Comedy of Manners: Definition, Traits & Examples
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Comedy of Manners?
  2. Traits of Comedy of Manners
  3. How does Comedy of Manners reflect society?
  4. Notable writers and plays in Comedy of Manners
  5. Examples of Comedy of Manners

Has the term "Comedy of Manners" ever crossed your path and left you wondering what it truly means? Well, you're not alone! This term is regularly used in the world of literature, but its meaning often leaves readers scratching their heads. Fear not, this blog post will decode the definition of comedy of manners, its notable traits, and exciting examples.

What is Comedy of Manners?

Before we start, let's get our most pressing question out of the way: What exactly is a comedy of manners? In simple terms, a comedy of manners is a type of comedy that satirizes the behavior of a specific social group, most often the upper classes. This genre of comedy is known for its sharp wit and clever dialogue. Now, let's dive a bit deeper.

Roots in Literature

The comedy of manners has its roots in 17th-century French and English Restoration comedy. Though it may seem like a thing of the past, this genre remains popular and relevant today. It's a way for writers to comment on societal norms and behavior, often with a humorous twist. Think of it as a mirror reflecting society's manners with a smile.

Why 'Comedy of Manners'?

Ever wondered why it's specifically called a 'comedy of manners'? Well, the answer lies in the word 'manners'. In this context, manners refer to the customs, behaviors, and social norms of a particular class or society. So, a comedy of manners is essentially a humorous commentary on these aspects. It's like a witty observation of our everyday life.

The Satirical Element

What makes the comedy of manners standout is its satirical element. Remember, it's not just about making people laugh, it's about making them think. By poking fun at societal norms, this genre encourages readers to question and reflect on the ways of society. It's satire at its best—funny, smart, and thought-provoking.

In essence, the definition of comedy of manners encapsulates a genre that uses humor to critique and reflect societal norms. It's a delightful blend of wit, satire, and smart commentary that continues to charm readers and audiences alike.

Traits of Comedy of Manners

Now that we've cleared up the definition of comedy of manners, let's explore its distinguishing traits. You see, every genre has its unique characteristics, and comedy of manners is no different. It's like a recipe with specific ingredients that give it a unique flavor.

Witty Dialogue

First and foremost, a comedy of manners is known for its witty dialogue. Characters in these works are often eloquent, and their conversations are peppered with clever repartee and double entendre. It's like watching a verbal ping-pong match; the dialogue bounces back and forth, each line smarter and funnier than the last.

Focus on Society's Upper Crust

Another defining trait of this genre is its focus on society's upper crust. The comedy of manners typically revolves around the lives of the upper classes, poking fun at their pretentiousness and artificiality. So, if you're reading a comedy of manners, expect lots of grand mansions, extravagant balls, and stylish outfits.

Exaggeration and Irony

Exaggeration and irony are often used in comedies of manners. Characters' flaws are exaggerated for comedic effect, and situations are often ironic, playing against the expectations of society. It's like the universe playing a practical joke on the characters, and we, the readers, get to enjoy the show.

Insightful Social Criticism

Lastly, the comedy of manners is known for its insightful social criticism. Beneath the humor and wit, these works often pose sharp critiques of societal norms and values. They encourage us to question the status quo and reconsider our own beliefs. It's comedy that makes you laugh and think—what's not to love?

In a nutshell, the traits of a comedy of manners include witty dialogue, a focus on high society, exaggeration, irony, and insightful social criticism. These elements work together to create a genre that's both entertaining and thought-provoking.

How does Comedy of Manners reflect society?

Ever wondered how a comedy of manners reflects society? Well, it's kind of like a funhouse mirror—it distorts and exaggerates, but it also reveals some truths that we might not see otherwise. Let's dig deeper.

Mirroring Social Norms

Comedy of manners often mirrors the social norms of the time. It showcases the behaviors, manners, and customs that are expected of society's upper crust. This genre is like a time capsule, preserving the essence of a particular era. It gives us an insight into what was considered proper and what was frowned upon. It's a bit like a social etiquette book, but way more fun.

