The Green World in the Digital Space by Amanda McAfee

In summary, Northrop Frye attempts to tease out the “philosophical spokesman” of four forms of comedy. (Frye, 73)  In this process he identifies the varied forms of the Oedipus situation and the space in which comedy can unravel uninhibited by reality, the green world.  The green world is derived from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, specifically the Faerie Queene’s forest Realm.  The forest acts in contrast as the green world to the red and white world of history, by the end the two worlds are joined through marriage.  Each world is qualitatively differentiated by color or metal which is derived from the original source material to denotes a specific characteristic the category defines.  The Green world has a maternal nature with regard to comedy and functions as the womb within which comedy grows and from which it will then birth the comic victory, marriage.  The idea of the green world as a physical space limits the theory as it can be applied, in a modern world, to the digital space.  In You’ve Got Mail (Nora Ephron, USA, 1998) Kathleen and Joe are two thirty-year-old West Siders who meet in a chat room and have been mailing each other inconsequential nothings that are comic both in the digital space and when brought into the real world.  Questions from the characters denote the online space as having different parameters to the physical, Kathleen asks if it is infidelity when you are involved with someone online.  Such instances as well as the continued dramatic irony of their relationship add to the digital world as being equal or a synthesis of the green world.  All of which, the inevitable dramatic reveal and the victory of marriage, convene in the clip above set against the backdrop of a physical green world, the park, lush and green from spring time.  

Northrop Frye, “The Argument of Comedy,” English Institute Essays (New York: Columbia, 1949), 58-73. 


  1. I think the green world holds a much more important meaning in our modern world considering the degradation of our landscapes and the urbanization of our lives. Interesting to see how even our normal world can be considered the green world when put in contrast to the digital.

  2. An interesting connection could be drawn here between the song choice in this scene and the ‘green world’ that Frye speaks of. The choice of ‘Over the Rainbow’ references ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – although it is a modern cover of the original soundtrack – and in doing so draws up (subconsciously or consciously) connotations of the magical dream world in this film. While Oz is a far more mythical comedy than ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ it still holds many of the characteristics that Frye speaks of in his essay. I wonder how many other modern comedies employ intertextual references like this in order to evoke techniques and tropes of more classical new comedies.

  3. I loved this example and thought you eloquently spoke of all the “worlds” in a very relatable way. This was a great choice in exemplifying the transition out of the real world and into “the green world,” as we see Meg Ryan leave the busy streets and enter into this fantasy garden. I think the song choice elevates this scene even further, allowing us to full believe in the non-realistic. You forget for a moment this was even classified as a comic film, and instead truly only focus on the enchanting romanticism.

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