All drama can be seen as a conflict between our biology and our sociology. In Comedy the biology has the balance of the public’s sympathy. In Tragedy it is the sociology that has the sympathy. Comedy forgives the appetites of the body, the needs of the child; tragedy promotes our moral values, the aspirations of the adult. "Yes Harlequin, we will still love you if you steal the pie." "No Oedipus, it is not so cool to sleep with your mother."
Comedy is populated by neurotics. Tragedy is populated by psychotics.
In Comedy the characters react and apologize. “Excuuuse me!” In Tragedy the characters take action without shame. “I will deliver us to our common fate!”
Comedy contains a succession of little “ah-ha” moments. Tragedy contains one long drawn-out “ah-ha.”
Comedy pumps along with vertical movements, peering over horizontal fences, and jumping up out of boxes in horizontally striped jerseys. Tragedy glides along horizontally past majestic vertical columns in long draped gowns.
Melodrama, or tragicomedy as it is sometimes called, is all about diagonals.
In Comedy and Melodrama the audience is asking what will happen next, and in what way will it all end. In Tragedy they already know what will happen; the story is familiar and the oracle has spoken. The questions become more sophisticated: how and why.