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A JUSTICE TO COME: THE ROLE OF ETHICS IN LA FARCE DE MAISTRE PIERRE PATHELIN

  • Noah D. Guynn

Abstract

There is a long-standing tradition in theatre criticism of disparaging medieval farce as an essentially vulgar, inconsequential, and even immoral genre. As many scholars both past and present would have it, these short, comic “crowd pleasers” not only thematize moral corruption but actually injure public morals by pandering to the baser instincts of the lower classes. In her bold revisionist study of the genre, Bernadette Rey-Flaud cites Arthur Pougin's 1885 definition of farce as an “exemplary” one: “Short little plays, of a low, trivial, burlesque comedy and for the most part very licentious; plays that sought above all to incite the coarse laughter of the rabble.” According to Rey-Flaud, this definition encapsulates the four centuries of criticism that precede it and anticipates the consensus of much contemporary scholarship as well: “Farce has not been rehabilitated in our time” (8, emphasis mine).

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