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Casting a critical eye on comic works throughout the ages, Meredith finds that the most skilled masters of the comic art--Aristophanes, Rabelais, Voltaire, Cervantes, Fielding Moliere--used comedy to grasp the essence of humanity. Comedy, according to Meredith's theory, serves an important moral and social function: it redeems us from our posturings, stripping away pride, arrogance, complacency, and other sins.
Bergson's essay looks at comedy within a wider field of vision, focusing on laughter and on what makes us laugh. His study examines comic characters and comic acts, comedy in literature and in children's games, comedy as high art and base entertainment, to develop a psychological and philosophical theory of the mainsprings of comedy.
Complementing the work of Meredith and Bergson is Wylie Sypher's appendix, an essay that discusses comedy and the underlying comic structure in both anthropological and literary contexts. Sypher offers an enlightening discussion of the relationship between comedy and tragedy and their link with the ritual purging of evil from a society by means of a scapegoat. He then goes on to examine the guises of the comic hero in such figures as the Wife of Bath, Don Quixote, and Falstaff, relating them to such great tragic figures as Oedipus, Faust, and Hamlet.
Through the many perspectives it offers, Comedy will appeal not only to students of literature and literary criticism, but to those studying philosophy and history as well.
|An Essay on Comedy||3|
|I.||The Comic in General||61|
|The Comic Element in Forms and Movements||74|
|Expansive Force of the Comic||84|
|II.||The Comic Element in Situations and the Comic Element in Words||104|
|III.||The Comic in Character||146|
|Appendix||The Meanings of Comedy|
|I.||Our New Sense of the Comic||193|
|II.||The Ancient Rites of Comedy||214|
|III.||The Guises of the Comic Hero||226|
|IV.||The Social Meanings of Comedy||241|
Posted December 1, 2000
Several years ago, I used this text for an honors level literature course at the university I was attending. It was the foundation for my analysis and comparison of two films: The General, and Modern Times. Bergson's work gave me a profound understanding of the how and why of comedy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.