Let's Get a Divorce! And Other Plays

Let's Get a Divorce! And Other Plays

Let's Get a Divorce! And Other Plays

Let's Get a Divorce! And Other Plays

Excerpt

"Be friends, be lovers, be what you will, but as for being husbandd and wife, God in heaven!"

Count Almaviva

IDEALLY a compendium of exact information and intelligent opinion, an encyclopedia addresses itself, in fact, to the codification of current prejudices. The article on farce in the only encyclopedia of theatre in our language starts out this way:

Farce, an extreme form of comedy in which laughter is raised at the expense of probability, particularly by horseplay and bodily assault. It must, however, retain its hold on humanity, even if only in depicting the grosser faults of mankind; otherwise it degenerates into travesty and burlesque.

After remarking, en passant, that farce died out before Molière, the writer winds round to this conclusion:

In modern usage, the word farce is applied to a full-length play dealing with some absurd situation hingeing generally on extra-marital relations--hence the term bedroom farce. Farce has small literary merit, but great entertainment value, and owing to its lack of subtlety can be translated from one language to another more easily than comedy.

An extreme form. The tone is patronizing. Why? Is extremity bad? And if farce is already an extremity, how can it further degenerate into travesty and burlesque? And why does the writer have it in for travesty and burlesque? Or is it just that everything is a degenerate something else: burlesque is degenerate farce, farce is degenerate comedy, comedy is degenerate tragedy . . .. At the expense of probability. And why not? Why should not probability have its price? Even if only in depicting the grosser faults of mankind. Why "even if only"? Is this such a contemptible or easy thing to do? Why be hoity-toity about gross faults? Owing to its lack of subtlety it can be translated . . . more easily. Not "its lack of subtlety of language," please note, but its "lack of subtlety," tout court. That farce has subtlety in other spheres than dialogue is nowhere intimated, and that even its dialogue often has subtlety of a kind (I am thinking not only of the obvious case of Wilde but of the more ortho-

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