Farce (theater)

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A farce [ for ] is a comedy that aims to entertain the audience by depicting improbable or extravagant, but often conceivable, situations, disguises and mix-ups. Linguistic humor, including puns and sexual innuendos, as well as a fast pace that gets even faster as the piece progresses, and conscious absurdity or nonsense are also often found in a farce.

Etymology and history

The word “farce” originally comes from the kitchen language and describes a filling made from minced meat (cf. farce (kitchen) ). In a figurative sense, this was then applied to the farce-like interludes inserted (so to speak “filled in”) into medieval sacred drama , from which independent performances ultimately developed. The atellans from the Roman theater are a historical forerunner .


Unlike romantic comedies, the farce usually does not contain a traditional plot that depicts frustrated lovers overcoming obstacles. The focus is more often on crossing a line or concealing something from the other characters, and on the resulting unpredictable chain reaction. In a farce in the theater there is usually only one venue. These are often common rooms in family houses that have many doors to adjacent rooms. As an alternative, this venue can also be a hotel, hospital or office.

Since there is no time to reason about what is happening and plan the next steps, the main character, who has something to hide, comes to a point without, mistakenly assuming that action is better than being exposed or admitting the truth Return. As a result, she becomes increasingly involved in difficulties.

The “corpse in the cellar” (example: arsenic and lace , originally a play) can be real or imagined (e.g. a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of facts). It can be a secret that concerns the present or a long-forgotten past that suddenly reappears and now represents or at least seems to represent a threat to the security and peace of the character. The themes of the farce show the mores of the time: in the late 19th century, it was often a woman who lies about her age or a man who is the father of an illegitimate child. Infidelity was the main focus of the 20th century. Here the protagonist tries to prevent the extramarital affair from becoming known. The modern farce "Noises off" (German: "Der nackte Wahnsinn") by Michael Frayn is also very successful. It equips a rather nonsensical stage performance with nevertheless "everyday" and "attractive" elements, in which the course of the game in the first act is based on the Spectator's  perspective , in the second act behind the scenes (i.e. from the perspective of the actors) and in the third act again from the audience's perspective - but with repeated surprises - is portrayed or satirized .

Many farces move quickly towards the climax , in which the problem is solved in one way or another, often with a surprising twist through the use of a deus ex machina . Usually there is a happy ending . To the delight of the audience, justice is not always followed: the protagonist gets away with it even if he has acted criminally.

A farce is usually very tolerant of violations and shows people to be vain, irrational, purchasable, childish and prone to automatisms . For this reason the farce is often combined with the satire . The farce is not just a genre , it is also a highly flexible dramatic form that is often combined with other forms.

With ridiculous, far-fetched situations, quick, hilarious verbal skirmishes, and physical humor, the farce provides a basis for sitcoms on television, silent films, and screwball comedies . Major contemporary farce authors include a. Alan Ayckbourn and Dario Fo .

There is a centuries-old tradition of farce in Japan. The so-called Kyōgen are pieces that are played as a funny change from the long, serious Nō pieces .

Alongside dance and music, the farce is an essential element of many Indian folk plays. In the West Indian theater style Tamasha , political and social problems are addressed in a humorous, ambiguous language.

See also


  1. ^ "Farce" in: Kluge. Etymological dictionary of the German language , 24th edition 2002, p. 276