Comic Genius of ClÉmont Marot: The Function of Humor in His Poetry

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In this work, theories of comedy are used to examine the techniques and processes in Marot’s poetry. It begins by considering his use of humor in its historical context, his story-telling skills, and his skill in manipulating language for humor, especially in puns, quotation and allusion. The full extent of the inspiration Marot draws from François Villon becomes apparent in his use of allusion.


“Powerful ridicule stands alongside frank vulgarity and lighthearted banter; linguistic games innocently played alternate with important satires of established systems and institutions; humorous treatments of his own and others’ misfortunes refute the Bergsonian notion that laughter demands a stifling of positive emotion. Above all one comes to appreciate the vitality of Marotic humour, and if that quality defies reductive explanations, perhaps so much the better.” – Prof John Parkin University of Bristol

“The study concludes with a suitably tentative attempt at a definition of Marotic humour. The causes of laughter are notoriously centripetal and no one theory of comedy has ever offered a single adequate explanation, but Aidred has useful things to say about the inadequacy of Boileau’s description elegant badinage when one considers the totality of Marot’s humorous work including its cheerful bawdiness. She also rightly takes issue with critics who castigate Marot for not being being a Juvenal of French satire while failing to appreciate the originality particularly of the coq à 1’âne, which, in spite of its apparent multivalency and its deliberate ambiguity, can be shown to have considerable thematic coherence. The study is well-written, has been produced with care and is supported by a good range of secondary literature.” – Prof. Jennifer J. Britnell, University of Durham

“. . . by concentrating on various aspects of humor in Marot’s oeuvre — contemporary themes, wordplay, anecdotal poetry, etc. — the author provides an extremely convincing framework in which to discuss the theme of humor, while at the same time producing some very fine close readings of individual poems. Moreover, the careful translations are in themselves an invaluable aid to the appreciation of the poetry. As we read through the book, we build up an excellent picture of Marot’s poetry and the place that humor occupies in it. The concluding chapter brings these various strands together, in a sensitive and comprehensive manner, which at the same time does not fail to take account of other aspects of Marot’s writing.” – Prof, Philip Ford, Clare College, Cambridge University

Table of Contents

Foreword: Professor John Parkin
Introduction: A brief historical survey of comic theory
Laughter as the property of Man
How we laugh: The physiology of laughter
The benefits of laughter: Its relationship to physical health
The cathartic value of laughter
Why we laugh: Satire as a social or political corrective
Fun and incongruity
Saturnalia and carnival
Bergson’s mechanical model
The Freudian school of thought
Humour and the emotions
Recurrent themes: Conflicting emotions
Dual roles
Relief from constraint
The cruelty of laughter
The purpose of laughter
1 Marot, a poet of his time?
Early training
Stock comic characters: Traditional names
Voracious women
Satire of the Church, its doctrines and hierarchy
Satire of the judicial system
Use of allegory
The significance of colours
Official poetry
The poet’s status
2 The consummate wordsmith
Metre, poetic form and rhyme
Repetition and lists
Punning and onomastics
Word games: the rebus and polysemy
Intertextual allusion: Villon
Intratextual allusion and the running gag: The dispute with Sagon
The Les Gracieux Adieux affair
Marot the ‘rat pelé’
Eating meat in Lent
The veaux of the Sorbonne
3 Spinning yarns and telling jokes
The hard luck tale: Pour avoir esté desrobé
Marot Prisonnier escript au Roy
The bawdy tale: Epistles for Captains Bourgeon and Raisin
Sensory appeal: Frippelippes and Sagon
Sagon as an arquebus
Marot’ s escape from Bordeaux
Old age and self ridicule
Deflecting criticism
Delivering the punchline
Ribaldry in the epigram
Translations of Martial’s epigrams
The étrennes
4 The wise fool
The alazon: In Marot Prisonnier escript au Roy
Sagon’s poetry
The theologians of the Sorbonne
The Dames de Paris
The Pope as alazon in L ‘Enfer
The naïve eiron
The parodic eulogy and the ironic tribute
Eiron and alazon together
5 Ambiguity and deniability
The role of wordplay
Names and wordplay
Bawdy punning
False connectives
Appearance versus reality
The triple bluff
Prudent silence
Was Marot guilty of eating meat in Lent?
Use of proverbs
Feigned innocence
Ambiguity and self-protection
6 Comedy, cruelty and compassion
The put-down
Real versus imaginary suffering: the pain of ridicule
Black humour: intensifying the impact
Pathos and humour
Marot’s view of war
7 Towards a definition of Marotic humour
Nature: Elegant badinage?
Traditional influences
The serious business of comedy
Features and origins of the coq-à-l’âne
Function: Gaining a living
Indulging a sense of the comic
Evolving a personal voice
Adaptation of traditional themes
Ambiguity as veil for satire
Group solidarity
Catharsis and correction
Index nominum
Index operum References to Clement Marot’s poetry

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