Birth of Humour—Personalities—Story
of Hippocleides—Origin of
Comedy—Archilochus—Hipponax—Democritus, the Laughing
Philosopher—Aristophanes—Humour of the
Senses—Indelicacy—Enfeeblement of the Drama—Humorous
Games—Parasites, their Position and
Jests—Philoxenus—Diogenes—Court of Humour—Riddles—Silli.
There is every reason to suppose that a very considerable period elapsed before any progress was made in advance of the ludicrous, but at length by those who appreciated it strongly, and saw it in things in which it did not appear to others, humorous devices were invented from a growing desire to multiply the occasions for enjoyment. Observation and our power of imitation provided the means, and men of humour employed themselves in reproducing some ludicrous situations; and thus, instead of things derided being as previously wholly separate from those who derided them, a man could laugh, and yet be the cause of laughter to others. This discovery was soon improved upon, and by aid of imagination and memory, as opportunities offered, certain connections and appearances were represented under a great variety of forms. As the mind enlarged, the exciting causes of laughter were not mainly physical or emotional, but assumed a higher and more rational character.
At the period at which we have now arrived, we find humour dawning through various channels. We have traced approximations towards it in proverbs and fables, and, in a coarse form, in practical jokes; and as from historical evidences we are ready to admit that civilization had an Eastern origin, so we shall feel little difficulty in assigning Greece as the birthplace of humour. A greater activity of mind now begins to prevail, reflection has gradually given distinctness to emotion, and the ludicrous is not only recognised as a source of pleasure, but intentionally represented in literature.