Event Analysis II
Humor Makes a Joke of Us All
First I would like to make clear that I have read a fair amount of Shakespeare’s work over the years. As a result I have notice that I tend to favor his poems over his plays. Shakespeare’s poems generally peak my interest for longer periods of time, and as a result I had to find it in me to head into the performance of the “Twelfth Night” with an open mind. Fortunately, I was able to, and this is what I noted.
The American Shakespeare Center intentionally lightened the mood of the play “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare to curb audience interest and offer them a better grasp of how humor was commonly practiced in times past. The actors of the play, who all did a fantastic job of keeping my usually dull interest peaked, were able to adjust the mood of the play based on how they enunciated each line. For example, When Toby, Sir Andrews, and Feste return from drinking the night away the audience is offered humorous display that is not easily seen in the written form of the play. The actors for each character were slurring their words while stumbling around the stage, and the result of their acting was a wave of laughter from the audience. I see this as a glimpse to what was once the premier form of entertainment of times long past. Furthermore, this animated portrayal of Shakespeare’s work helps me see a different the piece from a more entertaining perspective. Even though “Twelfth Night” is, less tragic of a plot than “Macbeth,” it does have some contain heavy issues. The use of humor to lighten the mood is a wonderful practice. Shakespeare was and still is able to captivate audiences with the humor that he weaves into his stories. The effect of the humor can be seen as therapeutic, or even addictive. Those effects are not only evident in works done by Shakespeare.
I found the humor of John Ciardi’s, “Suburban” to be easily relatable. As someone who has grown up in a small suburban neighborhood, in a small suburban town, attended small suburban high school, in a small state I have come across similar suburban crises like the one John Ciardi has depicted. Accused of having his dog’s poop in his neighbor’s yard Ciardi is able to make light of the issue by saying witty comebacks like, “ Have you checked the rectal grooving for a positive I.D.?” Humor in this example acts as a gateway for the reader understand the seemingly huge issue of having feces in your garden. It allows those who may not know what can sometimes come with a neighbor or maybe even a front lawn. Ciardi makes light of how unimportant the issue truly is. He is able to give the reader an honest look into the sometimes too perfect world of modern suburbia, and honestly, I think Ciardi is being fairly reserved.
Like the American Shakespeare Center’s take on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Barbra Hamby relies heavily on humor to portray her message that could have been otherwise fairly stale. In “Ode to American English” Hamby claims that the, “elegant Oxfordian accents” distinguishes the British English from the “U.S. of A.” Hamby uses humor to describe how unique American English has become, and how far it has diverged from its origins. “New Joisey” is one of the many accents that Hamby makes light of in her poem. If Hamby were to plainly say how odd accents are in New Jersey, without the use of humor, her message wouldn’t come across as clearly, and it would take away from the truth of a real, “Joisey” accent. As result the entire message f the poem would suffer. Again, Hamby humorously describes her yearning of phrases like, “Suffering Succotash” and “pork bellied legislators.” This lively expression shows what makes America English unique, and how far the American English has transformed into a mix of various types of cultures. Hamby presents the topic in the form of a poem with major elements of satire. As a result she peaks her audience’s interest, and allows them to grasp a fuller understanding of the topic. In addition, Hamby’s use of humor allows her to send her message to the audience more effectively.
In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “Cask of Amontillado” Poe’s use of black humor, which has a much darker mood than the humor found in “Ode to American English” or “Twelfth Night,” is used to a similar effect. Poe uses black humor to lighten the morbid story, and as a result offer the reader a new lens to follow the story. Poe most often uses Montresor as a figure for black humor. Right away Montresor’s desire to take revenge upon Fortunato becomes clear. Montresor feels that his quest for revenge will fail unless, “ the avenger… makes himself felts as such to him who has done the wrong.” Montresor’s darkest desire to kill Fortunato is clearly illustrated to the reader however; Fortunato is blissfully unaware of the harm that will soon become of him. Due to this situational irony, which is also an example of black humor, Poe is able to fully develop Montresor into the “puppet-master” like character that seeks total revenge for Fortunato’s previous actions. Again we see this black humor develop when the Montresor and leads the Fortunato into the catacombs. After becoming aware of the Fortunato’s heavy cough Montresor states, “ your health is precarious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as I once was.” Montresor’s feigned interest in the health of Fortunato is ironic, and an example of black humor. In this example, we see Montresor slip in, to his comment, little bits of festering anger that he still feels towards Fortunato. In the Fortunato’s drunken stupor he is unaware of such subtleties, but the reader can easily pick up on those instances of black humor and irony. The effect of Poe’s use of irony and black humor is impressively clever. Poe is able to develop Montresor into the demonic man that is on an unwavering path of revenge. As the story progresses, the path develops before the readers eyes, and by the end of the story there is no surprise that the Fortunato is killed.
In all of these pieces humor is detectable in one fashion or another. Interestingly, the authors all seem to use the different types of humor to the same effect. Humor acts as an avenue for humans to make light of people, places, and situations. It can be used as an effective therapy for relieving the stress of everyday life, and as a remedy for any sort of situation. The one undeniable difference in all of these works is the date of publication. While that date is different for each piece the common denominator is always humor, and that is a testament to the importance of humor.