mark0608: December 2012 Archives

Holberg's Thoughts on Comedy

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Today I am compiling meaningful quotations from Holberg so that I can better play him come Tuesday.

In "Jeppe of the Hill and other comedies", Gerald S. Argetsinger compiles a series of Holberg's writings on the "Holbergian Comic Aesthetic". He calls this Holberg's "Lost Epistle". Holberg wrote much about everything he had opinions on. However, he never did compile his thoughts about Comedy. Argetsinger has compiled Holberg's thoughts from several retorts of critiques of his Danish comedy.

"On several previous occasions I have taken pen in hand to critique modern drama and to comment upon those who prefer these French and English plays to our own Danish comedies. Because of m'lord's renewed criticism, it seems that, against my will, I return to the subject in order to describe more clearly the nature of true comedy. M'lord gives preference to modern comedies, but without any good reason. As I have clearly demonstrated before, journalists seek to criticize merely because they have heard a work generally praised. Nothing generates the damnation of critics more quickly than popular success."

"Moliere and Plautus knew the rules of the Ancients and applied them to create coherent comedies enjoyable to an audience with a natural taste. They relied upon the unities of time, place, and action to establish the appearance of truth. While most of our Danish comedies adhere to these rules, we have been criticized for failing to follow them blindly. But these academic critics censure the very soul of comedy. It is usually necessary to follow the rules. But a good writer of comedy must not make himself such a slave of rules that he rejects a capital story of the most fitting subject for drama. Many plays that follow the rules do not deserve to be called dramas. Academic critics should be less concerned with rules and more concerned with end results."

"A drama's importance and validity is not to be measured by the criticism of learned journalists but by the applause of the spectators, and when I say spectators I mean only those who have a natural and undepraved taste."

"Moliere, with his rational thinking, has done more to better the the world with his comedies than all of the serious prattlings of all the world's old philosophers. But several of Moliere's comedies are absurd for the average audience member. My Danish comedies are more for the eye than for the ear."

"These characters must have a natural and unaffected speech. One of m'lord's primary judgements against our Danish comedies is that they are not written in the elevated language of poetry. But there is nothing more offensive than to hear commonplace everyday speech in cadence and rhyme. In Melampe, I showed clearly the ludicrous results when commonplace language is so elevated. Melampe also demonstrates the pure affectation of tragedy with its unnatural speech, stories about noblemen, and tragic endings. These are all rejected by the middle class audience of the northern countries, which has not been spoiled by m'lord's arbitrary system of rules, rules which result in your unnatural and depraved taste.
To be acceptable, characters must be drawn from the people around us. People of the middle class whose taste has not been depraved, find greatest pleasure in those plays that criticize the country's manners and morals. I infer that their taste is better and more natural than the modern French and aristocratic taste."

"Situations and diologue should be created that reflect society."

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