Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Bruce Baker


Formally speaking, comedy dates back as far as tragedy, to the beginning of drama in late sixth and early fifth century B. C. Athens. There, comedy's early development paralleled that of tragedy, which in later years would receive considerable critical attention. Comedy began in a far from quiet way with “the vestiges of a broken-down ritual plot, with parabasis (or village processional song), agon (or dispute), iambic lampoon, actors, animal costumes, and scenes of Megoric Dorian farce”—all the makings of the more contemporary circus. In a quite well-ordered way it preceded through what critics have called “Old Comedy,” “Middle Comedy,” and “Attic New Comedy,” the latter a Hellenistic form which Rome adopted along with other of the Greek arts. Roman comedy went a trifle too far for the taste of the growing Christian movement, and so, under the church in the medieval era, humor faltered, kept alive only by wandering minstrels and village festivals. Towards the end of the period, however, it revived, partially due to the recognition of flaws in Church structure; and by the Renaissance, humor was taking off in several new directions. Not only drama, but other literary genres became vehicles for humor. Fabliaux, the hard-hitting, short metric works; and nouvelles, the first prose novels in Europe, were among the earliest of these new vehicles, and from them humor continued to spread its influence into new literary forms right up to the present day.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1972 Kenneth Covey Flint.

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