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Do you think it is right to call Educating Rita a serious comedy

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Right from the beginning, in the first scene of the play, we can tell that it is a funny play. Rita enters the office and she sees a picture. She remarks,

“Y’ don’t paint pictures like that so that people can admire the brush strokes, do y’?”

Here Rita is making a joke about the fact that there are naked figures in the picture, but also there is a serious point to this quotation. Rita recognises that it was a religious painting and when it was painted, there were no other naked paintings apart from religious ones.

In the play a lot of subtle comedy is tied in, especially in Rita’s mistakes.

” I tried to read this thing he wrote called J. Arthur Prufrock.”

Here, Rita mistakes the poem “J. Alfred Prufrock” which is a poem about breaking free, with “J. Arthur”. J. Arthur is completely different, as J. Arthur Rank is used as cockney rhyming slang. With this mistake, she thought the poem was called J. Arthur, as J. Arthur Rank was a film company. She would have seen this many times before, so she presumed the title was the same as the filmmaker.

“Rita – ‘This Forster, honest to God he doesn’t half get on my tits.’

Frank – ‘You must show me the evidence'”

These quotations here are funny, but yet again have a serious side to them. Frank has started to cut down his excessive drinking habits, so this has made him dirtier.

“Rita – ‘What’s your name’

Frank – ‘Frank.’

Rita – ‘oh. Not after Frank Harris?

Frank – ‘not after Frank anyone.’

Rita – ‘Maybe y’ parents named y’ after the quality. Y’ know Frank Ness, Elliot’s


Frank – ‘What?’

Rita – ‘I’m sorry it was a joke. Y’ know, Frank Ness, Elliot’s brother.’

Frank – ‘Ah’

Rita – ‘You’ve still not got it have y’? Elliot Ness – y’ know, the famous Chicago

copper that caught Al Capone.

Frank – ‘ah. When you said Elliot I thought you meant T.S. Elliot'”

This comment is both funny and serious. It is funny because inside there is a joke that she makes about Frank as she thinks that he is stuck up, but it is also serious as she was asking him an actual question, and he confused it, because he thought she knew more about literature than she actually does.

“Rita – ‘ I wouldn’t go and live in Formby. I hate that hole, don’t you?’

Frank – ‘ Yes’

Rita – ‘ Where do you live?’

Frank – ‘ Formby'”

This is a funny quotation. Rita is a woman with a character who always likes to state her opinion. Here she is wrong in doing so, as she finds out that she has insulted the area in which Frank lives. She feels guilty and immediately afterwards she changed the subject.

“Frank – ‘Well it really depends on you, on how committed you are. Are you sure that you’re absolutely serious about wanting to learn?”

Rita – ‘I’m dead serious. Look, I know I take the piss an’ that but I’m dead serious really. I take the piss because I’m not, y’ know confident like, but I wanna be, honest.'”

This quotation shows how serious Rita is, and how much she wants to learn. From this quotation, we see why Rita took up the Open University course, and why she wants to learn. The quotation shows her passion of wanting to succeed on the course.

“Rita – ‘The ones who come here all the time. The proper students.’

Frank – ‘Yes. First glimmer of sun and they’re all out there.’

Rita – ‘Readin’ and studyin’?

Frank – ‘Reading and Studying? Who do you think they are, human? Proper students don’t read and study.'”

Frank does not make many jokes, but here is a good example. He has been a teacher for a long time and he knows that students don’t do much work, unlike what Rita thinks of a stereotypical student.

In act two, Rita starts to get more clever, so the jokes made in the rest of the play are more educated, and are not only funny because we are laughing at Rita’s stupidity.

” Rita – I walked over an’ said, “Excuse me but I couldn’t help overhearin’ the rubbish you were spoutin’ about Lawrence”. … I said tryin’ to compare Chatterley with Sons and Lovers is like tryin’ to compare sparkling wine with champagne. The next thing is there’s this heated discussion, with me right in the middle of it.”

Here, not now is Rita talking to other people about novels, but she is so confident in her knowledge that she is starting off an argument with her beliefs. This show how much Rita has changed over the course of the play so far, it also shows how serious Rita is about learning, and that she takes in everything that she has been taught by Frank.

“Frank – Pissed? I was glorious! Fell off the rostrum twice.

Rita – Will they sack you? … What about the students? … Its hardly fair on them if their lecturer’s so pissed that he’s falling off the rostrum.”

Usually Rita would have found this hilarious, Frank being drunk while lecturing, but now she does not find it funny. She is more interested in whether the students were able to still learn. And she says that if she was in the students’ situation then she would have been disappointed that she would not have been able to finish learning.

” Frank – Found a culture have you, Rita? …

Rita – Rita? Rita? Nobody calls me Rita but you. I dropped that pretentious crap as soon as I saw it for what it was you stupid … Nobody calls me Rita.”

Rita has changed so much that she has even changed her name. She has changed her friends, so they call her something more sophisticated than Rita, as Rita would have been seen as too common for the people she talks to now, such as her new flatmate, Trish.

As we go further on into the book, I think that Frank is starting to become jealous of Rita’s friends. Usually, Frank was the only person that Rita spoke to about literary topics. Now, whenever she comes to see Frank, she always says how much fun she is having with her new friends, and how they stay up and talk about poems and books into the early hours, when before, she would have gone to the pub in the evenings.

“Rita – Me and Trish stayed up the other night and read them. She agrees with me. We stayed up most of the might, just talking about it. … What did Trish say -? More resonant than – purely contemporary poetry in that you can see a direct line through to nineteenth-century traditions of – like wit an’ classical allusion”

Rita’s new flatmate is Trish. Trish has also changed Rita into a more sophisticated woman. Together they stay up and discuss poetry and do ‘proper’ things together.

Frank doesn’t take it too nicely, and he bursts out and gets into arguments with Rita usually after she says these things to him. Rita is becoming more educated than Frank because she is doing work outside of the time when she sees Frank; she is spending most of her free time working. Now she does not work in a hairdressers, she works in a bistro, all of these things show how much more sophisticated Rita is getting.

I think, overall that the play is a serious comedy. In the first act of the play, there were an equal amount of serious and comical parts. In the second act, there is an absence of comedy. As Rita becomes more educated, she stops telling jokes, as she doesn’t see the need to any more. Frank starts to tell jokes that Rita doesn’t find funny, as she is more educated. There is almost a reversal of roles in the two acts, with Frank being the more educated in the first act and Rita being the person who didn’t understand the jokes, and vice-versa in the second act. Rita was telling the majority of jokes in the first act, but she fails to tell many in the second act. It is a funny play, but I think it develops into more of a serious play as the play goes on.

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