Exposing Hypocrisy

One of the ways comedy of manners reflects society is by exposing its hypocrisy. The genre often highlights the gap between appearance and reality, showing how people often pretend to be something they're not. It's like shining a spotlight on society's dirty little secrets. So, if you've ever felt that people can be two-faced, comedy of manners is here to tell you—you're not alone.

Challenging Stereotypes

Comedy of manners also challenges stereotypes. It plays with our expectations and often turns them on their head. You might find a lady acting unladylike or a servant outsmarting his master. It's like a game of "expect the unexpected." So, next time you read a comedy of manners, don't be surprised if it challenges your assumptions.

Critiquing Social Structures

Lastly, comedy of manners critiques social structures. It questions the fairness of the system and calls out the injustices. It's a reminder that society isn't perfect and that there's always room for improvement. It's like a social reformer with a sense of humor.

So, comedy of manners reflects society by mirroring social norms, exposing hypocrisy, challenging stereotypes, and critiquing social structures. It's a fun, witty, and insightful genre that holds a mirror up to society.

Notable writers and plays in Comedy of Manners

Now that we know how comedy of manners reflects society, let's meet some of the key players in this genre. These are the writers who have given us some of the most memorable characters and laugh-out-loud moments.

William Congreve

When it comes to comedy of manners, William Congreve is a name you can't miss. This English playwright is famous for his razor-sharp wit and keen social observations. His play, "The Way of the World", is a classic example of comedy of manners. It's filled with intricate plots, witty dialogue, and larger-than-life characters.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright, is another big name in the genre. Known for his biting satire and flamboyant style, Wilde's work often mocks the hypocrisy and pretensions of Victorian society. His play "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a sparkling gem in the crown of comedy of manners.

Noël Coward

Noël Coward, an English playwright, is known for his sophisticated, witty plays that explore the lives of the British upper class. His play "Private Lives" is a delightful romp that perfectly captures the style and spirit of comedy of manners.


Last but not least, we have Molière, the French playwright who is often considered the father of comedy of manners. His play "The Misanthrope" is a masterclass in the art of social satire. Molière's razor-sharp wit and keen insight into human nature make him a standout in the genre.

These are just a few of the notable writers and plays in comedy of manners. Their work offers a rich, entertaining, and insightful look into the manners and mores of their time.

Examples of Comedy of Manners

By now, you're probably eager to see some examples. After all, there's no better way to understand the definition of comedy of manners than seeing it in action. So let's dive in!

"The School for Scandal" by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

This play is a classic example of comedy of manners. It's filled with gossip, scandal, and witty dialogue. The characters are more interested in appearances than reality, and this leads to all sorts of hilarious misunderstandings and mix-ups. It's a fun, fast-paced romp that perfectly showcases the traits of comedy of manners.

"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of comedy of manners, but "The Taming of the Shrew" fits the bill. This play is all about the battle of the sexes and societal expectations. It's filled with clever wordplay and comical situations, making it a great example of comedy of manners in action.

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

Yes, it's a novel, not a play, but "Pride and Prejudice" is a perfect example of comedy of manners in literature. Austen's sharp observations about society and her witty, insightful characters make this book a classic. It's a delightful exploration of manners, morality, and marriage in 19th-century England.


Who says comedy of manners is just for plays and novels? "Frasier", the popular TV sitcom, is a modern example of comedy of manners. The show's humor comes from the characters' pretensions and the social situations they find themselves in. It's a great example of how comedy of manners can be adapted for the small screen.

These examples should give you a good sense of what comedy of manners looks like. Whether it's a play, a novel, or a TV show, the definition of comedy of manners rings true: it's all about social satire, witty dialogue, and comical situations.

If you enjoyed exploring the world of Comedy of Manners and want to dive deeper into the diverse realm of humor, check out 'An Awkward Persons Guide to Comics' workshop by Anand Shenoy. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights into different forms of comedy and help you hone your skills as a witty writer or performer.