What is comedy? What determines what is funny to a particular society? Comedy is hard to define and differs from culture to culture. Through out time societies have developed many different forms of comedy ranging from theater and poetry to cartoons and sitcoms. This paper will compare and contrast classical Greek comedy to that of medieval times particularly Aristophanes’s The Clouds and Ysengrimus respectively. These two comedies were composed in completely different time periods (about 500 years apart) which motivate us to discover the significance of the forms that these societies used to write these humorous stories. Lastly this paper will look into the different institutions and beliefs that are being lampooned in these two historical works.
What was considered funny in classical Greece was most likely not the same as what the majority of people in medieval times considered funny. Greek comedy focused on criticizing current politicians or undermining intellects such as the sophists, Socrates in particular as seen in The Clouds. Aristophanes made the crowd laugh by delivering the simple message that the sophists were corrupting youth and undermining traditional Athenian beliefs. The crowd was able to laugh because Aristophanes filled his play and characters with situations and traits common to that era such as debt. Profanity was also used a lot and since Greek comedy arose around the same time as radical democracy did they were able to have more freedom of speech and could rant about all the politicians and leaders. This is similar to the medieval story Ysengrimus which seemed to lampoon the corrupt monks of the roman clergy and greed; this is evident when Ysengrimus is referred to as a “wicked monk” . Ysengrimus was a wolf who constantly lied about being a priest and a doctor to try and deceive the king. This is similar to the Greek style of comedy in which an institution or authoritative figure is being satirized in a comical way in order...
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