The interplay and the relationships of the characters create the comedy. Without these good or bad relationships the play and the other characters wouldn’t progress. We see one of these comical relationships when Maggie confronts Albert Prosser in the Hobson’s. Maggie knows the real reason as to why he is here but her business-minded, pushy attitude gets the better of Albert e.g.
ALBERT ‘Oh no, I really don’t want to buy them.
MAGGIE (pushing him): Sit down Mr Prosser. You can’t go through the streets in odd boots.’
This forcefulness of a woman against a man, combined with Albert’s fear of Maggie, creates comedy. The image of this dominant, assertive woman scaring a full-grown man and forcing him into doing something that he has no intention of doing is a comical relationship, which depicts Maggie’s character.
We see Maggie carry out these features throughout the play. Another scene that we perceive this is when Maggie asks, or rather tells Willie that the two of them will marry e.g.
MAGGIE ‘You’ll do for me.
Maggie is again pushing a man into doing something he really doesn’t want to go through with. Her intentions are not there to be disturbed and doing what she wants adds to Maggie’s improbable character. This treatment of Willie and the language that they both use creates comedy. Maggie refers to Willie as a ‘business idea in the shape of a man.’ Willie, himself also believes that he is an object that can’t defend itself rather than an able man e.g.
WILLIE ‘She’ll have me from you if you don’t be careful’.
This weak attitude from Willie increases the comical severity of Maggie’s marriage proposal.
The arrogance of Hobson is shown in many ways throughout the play such as the way Hobson degrades his loyal customer Mrs. Hepworth immediately after he had been complimenting and respecting her. However occasionally when he comes off arrogant he is really making a fool of himself e.g.
HOBSON ‘I’ll have less uppishness from you or else I’ll shove you off my hands on to some other men. You can choose which way you like
MAGGIE One o’clock dinner, father.’
This shows that after Hobson continues to rant and rave about qualities that only he finds appalling, Maggie is clearly not listening and is not particularly interested. Evidently he is really a fool for trying so hard to educate his daughters on irrelevant subjects. This ignorance of the daughters creates comedy. Hobson believes he is in charge and does not realise that he has been ruled by his daughters until the very end of the play when he is more or less defeated by the people he originally thought were his hesitant labourers. We, the audience know that the daughter’s rule him and that’s where the humour comes in; that he doesn’t realise this until the end when it is all too late and he is overpowered.
At the end of Act one, these two totally different characters (Hobson and Willie) have to confront each other regarding Maggie. The two totally different characters having to confront each other, immediately creates humour as we think that there’s no way that Willie could possibly stand up for himself against a iron-willed man who may well be about to loose his two best workers and therefore his future as a prosperous cobbler. Brighouse than creates more humour by totally defying everyone’s (including Hobson’s) expectations. The newly found confidence of Willie and the reaction to this from Hobson is humorous because nobody was expecting this including Willie himself.
Hobson’s arrogance creates humour in another way. From reading the play, I have noticed that Hobson has a tendency of refusing help when he really needs it. By choosing to be this stubborn, he is clearly making the relevant situation far worse than it could be e.g.
MAGGIE ‘I know perfectly well what father can afford to pay, and it’s not a thousand pounds nor anything like a thousand pounds.
HOBSON Not so much of your can’t afford Maggie. You’ll make me out a pauper.’
There is also the situation with the doctor in Act 4, in which he corrupts the only man that can really help him. This is humorous because he is yet again being a fool even though he has received his warnings before. This stubbornness and refusal of civility eventually leads to Hobson suffering from alcoholism, and even at this point he refuses help from a professional. He still believes he always has been and always will be right, even though he has dug himself into the position that he is dying and needs the help from the people that he originally turned away. One of the main features of comedy is that he still thinks that everybody respects him, when of course they don’t.
In Act 4 we finally see the situation that we, the audience have been waiting and hoping for. The tables have completely changed between Willie and Hobson e.g.
WILLIE ‘I’ll make some alterations in this shop, and all. I will so.
HOBSON Alterations in my shop!
WILLIE In mine.’
Willie now treats Hobson almost like the way the Hobson used to treat Willie. The downfall of Hobson and the rise of Willie is what the play’s humour is based upon, so this scene should really be the most comical. But is it? Yes we are glad to see the weak, unsuccessful boy succeed but are we pleased to see the downfall of Hobson? I think that is a personal opinion. We should really feel sorry for Hobson, after all he has lost his shop, his wife, his daughters and he is then told that he has to give up the one thing he loves to prevent him from dying. However we could argue that he has brought the majority of this on himself and that he really deserves all he gets.