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One of the difficulties for students studying comedy is that they don’t always fund the texts they read funny. The idea that comedy is synonymous with amusing is tackled early on and we offer the definition that comedy is a plot structure which moves from chaos to order. That said, we also hope to show students that the texts we’ve selected are also laugh out loud funny. Students get to see this concept played out across history, first in Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata in which the women of Sparta organise a sex strike to try to end the Peloponnesian War. Students also get to think about the satire of the Roman writers, Juvenal and Horace.

From there we move to Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale. Students will already have experienced Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale in Year 7 and here we continue to use Nevill Coghill’s excellent verse translation. The tale of the relationship triangle of John, Alisoun and Nicholas is both farcical and extremely scatological: perfect for a Year 8 audience!

The anchor text for this module is Shakespeare’s forest romp, As You Like It in which the cross-dressing Rosalind, one his finest female characters outwits everyone before everything is resolved happily and conventionally. As always, the idea is that students should read the anchor text in its entirety but not to study it in depth. It is there both to be enjoyed and as a vehicle for understanding the key concepts of comedy.

From there we travel to William Wycherley’s scandalous Restoration comedy, The Country Wife, take in Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal,’ look at some comic extracts from Dickens and Oscar Wilde before finishing with the comic verse of Edward Lear, Lewis Carol, Spike Milligan, Pam Ayres and Wendy Cope.