“How Shall We Then Laugh?” in his Literature and Theology as Amiable Companions
Van der Weele, Steve J.
privately published, 2010
“Just what it is that prompts laughter has engaged some of the best minds in history. It is a phenomenon which Christopher Fry calls ‘the surest touch of genius in creation.’ From Aristotle and Plato down to the present, the fact that man is the only creature that laughs has evoked great interest and voluminous comment.” Freud, for example, in a two-hundred-page treatment said that laughter, comedy, humor are deeply connected with the highest of human gifts, with music, literature, the arts. “Laughter, he says, happens when a breakthrough in one’s perception occurs, when old things are suddenly exhibited in new patterns.” Laughter can also be a potent weapon to expose folly, as every satirist knows. But the great comedic writers (especially Shakespeare) know that laughter is cousin to joy. In Shakespeare, satire is relegated to the subplots, and joy to the main street. There are plenty of troubles, but in the end, restoration, reconciliation, joy. Every one of Shakespeare’s comedies ends “with multiple weddings.”