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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines jestbooks as a manifestation of a broader culture of jesting, laughter, and wit — a culture that extends beyond collections of jokes, and involves complex tensions between popular and learned social markings. It shows that the Tudor jestbook has an impressive ancestry in written works, if also, presumably, roots in oral tradition going back to caveman days. That ancestry includes classical and Renaissance discussions of the value of jokes (facetiae) and wit (eutrapelia) to rhetoric, courtiership, conviviality, and political ambition. It includes learned humanist wit and equally learned thoughts on humour's relation to logic, language, food, health, and the body. And it includes theorizing on laughter from ancient to early modern times. The article first lays out this background and then more specifically describes the Tudor jestbooks themselves.

Keywords: English prose, jesting, laughter, humour, wit

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