What Is Farce?

A farce is a comedy that revolves around improbable and exaggerated events. It relies on physical comedy, sexual innuendo, and absurd situations to advance its plot rather than character development. Derived from the French word for “stuffing,” farce is chock-full of buffoonery and one-liners.

Farce developed in the Middle Ages as a way to inject humor into serious situations, such as religion. Farces soon became popular court entertainment, complete with clowns and acrobats. Unlike social satire, early farce was designed to provide lighthearted entertainment, a tradition that holds true today.

How Do You Identify Farce in Writing?

Farce is the province of film, drama, and television as it thrives on visual entertainment. Typically, the action takes place in one setting, which allows the improbable events to multiply with even greater absurdity.

The focus of the humor in farce depends, to a great extent, on what a particular culture seeks comic relief from. In the twenty-first century, we are no longer so intent on seeing clerics and royalty humiliated; they no longer have the same power over us. The Hangover, a farcical film where members of a bachelor party search Las Vegas for a missing groom, mocks the convention of the modern wedding, with its stressful engagements and responsibilities.

Examples of Farce

Farce Example 1. The show Seinfeld, the subject of which is “nothing,” is the classic farce, mocking everything from job interviews to car rental reservations and “seeing the baby.”

Farce Example 2. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a social drawing room farce.

Farce Example 3. Any film starring Larry, Moe, and Curly, the Three Stooges, is full of the kind of absurd physical comedy that is central to farce.

Farce Example 4. In Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing, the most performed French play in the world, the main character is engaged to three stewardesses at the same time, a situation ripe for farce.

Farce Example 5. The pomposity and hypocrisy of the lead in Moliere’s play, Tartuffe, made it one of the most popular farces of its time.


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