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Laughing Our Way toward God; or, Dramatic Comedy and Vernacular Contemplation

Laughing Our Way toward God; or, Dramatic Comedy and Vernacular Contemplation

Chapter:
(p.169) Chapter Six Laughing Our Way toward God; or, Dramatic Comedy and Vernacular Contemplation
Source:
Staging Contemplation
Author(s):
Eleanor Johnson
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226572208.003.0007

The final chapter treats the grotesque and scatological play Mankind, to make the counterintuitive argument that the play’s very grossness gives life and power to its staging of participatory contemplation. An element of the play’s contemplative participation that differentiates this play from many of the other works in this book but resonates with Wisdom is that it uses comedy not just to show how a human being interrelates with divine Mercy, but also how the relationship between Mankind and Mercy can be broken and corrupted. By showing how enjoyable sin is, not only for the character Mankind, but also for the always-participating audience, the play demonstrates the susceptibility of the individual to despair. The play’s reliance on comedy is not quite the Bakhtinian carnivalesque, nor is it orthodox. Instead, the play’s comedy promotes a sense of participation in God that, by its very vulnerability, makes room for the possibility of reform and repair, both for the individual and for society.

Keywords:   Mankind, drama, comedy, scatology, salvation, carnivalesque, Mercy, despair

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