Comic elements in Rabelais' Pantagruel and Gargantua
Damianides, Effie A.
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The purpose of this study is to examine several comic elements in Frangois Rabelais' Pantagruel and Gargantua. My focus is on farcical elements, word usage, and satire, in an attempt to show how Rabelais uses each of these elements to create laughter. Although it is important for humor to be understood within its context, my primary focus is the text itself. In the first chapter, I isolate some of the elements found in the farce as a dramatic genre, and show how they function in Rabelais. Whether it be practical jokes, verbal ambiguities, pranks, literalization of figurative expressions, ruses or trickeries, Rabelais uses these traditional farcical elements skillfully to create laughter. In the second chapter, I focus on Rabelais' use of words. Through the technigues of punning, bluffing, macaronic Latin, and false etymology, words are used (or deliberately misused) to create comic situations or to show how words are comic in themselves. Satirical elements are the most common in Rabelais' books and are the focus of the third chapter. I examine how Rabelais uses the comedy in satire to unmask the corruption of organized religion, and the faults of scholastic pedagogy and false erudition. I found that each of these comic elements can be classified according to whether the humor generated is didactic or gratuitous. The main function of gratuitous humor is to create laughter. Didactic humor, however, serves as a tool for a moralistic lesson. Farcical elements are primarily gratuitous since they create laughter for the sake of laughter. Rabelais' use of words is gratuitous and didactic to the same degree. Satire's primary purpose is didactic. The question of gratuitous/didactic humor is related to the "author-reader conspiracy." In comedy, the reader and author are accomplices who, together, laugh at a third party who is the victim and object of the laughter. The author must ensure that the sympathy of the reader is maintained. In the case of gratuitous humor, this is easier to accomplish than in the case of didactic humor. Rabelais succeeds in maintaining his readers' collaboration, and does not appear vehement. I suggest that further studies be done on the relationship between gratuitous/didactic humor and the "author-reader conspiracy." Another potential area for research is farcical elements in Rabelais books.