Elegiac comedy
Elegiac comedy was a genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 of medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors,...

Latin literature
Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

 or drama
Medieval theatre
Medieval theatre refers to the theatre of Europe between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. and the beginning of the Renaissance in approximately the 15th century A.D...

 popular in the twelfth century. About twenty such works survive, almost all of them produced in west central France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (roughly the Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

). Though commonly identified in manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s as comoedia, modern scholars often reject their status as comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

. Unlike Classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 comedy, they were written in elegiac couplet
Elegiac couplet
The elegiac couplet is a poetic form used by Greek lyric poets for a variety of themes usually of smaller scale than the epic. Roman poets, particularly Ovid, adopted the same form in Latin many years later...

s. Denying their true comedic nature, Edmond Faral
Edmond Faral
Edmond Faral was a French medievalist. He became in 1924 Professor of Latin literature at the Collège de France.He wrote his dissertation on the jongleurs, and E. R. Curtius states that he was the first to recognize an influence of the medieval Latin poetics and rhetoric on Old French poetry...

 called them Latin fabliaux, after the later Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 fabliaux, and Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
Ian Reginald Thompson in Birkenhead, Merseyside is an English athlete, who gained success in marathon running. His Commonwealth Games marathon record set in 1974 remains unbeaten.-Making up the numbers:...

 labelled them Latin comic tales. Other scholars have invented terms like verse tales, rhymed monologues, epic comedies, and Horatian comedies to describe them. The Latin "comedies", the dramatic nature of which varies greatly, may have been the direct ancestors of the fabliaux but more likely merely share similarities. Other interpretations have concluded that they are primitive romances
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

, student juvenilia
Juvenilia is a term applied to literary, musical or artistic works produced by an author during his or her youth. The term often has a retrospective sense. For example, written juvenilia, if published at all, usually appear some time after the author has become well-known for later works.The term...

, didactic poems, or merely collections of elegies on related themes.

They were typically lyric complaints
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

 only sometimes mixed with amorous content. Their Classical forebears were Terence
Publius Terentius Afer , better known in English as Terence, was a playwright of the Roman Republic, of North African descent. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on,...

 and, more especially, Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

. His Ars amatoria
Ars Amatoria
The Ars amatoria is an instructional love elegy in three books by the Roman poet Ovid, penned around 2 CE. It claims to provide teaching in three areas of general preoccupation: how and where to find women in Rome, how to seduce them, and how to prevent others from stealing them.-Background:After...

, Amores, and Heroides
The Heroides , or Epistulae Heroidum , are a collection of fifteen epistolary poems composed by Ovid in Latin elegiac couplets, and presented as though written by a selection of aggrieved heroines of Greek and Roman mythology, in address to their heroic lovers who have in some way mistreated,...

 were highly influential. Plautus
Titus Maccius Plautus , commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus...

, though less widely read in the Middle Ages, was also an influence, as were the Scholastic
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 debates concerning the nature of universals and other contemporary philosophical problems, with which the elegiac comedies often dealt, always humorously but no doubt sometimes to a serious end.

The elegiac dramatists delight in "showing off" their Latin skills. The language of their "fools" can be deliberately outlandish, and their deft use of puns is frequently sexual in nature. Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 is another typical element of elegiac humour. Persons of low rank are often placed in positions unsuited to them. Their bumbling, as when a rustic attempts to speak philosophically or the commoner pretends he is a chivalrous gentleman, is portrayed for its satiric
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 effect. In the Middle Ages, satire was usually considered a breed of comedy.

The elegiac comedies bear limited dramatic features. Thompson denies their theatricality, saying that "no ancient drama would ever have been written in elegiacs." A similar opinion is that the comedies are rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al exercises. Medieval poetic theory, however, did not regard comedy and elegy as mutually exclusive, nor identical. John of Garland wrote "all comedy is elegy, but the reverse is not true." Other arguments raised against the dramatic performance of the comedies is, in general, their large number of narrative segments as opposed to dialogue. Arnulf of Orléans, one of the elegiac writers, seems to have considered his work to have been made for the stage. These performances may have been narrated, mimed, or sung.

Some elegiac comedies were adapted into vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 language in the later Middle Ages, most notably Pamphilus, which has Venetian
Venetian language
Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken as a native language by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where of five million inhabitants almost all can understand it. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia...

 and Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...


List of elegiac comedies

  • Alda by William of Blois
  • Asinarius
  • Aulularia by Vitalis of Blois
  • Babio
    Babio is a 12th century elegiac comedy consisting of 484 lines of elegiac distychs, probably composed in England. It imitates Roman comedy and is indebted to Ovid, Plautus and Terence. It is preserved in five manuscripts, four of them in England and one in Berlin.-External links:* by Kathleen A....

  • Baucis et Traso
  • De Afra et Milone
  • De clericis et rustico
  • De Lombardo et lumaca
  • De mercatore
  • De nuncio sagaci
  • De tribus puellis
    De tribus puellis
    De tribus puellis or The Three Girls is an anonymous medieval Latin poem, a narrative elegiac comedy written probably in France during the twelfth or early thirteenth century...

  • De tribus sociis
  • De vetula
    De vetula
    De vetula is a long thirteenth-century poem written in Latin. It is pseudopigraphically signed "Ovidius", and in its time was attributed to the classical Latin poet Ovid. It consists of three books of hexameters, and was quoted by Roger Bacon. In its slight plot, the aging Ovid is duped by a...

  • Geta by Vitalis of Blois
  • Lidia by Arnulf of Orléans
  • Miles gloriosus by Arnulf of Orléans
  • Milo by Matthew of Vendôme
    Matthew of Vendôme
    Matthew of Vendôme was a French poet of the twelfth century, writing in Latin. He was a pupil of Bernard Silvestris, at Tours, as he himself writes. He is known for his Ars Versificatoria, a theoretical work on versification.According to E. R. Curtius,.....

  • Pamphilus de amore
  • Pamphilus, Gliscerium et Birria
  • Unibos
  • Ysengrimus
    Ysengrimus is a Latin fabliau and mock epic, an anthropomorphic series of fables written in 1148 or 1149, possibly by the poet Nivardus. Its chief character is Ysengrimus the Wolf, and it describes how his various schemes are overcome by the trickster figure Reinardus the Fox.-The author:Little is...

     by Nivardus
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