Elegiac comedy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
twelfth century literature, fabliaux

Elegiac comedy was a genre of medieval Latin literature or drama popular in the twelfth century. About twenty such works survive, all of them produced in west central France, roughly the Loire Valley. Though commonly identified in manuscripts as comoedia, modern scholars often reject their status as comedy. Unlike Classical comedy, they were written in elegiac couplets. Denying their true comedic nature, Edmond Faral called them Latin fabliaux, after the later Old French fabliaux, and Ian Thompson labelled them Latin comic tales. Other scholars have invented terms like verse tales, rhymed monologues, epic comedies, and Horatian comedies to describe them. The Latin "comedies", the dramatic nature of which varies greatly, may have been the direct ancestors of the fabliaux but more likely merely share similarities. Other interpretations have concluded that they are primitive romances, student juvenilia, didactic poems, or merely collections of elegies on related themes.

They were typically lyric complaints only sometimes mixed with amorous content. Their Classical forebearers were Terence and, more especially, Ovid. His Ars amatoria, Amores, and Heroides were highly influential. Plautus, though less widely read in the Middle Ages, was also an influence, as were the Scholastic debates concerning the nature of universals and other contemporary philosophical problems, with which the elegiac comedies often dealt, always humorously but no doubt sometimes to a serious end.

The elegiac dramatists delight in "showing off" their Latin skills. The language of their "fools" can be deliberately outlandish, and their deft use of puns is frequently sexual in nature. Parody is another typical element of elegiac humour. Persons of low rank are often placed in positions unsuited to them. Their bumbling, as when a rustic attempts to speak philosophically or the commoner pretends he is a chivalrous gentleman, is portrayed for its satiric effect. In the Middle Ages, satire was usually considered a breed of comedy.

The elegiac comedies bear limited dramatic features. Thompson denies their theatricality, saying that "no ancient drama would ever have been written in elegiacs." A similar opinion is that the comedies are rhetorical exercises. Medieval poetic theory, however, did not regard comedy and elegy as mutually exclusive, nor identical. John of Garland wrote "all comedy is elegy, but the reverse is not true." Other arguments raised against the dramatic performance of the comedies is, in general, their large number of narrative segments as opposed to dialogue. Arnulf of Orléans, one of the elegiac writers, seems to have considered his work to have been made for the stage. These performances may have been narrated, mimed, or sung.

Some elegiac comedies were adapted into vernacular language in the later Middle Ages, most notably Pamphilus, which as Venetian and Old French versions.

List of elegiac comedies




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Elegiac comedy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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