How far do you consider Frank to be the comic focus of the play "Educating Rita"?

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How far do you consider Frank to be the comic focus of the play?

To a substantial degree Frank is the comic focus of the play, Willy Russell presents him at the start with a fundamental sense of humour essential to the comic themes of the play, his character is reinforced throughout the play and the contrast between Frank and Rita exploits a class difference which shows the real purpose of the humour. He is then denoted as an allegorical function to expose the class system, Russell’s true comic focus.

The play opens with a comical monologue from Frank; he is on the phone with Julia, an ex-student with whom he lives, and although there is an underlying sense of despondency in this scene when looking further into his character, the comedy is obvious and conceals the truth of Frank’s tragic life. This is portrayed through his sarcasm in his dispute over the ‘ratatouille’, and the way in which he comments on his own drinking problem after Julia’s remark. This is comical due to the reality that they’re arguing over something so insignificant and yet become so aggravated. This ‘sugarcoating’ holds true comic applicability as comedy can be strongly linked with tragedy as the credibility of the characters holds true purpose to the audience and therefore feel an affinity to such characters which may be of great importance to  Russell when choosing and depicting a ‘focus’ of the play. Russell utilises this initial characterisation and continues to create humorous scenes in which Frank’s apathetic temperament and almost callous character becomes so captivating, even though you would imagine his cynicism as a trait associated with the antagonist in any story. Russell’s grim worldview and his opinion on the education system, a common theme of the play, comes through with Frank’s alcoholism and what he says about his position; “To get the sack, it would have to be rape on a grand scale. And not just with students, either. That would only amount to a slight misdemeanour. No, for dismissal it would have to be nothing less than buggering the Bursar”, and although this may be lewd and obscene it is extremely funny and appeals to the sardonic side of the audience. This could lead us to consider the notion that Russell does this purposefully to centre him in the play, and doing so in an amusing fashion would suggest that he is the comic target of the play. And yet this may only aim at one side of the audience as in the eighties there was an increasing class difference and Frank is simply an avenue to exploit this and to comment on the social and political standings.

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Rita, the other protagonist and the only other present character in the play, can also be considered as the comic focus of the play. Her idiolect, Liverpudlian accent and working class mannerisms allow Russell to contrast Frank’s witty comments and sarcastic remarks, and applies this as soon as she is introduced. Comments such as “look at those tits” become typical of Rita and are a seminal component in her character’s humour throughout the play, this is humorous as she challenges the norm and remarks on a philosophical level of what was art and religion in such a humorous manner ...

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