October 2, 2013
This week I read “Liberty,” a poem by Thomas Lynch, Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and John Ciardi’s poem, “Suburban.” I then attended the performance of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, “The Merry Wives of Windsor. One thing that I found interesting was the way that each work involved some element of humor in order to convey their message. I believe that I got a better understanding of the versatility of humor within literary works and how it truly can give deeper meaning to a text when used artfully.
At first glance, Lynch’s “Liberty” tells the tale of a man who wants to piss on the lawn. “I am,” he says, “from a fierce bloodline of men,” which the reader is apparently supposed to take as reason enough for him to relieve himself anywhere he pleases. Continued reading of the poem reveals that the speaker’s ex-wife was bothered by his curious habits. The speaker dismisses her discomfort and and blames it on gentility or envy, but despite his jokes about her disapproval there is some level of bitterness woven into his words that grows towards the end of the poem and comes to fruition when he describes looking up into the stars and towards a world with no ex-wives. Of course this is an over simplification of the work and there is a lot more to be said about its content, but in terms of Lynch’s use of humor I enjoyed the way he wove it into his words very strongly at the beginning of the poem and gradually let it seep away and reveal the honest words of the speaker by the time the work comes to a close.
There is no question that John Cicardi’s “Suburban” was written as a work of comedic poetry. It’s silly, a bit cheeky, and its use of creative language only serves to highlight the absurdity of the exchange that Cicardi describes. I was immediately reminded of my favorite poems growing up--the works of Shel SIlverstein.
Poe’s work explored the darker side of humor. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the humor is found mostly in the actions of a man who is oblivious to his own impending execution and actually acts as a clue for the reader to take into consideration when trying to figure out why exactly the murder occurred. In other words: The reader sees Fortunato teasing Montresor incessantly about his exclusion from Freemasonry and begins to understand why Montresor might have killed his companion despite the fact that Poe fails to explicitly state Montresor’s motive.Shakespeare, as usual, uses comedy to tackle the big bad worlds of love, sex, various forms of public humiliation, and gratuitous costume use. In lieu of restating what I have always known about Shakespeare’s comedies and their common elements I would like to draw attention to the way he had Faldstaff deal with such horrible public humiliation. It was interesting to see that Faldstaff actually saw the humor in his predicament and forgave everyone involved for the attack