First of all, a quick summary of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Anything. In the beginning of this story a respectable noblemen named Leonato, his daughter Hero, and his clever niece Beatrice are waiting on the arrival of friends from the war. The group of friends include prince Don Pedro, and two of his fellow soldiers; Claudio, who is an up and coming young nobleman, and Benedick a man known for his battle skills and witty jokes. Also within the group of friends are; Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother Don John and his entourage of two people. When the soldiers arrive at Leonato’s home, Claudio is very taken by Leonato’s daughter Hero.
While Benedick and Beatrice continue a mutual hatred for each other through a confrontation of crude insults. Claudio and Hero shortly after meeting pledge their love for each other and decide to become married. While waiting for the approaching wedding day the two lovers and friends decide to play a game with Benedick and Beatrice by purposely making them over hear conversations discussing how one loves the other. Soon, after Benedick and Beatrice secretly fall in love with each other. Moving on, Don John try’s to disrupt everyone’s happiness by making it seem to Claudio that Hero is unfaithful to him.
This sends Claudio into a fury, which causes him to bash Hero’s name and reputation at the wedding, not knowing the information he had was fabricated. Hero passes out during all of this commotion and she is announced died. But, little does anyone know that Hero is alive and well, but her name has been put down into a place where she could possibly never return with dignity. Shortly after, Don Johns whole plan comes to light and Claudio goes into a dark depression thinking about what he did to Hero. In this depression he agrees to marry Hero’s cousin and after they are married the cousin is revealed to be Hero.
So, in the end everyone lives happily ever after. Moving on, Henri Bergson’s theory of comedy from his essay “Laughter” shows up within Much Ado About Nothing through the character Dogberry. “Bergson’s theory revolves around a basic axiom that the laughable element consists of a mechanical inelasticity, just where one would expect adaptability and flexibility (public). ” Dogberry brings this aspect to the play because he believes he goes along thinking he is in charge of the situation that is at hand when he really has no idea what is going on, or how to communicate it properly.
So, Dogberry is used as a comical figure because it is expected of a leader of a watchmen group to be stealthy and a straight to the point kind of guy. However, Dogberry is absolutely in no manner stealthy and can barely communicate with others, much less give direction to those beneath him. Therefore, Dogberry is a great example of Bergson’s theory of inelasticity, because Dogberry whole character is a contradiction in itself. Thirdly, Murray Davis’s theory on comedy seems to be what Shakespeare was thinking when he decided to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love with each other.
Davis’s theory of comedy consists of an explanation almost exactly the same to this one just a tad bit cryptic “humorists create humor by transferring something which is appropriate in one system to another where it will undoubtedly be contrary to that particular system’s guidelines (engl ). ” In Much Ado About Anything Benedick and Beatrice fit this explanation because Beatrice is a woman who is aggressive and boisterous about what she thinks and doesn’t need any man to tell her what to do. While on the other hand there is Benedick who is seemingly opposite to her in every way besides being quite witty when it comes to arguments.
So, Shakespeare puts the two seemingly different characters into the same relationship, which would be contrary to normal behavior. Because most often people who love each other do not hate each other at first glance. In their essay on “The Science of Laughter,” theorists Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves examine “why provoking laughter is something that so many citizens of the world aspire to (Carr)? ” Carr and Greeves argue that throughout evolution laughter has stayed constant and is a survival need.
Carr and Greeves use a study done by animal behaviorists at the University of Plymouth, in which the behaviorists were observing smiling and laughter in baby chimps, to show how far we have come based off of evolutionary beliefs. Carr and Greeves claim that laughter evolved from a threat response or warning (Carr). Carr and Greeves show this through the story of the caveman and the mammoth; “at first the caveman is afraid he will crushed by the mammoth, then it falls on its back and the caveman begins to laugh due to relief (Carr).
An example of this within Much Ado About Anything is when Benedict learns that Beatrice loves him and also the moment Beatrice over hears that Benedick loves her. They both are seemingly afraid to come out with such feelings or suppress them because they believe the other despises them, but when they see that the threat is no more they begin to laugh as a form of relief. Finally, C. S. Lewis’s approach on comedy and laughter is quite insightful, using a demon named Screwtape to divide laughter into four categories: joy, fun, the joke proper, and flippancy.
Lewis uses Joy to point out some of the demons’ shortcomings. He shows us that Joy, like Love, is a purely human experience that the minions in Hell can’t recreate or even understand. In Letter 29, Screwtape explains the human condition to Wormwood. He tells his nephew not to waste time on emotions that he cannot use. Screwtape advises, “the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good” (163). Here Lewis has used an ironic inversion, indicating that demons may not be exactly as we think.
Lewis uses fun throughout this novel in the lighthearted nature of which the two demons discuss terrorizing the soul. To humans, the things discussed in this book like anger, jealousy, and frustration are not enjoyable, but to Lewis’ demons they are “fun”. Lewis uses the Joke Proper to satirize comedians and such that tell lewd jokes about sensitive subjects like race or gender bias. In fact, he is using it to mock anyone who would laugh at these jokes, including Lewis himself. Lewis’s jokes aren’t down right mean, but his sarcastic comments on serious matters are exactly what Screwtape is talking about.
An example of one of his sarcastic, ironic inversions is in Letter 28, when Screwtape is talking about how Wormwood can properly use the war to his advantage and says, “Do you not know that bombs kill men? ” (153). Death, war, and bombs are all very serious subjects that ordinarily wouldn’t be appropriate subject matter to find enjoyment in, but in the form of a sarcastic joke, it is excusable to laugh. “Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it” (56).
Flippancy is the type of humor used by the demons in The Screwtape Letters. They discuss serious matters as if they mean nothing and are in fact, ridiculous. This is a form of ironic inversion. For instance, in Letter 28, Screwtape is, again, lecturing his nephew on the human experience, and tosses out, “They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good” (154). This is, literally, a matter of life and death and Screwtape is talking so casually about it as if it were absurd.