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An Essay on comedy and the uses of the comic spirit   By: (1828-1909)

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In "An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit," George Meredith delves into the intriguing world of comedy, exploring its various forms and discussing the profound impact it has on human society and individuals. With his profound understanding of laughter's intricate workings, Meredith presents a thought-provoking analysis that aims to shed light on the true value and purpose of the comic spirit.

Throughout this captivating essay, Meredith carefully dissects the essence of comedy, dissecting its different manifestations and elucidating its vital role in society. He demonstrates a deep appreciation for the power of laughter, highlighting how it can serve as a unifying force for people from all walks of life. By looking closely at comedic archetypes and techniques, Meredith uncovers the universal appeal of wit and humor as essential components of human existence.

What sets this essay apart is Meredith's ability to seamlessly blend philosophy, social commentary, and literary analysis. His eloquent prose provides a comprehensive exploration of comedy while keeping the reader engaged and intrigued. The author's erudite observations are peppered with anecdotes, references to classic literature, and examples from everyday life, making his arguments relatable and applicable to various contexts.

Underlying Meredith's treatise is the notion that comedy is not merely an escape from life's hardships but, rather, an essential coping mechanism. He argues that the comic spirit offers solace and relief from the burdens of existence, allowing individuals to temporarily step outside the realm of tragedy and find solace in laughter. This profound insight resonates throughout the essay, challenging readers to reflect on their own relationship with comedy and how it shapes their perspective on life.

While Meredith's writing style may require some level of concentration to fully grasp his arguments, the essay rewards attentive readers with valuable insights. He masterfully weaves together theories, anecdotes, and examples to create a rich tapestry of thought that engages the intellect and prompts contemplation. By building upon the philosophical traditions of thinkers before him, such as Aristotle and Schopenhauer, Meredith adds his own unique voice to the examination of comedy's place in the human experience.

However, one may argue that the essay's content occasionally becomes dense and intricate, potentially deterring readers who prefer a more accessible or lighthearted exploration of comedy. Additionally, the absence of a more contemporary perspective may limit the essay's relevance to today's audiences. Despite these minor drawbacks, Meredith's insightful analysis and ability to distill complex concepts make this essay a valuable resource for anyone passionate about the subject matter.

In conclusion, "An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit" is a thought-provoking and well-reasoned exploration of comedy's significance in human life. George Meredith's erudite observations, combined with his masterful blend of philosophy and literary analysis, offer a comprehensive examination of the comic spirit's power and purpose. By delving into the mechanisms of laughter, the author prompts readers to reconsider their own relationship with comedy, ultimately deepening their understanding of the human experience.

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This Essay was first published in 'The New Quarterly Magazine' for April 1877 .


Good Comedies are such rare productions, that notwithstanding the wealth of our literature in the Comic element, it would not occupy us long to run over the English list. If they are brought to the test I shall propose, very reputable Comedies will be found unworthy of their station, like the ladies of Arthur's Court when they were reduced to the ordeal of the mantle.

There are plain reasons why the Comic poet is not a frequent apparition; and why the great Comic poet remains without a fellow. A society of cultivated men and women is required, wherein ideas are current and the perceptions quick, that he may be supplied with matter and an audience. The semi barbarism of merely giddy communities, and feverish emotional periods, repel him; and also a state of marked social inequality of the sexes; nor can he whose business is to address the mind be understood where there is not a moderate degree of intellectual activity.

Moreover, to touch and kindle the mind through laughter, demands more than sprightliness, a most subtle delicacy. That must be a natal gift in the Comic poet... Continue reading book >>

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