THE DISLIKE OF COMEDY
I MUST ask you to face the odd and uncomfortable fact that there are people who do not like Comedy, who even dislike and fear it. In so serious a world what room is there for levity? What time is there? In a world so full of urgent problems (and you will have observed, no doubt, that nearly all public problems are urgent, that few are ever solved, and that nevertheless we go on)--but seriously, in a world so very problematic, how can this public jesting be right? When virtue goes so threadbare, is one justified in assisting at this organized gale of public laughter?
It might be thought that a sufficient answer to such gloomy questions would be a text of at any rate the comedies of Shakespeare. And so, perhaps, it would. But the protest is quite serious, and Shakespeare's comedies are suspect with the rest. There are people, for example, even in England, where Humour is understood, who have never forgiven Shakespeare for making his working people, and especially his crowds of working people, so gloriously absurd.
The persons who make this protest against Comedy are, as I am in the habit of dividing them, commonly of two classes. They are either Officials, and I use the word in the widest possible sense, representatives of institutions or vested interests; or they are Sentimentalists, Idealists, Enthusiasts for a cause. In other words, they have either something to conceal (and these are the Officials), or they have something to promote (and these are the Enthusiasts): and they are both uncomfortably aware that it is precisely from these two classes that Comedy draws her plumpest victims. Both types are familiar; you have, no doubt, your own examples. As