no a/v equipment, either. This blog will feature Melpomene’s positive, comedic sister Thalia – the muse of comedy.

Whereas comedy and tragedy, Thalia and Melpomene, are the most prolific, there were a total of nine muses in Greek mythology. The two most iconic were the most used on traditional theater stages in Grecian times. Thalia is the muse of comedy. Symbolizing the smile on the notable theater masks; she was the daughter of Zeus – the Greek god of Thunder and of the Skies. The King of Mount Olympus and Mnemosyne are parents to not only Thalia, but the eight other muses. It is said that all art can be captured or inspired by one or many of the muses. The nine muses include Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Urania – and, of course, the Paris and Nicole of the times – Melpomene and Thalia.

According to Tales Beyond Belief, “they entertained and joined the Olympian gods in their feasts drinking water, milk, and honey, but never wine. The sisters were originally the patron goddesses of poets and musicians but over time their roles extended to include comedy, tragedy, history, poetry, music, dancing, singing, rhetoric, sacred hymns, and harmony. Thalia was the Muse of Comedy and Pastoral Poetry.” The most famous linked daughter to Thalia is Melpomene, the muse of tragedy. Thalia, known for comedy, poems and theater, is best associated with the smile. The goddess of festivity and humor is often depicted with a bulge and a comedy mask.

Comedy is often linked with theater and improvisation as it is the most commonly expressed emotion, beyond grief. It is also the thread that unites people of all creeds. The comedy of Thalia is often associated with fluid poetry filled with joy.  Thalia is vital to not only performance, but life.

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Jon Jon Lannen is the best-selling author of the Giraffe Book Series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the RISE Comedy Playhouse. More on him here.