Portia Coughlan : Drowning While Laughing
The humour in Mariana Carr’s 1996 play, Portia Coughlan , richly emphasises the poignant story of harrowing tragedy because it is humour that humans rely on when the depth of tragedy runs overbearingly deep, ” Comedy and tragedy , however, confront man with the most extreme situations that he can experience.”(Guthke.166.)
It is through these extremes in emotions that the audience can truly experience second-hand what the characters must be feeling , their loss, grief , and the sudden break from those emotions by a seemingly inapproiate comic interlude.
In Portia Coughlan , we meet Portia while she is alone suffering in the misery of her thirtieth birthday, she is terribly unhappy with the choices she and life itself have chosen for her, she is wallowing, ” Ud’s me birtha taday…Thirty half me life’s over.”(Carr.2.). We see that Portia is very unhappy about her birthday, and she feels that she has already lived half of her life and has very little living left, but there is humour in this exchange between Portia and her husband, Raphael, because after all she is only turning 30 and isbeen behavingas though the world has completely fallen apart, as apparent in Raphael’s reaction to her melancholy, ” Me heart goes out to ya.” (Carr.2.)
Raphael has returned home from work to give his petulant wife her birthday present, and Portia is very displeased with it, he has given her a very crass and flashy diamond bracelet, and Portia appears to be offended by it’s pretentiousness.As, though it is proof that her husband must not know her very well to pick out a gift for her that is so obviously not to her liking. This scene could be portrayed very comically, a drunk and unhappy housewife , bitter about her thirtieth birthday, upset with her husbands’ choice of gift, she is behaving very brash and emotionally. Yet , it is not comic, it is the very extreme opposite of comedy , when emotions ru…

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