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History of Humor: Medieval Europe

  • By: Martha Bayless
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The humor of medieval Europe is as diverse as that of any point in history, spanning the gamut from basic to sophisticated, from elevated to bawdy, from secular to religious. Though the structures of humor followed universal patterns, the particulars of medieval culture naturally influenced its expression. Thus humor has a particularly communal character in this period; comic texts were often designed for performance, and were acted, read, or told aloud in company. Such merriment was typically deplored by religious authorities, though in private many august churchmen were not unfamiliar with revelry. Indeed, religion and clerics formed a favorite topic of humor, even to other clerics. These rivaled the things of the body as a staple of comedy, and humor that combined religion and bodily ...

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