Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France by Sara BeamLaughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France by Sara Beam

Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France

bySara Beam

Hardcover | April 12, 2007

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Bawdy satirical plays—many starring law clerks and seminarians—savaged corrupt officials and royal policies in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France. The Church and the royal court tolerated—and even commissioned—such performances, the audiences for which included men and women from every social class. From the mid-sixteenth century, however, local authorities began to temper and in some cases ban such performances.

Sara Beam, in revealing how theater and politics were intimately intertwined, shows how the topics we joke about in public reflect and shape larger religious and political developments. For Beam, the eclipse of the vital tradition of satirical farce in late medieval and early modern France is a key aspect of the complex political and cultural factors that prepared the way for the emergence of the absolutist state. In her view, the Wars of Religion were the major reason attitudes toward the farceurs changed; local officials feared that satirical theater would stir up violence, and Counter-Reformation Catholicism proved hostile to the bawdiness that the clergy had earlier tolerated.

In demonstrating that the efforts of provincial urban officials prepared the way for the taming of popular culture throughout France, Laughing Matters provides a compelling alternative to Norbert Elias's influential notion of the "civilizing process," which assigns to the royal court at Versailles the decisive role in the shift toward absolutism.

Title:Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in FranceFormat:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.36 inPublished:April 12, 2007Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801445604

ISBN - 13:9780801445606

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Editorial Reviews

"Laughing Matters is a fine work of scholarship that should be of interest to all historians of early modern France as well as cultural historians and students of the history of theater. In seven brisk chapters, Sara Beam deftly takes readers across two centuries of the Ancien Regime, from the Renaissance to the apogee of absolutist rule under Louis XIV, and along the way presents a kind of crystallized cultural history of the period. Although she focuses on theater, both popular and official, both in the streets and royal venues, both amateur and professional, she shows how theatrical history is too important to be left to the specialists."—Robert A. Schneider, Indiana University