No definition of poetry can be comprehensive. Poetry is that kind of literature in which imagination, emotion, and fancy predominate. It may be generally in verse form. Metre, rhythm, rhyme, and measure are the attributes of poetry though all of them need not be present in every poem. Dr.Jonson calls poetry a ‘metrical composition’ and points out four elements of poetry- pleasure, truth, imagination, and reason. It is defined by another critic as the art of employing words to produce an illusion on the imagination. For Carlyle poetry was ‘musical thought’ and Shelley defined it as ‘The expression of imagination’. Coleridge thought poetry was the antithesis of science and Wordsworth defined it as ‘the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge’. According to Arnold poetry is ‘simply the most delightful and perfect form of utterance that human words can reach’. Edgar Allen Poe calls it ‘the rhythmic creation of beauty. T.S. Eliot calls poetry ‘the vehicle of feeling’ and insists that ‘poetry has to give pleasure’. All these definitions refer to the main elements of poetry- imagination, emotion, feeling, truth. Only when these qualities are embodied in a proper form of expression is poetry. The form is regularly rhythmic language or meter, so versification is a part of poetry.
Another aspect of poetry is that it is an interpretation of life. By the exercise of imagination, transfigures the existing reality and gives to airy nothings a local habitation and a name. Critics like Coleridge and Leigh Hunt thought that meter is not an essential element in poetry. Even prose can be a good medium if poetry can be conveyed through it. However, rhythm has significance in poetry because it gives musical and aesthetic pleasure which are among the chief functions of poetry. Science provides us with a complete rationale of things in the universe, but it is poetry that can suggest to us its beauty and mystery. This poetry is at once antithesis and complement of science. Arnold held that poetry has the power to awaken in us a wonderfully intense and complete sense of things in the universe that science cannot do. Another element is the revealing power of poetry. It opens our eyes to the beauties and spiritual meanings of the universe and nature to which, otherwise, we remain blind. It educates us to look at life for ourselves with more insight. Thus poetry is an interpretation of life through imagination and feeling.
Subjective poetry or Personal poetry is the poetry of self- delineation and self-expression. In this kind of poetry, we find most, the poet’s feelings and thoughts given expression in a lyrical manner. The poet is moved by his own experience as Wordsworth in ‘The Solitary Reaper’. The essence of the subjective poetry is the personality of the poet.
Objective poetry is poetry that expresses the world outside the poet. In this kind of poetry, the poet goes out of himself, mingles with the action and passion of the world, and expresses what he observed there. This is an older type of poetry than subjective poetry. Subjectivism came only later. The communal ballad, the epic, and the drama were the earliest form of objective poetry. In this poetry, the experiences of the eye and the ear are given more importance than those of the mind and the soul.
A Comedy is a play of light and amusing characters with a happy conclusion to the plot. It adopts a humorous or familiar style and depicts laughable characters, incidents, and situations. In a Comedy, even if there are serious and complex incidents, ultimately they are resolved and the plot ends in happiness. Like tragedy, comedy also originated in ancient Greece from the festivals celebrating the nature-god Dionysus. While tragedy dealt with persons in high places, comedy dealt with people of much less importance. Among the Greeks, Aristophanes was the most important comedy writer. The atmosphere of comedy is mirthful and light. Comedy moves us to laughter through humorous intrigues, strange situations, and witty dialogue. Comedy shows the common errors of life and ridicules man’s follies and foibles. Comedy is usually allowed to convey its own moral, though it is sometimes stated at the end of the play by one of the characters.
Comedy can be divided into two types- the Classical and the Romantic. The Classical form was based on the Greek and Latin Models. Ben Jonson and the Restoration Playwrights tried the classical form of comedy. Shakespeare and some of the university wits like Lily and Greene write Romantic Comedies. Ben Jonson’s comedy was called the ‘comedy of humor’ as it was based on the medieval theory of the four ‘humor’ that determined human character. The ‘Comedy of Manners’ of the Restoration period ridiculed the follies and foibles of the upper classes and was highly stylized and artificial. Then came the genteel comedy of Colley Cibber and the sentimental comedy in which there was an excess of Melodrama and moralizing and less of wit and laughter. Anti-sentimental comedies of Sheridan and Goldsmith retrieved comedy from too many weak moralizings and ridiculous sentimentalism. They combined morality with wit and sobriety with laughter. The language and atmosphere of the English comedy remained fairly remote from those of ordinary life until the 1860s when T.W. Roberston’s play ‘Caste’ appeared. Then onwards English comedy began to employ everyday language and familiar subjects culminating in the plays of Bernard Shaw and Galsworthy in modern times. The comedy of dialogue and narration flourished in the plays of Oscar Wilde. The plays like ” The Importance of Being Earnest” and ” Lady Windermere’s Fan’ derived their strength from witty dialogue and comic situations. Shaw’s plays dealt with social problems and his comedies are characterized by intellectual wit, irony, and satire apart from penetrating analysis of social and moral problems confronting society. Some of his important plays are ‘Arms and the Man’,’ The Applecart’, ‘Major Barbara’ and ‘John Bull’s Other Island’. An experimental playwright who wrote under the influence of Shaw was James Bridie. His themes covered a wide range and plays like ‘The Anatomist’ and ‘Mr.Bolfry’ were successes.
The latter half of the present century saw plays with little literary merit succeeding on the stage. The audience wanted only entertainment and so the Playwrights provided dialogue that made a good impression and situations that tickled the audience into laughter. The theatre became a tangle of illusion and make-believe. Among the playwright of this kind, the foremost was Noel Coward who wrote plays about the leisured classes. He became famous popular with the plays such as ‘Hay Fever’ and ‘The Happy Breed’. The modern comedy is shying away from serious social and moral themes while concentrating on impressive dialogue and effective presentation on the stage.