A happy ending is an ending of the plot of a work of fiction in which most everything turns out for the best for the hero or heroine, their sidekicks, and just about everyone but the villains. The prince gets the princess and, in the traditional phrase from fairy tales, they all live "happily ever after."
The presence of a happy ending is one of the key points that distinguishes melodrama from tragedy. In certain periods, the endings of traditional tragedies such as Macbeth or Oedipus Rex, in which most of the major characters end up dead, disfigured, or discountenanced, have been actively disliked. In the eighteenth century, the Irish author Nahum Tate sought to improve Shakespeare's King Lear by rewriting the ending so that Lear survives, Cordelia and Edgar marry, and the three sisters are reconciled. Most subsequent critics have not found Tate's amendments an improvement. Happy endings have also been fastened to Romeo and Juliet and Othello.
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