As we shift from tragedy to comedy, keep in mind the following:
Whereas tragedy isolates the protagonist, comedy assimilates characters into the community through the final action. Macbeth, for instance, becomes distanced from everyone, even from Lady Macbeth, and seemingly dies alone; but Portia welcomes even Antonio, who has caused the early separation in her marriage, into life at Belmont—though not without teaching him a lesson.
In Shakespeare’s festive comedies (as opposed to the dark comedies like Measure for Measure or All’s Well That Ends Well), at the heart of the action Shakespeare places a beautiful, brilliant, resourceful woman who solves all the plot snarls and manages to integrate all the characters into a resolution.
But even in festive comedies like this one, the play may end with an especially demanding character not entirely happy with the outcome (e.g., Shylock, Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch) though still viewed as part of the community.
In comedy, as in romance, the crisis occurs when the action changes from complication to denouement. But in comedies, the complication suggests the protagonist cannot prevail; after the crisis, we see the protagonist’s situation improve and his former isolation end. (Just the opposite of tragedy: during complication, his will seems to prevail; but during denouement we see his supposed successes turned to nought.) Indeed, Macbeth seems to prevail in complication—he successfully slays Duncan and blames others; Malcolm and Donalbain flee rather than oppose him for the crown; he stands for coronation at Scone; he manipulates murderers to kill Banquo for him. But then, at the crisis, Fleance escapes. From then on, all Macbeth has achieved has just led him farther and farther into blood so that he can’t even tread backward across that river of blood. All the Weird Sisters tell him will come to pass, but not as he wishes to understand those truths. He is doomed. By contrast, Antonio seems to lose everything—Bassanio leaves to woo Portia, his argosies fail-- until the crisis: once Bassanio chooses the leaden casket and, thereby, wins Portia, Antonio is secure despite what Shylock may cry about his bond.
Shakespeare’s festive comedies end with a dance, a feast, or a marriage—or a combination of these three. The festive comedies include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Much Ado about Nothing, A Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew.