Comedy

Comedy (komediia). Usually a humorous, and often satiric, dramatic work. Poets of the Ukrainian baroque defined comedy as a play with a happy ending, involving characters who lack ‘greatness’ and who speak in the vernacular. Comedy originated in Ukraine with the baroque intermede, but its development in the form of a complete dramatic work began only with the national revival of the 19th century, in the works of Ivan Kotliarevsky. Kotliarevsky initiated the development of the musical comedy (Moskal'-charivnyk [The Soldier-Sorcerer]), as a result of which comedies were sometimes referred to as ‘operettas.’ This genre was continued by Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko (Svatannia na Honcharivtsi [The Marriage Engagement in Honcharivka] and Shel'menko-denshchyk [Shel'menko the Orderly]). In Galicia Sydir Vorobkevych wrote comic operettas dealing with peasant life. The elements of satire and social comment became more pronounced in comedy during the latter half of the 19th century with the appearance of such plays as Mykhailo Starytsky's Iak kovbasa ta charka (Sausage and Drink) and Marko Kropyvnytsky's witty satire on rural administrations Po reviziï (After the Inspection) and humorous operetta satirizing the bourgeosie Poshylys' u durni (They Made Fools of Themselves). Ukrainian 19th- and early-20th century comedy achieved its highest expression in the works of Ivan Tobilevych (Ivan Karpenko-Kary). In plays such as Rozumnyi i duren' (The Wise Man and the Fool), Sto tysiach (A Hundred Thousand), Khaziain (The Master), and Martyn Borulia he exposed the shortcomings of his society with a scathing, yet humorous, satire. The most outstanding comedy writer of the early Soviet period was Mykola Kulish, who attacked Russian great-power chauvinism with merciless satire in Myna Mazailo and other works. Also popular in the early Soviet period were Ostap Vyshnia's dramatization of Nikolai Gogol's story Vii, his parody of the opera Zaporozhets' za Dunaiem (Zaporozhian Cossack beyond the Danube), and Yurii Mokriiev's satire on the degeneration of party members into philistinism Viddai partkvytok (Return Your Party Card). Playwrights officially supported by the regime, such as Ivan Mykytenko and Oleksander Korniichuk adhered to the line of praise for Party politics, restricting their criticism to isolated imperfections. After the mid-1930s, however, this officially sanctioned type of comedy came to prevail; it was continued after the Second World War in the works of Vasyl Mynko (Ne nazyvaiuchy prizvyshch [Without Naming Names], Na khutori bilia Dykan'ky [On the Farmstead near Dykanka], Solovei u militsiï [A Nightingale in the Militia], etc), Yu. Mokriiev (Sava i ioho slava [Sava and His Glory], Veseli zaruchyny [Happy Engagement], etc), Pavlo Zahrebelny (Khto za? Khto proty? [Who's for? Who's against?]), and other writers. In the 1970s and 1980s, during which the artistic quality of the comedic genre, on the whole, visibly deteriorated as a consequence of increased repressions, one of the most popular comic playwrights was Oleksii Kolomiiets (Faraony [Pharoahs]). (For a bibliography, see Drama.)

Ivan Koshelivets

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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