On Laughter

Conversations from The Name of the Rose:

Jorge de Burgos: A monk should not laugh. Only the fool lifts up his voice in laughter. I trust words did not offend you, Brother William... but I heard persons laughing at laughable things. You Franciscans, however, belong to an order where merriment is viewed with indulgence.

William of Baskerville: Yes, it's true. St. Francis was much disposed to laughter.

Jorge de Burgos: Laughter is a devilish wind which deforms the lineaments of the face and makes men look like monkeys.

William of Baskerville: Monkeys do not laugh. Laughter is particular to man.

Jorge de Burgos: As is sin. Christ never laughed.

William of Baskerville: Can we be so sure?

Jorge de Burgos: There is nothing in the scriptures to say that he did.

William of Baskerville: There's nothing in the scriptures to say he didn't. Even the saints have employed comedy to ridicule the enemies of the faith. For example, when the pagans plunged St. Maurus into the boiling water he complained his bath was too cold. The sultan put his hand in, scalded it.

Jorge de Burgos: A saint immersed in boiling water does not play childish tricks. He restrains his cries and suffers for the truth.

William of Baskerville: And yet, Aristotle devoted his second book of Poetics to comedy as an instrument of truth.

Jorge de Burgos: You have read this work?

William of Baskerville: No, of course not. It's been lost for many centuries.

Jorge de Burgos: No, it has not. It was never written. Because providence doesn't want futile things glorified.

William of Baskerville: Oh, that I must contest--

Jorge de Burgos: Enough!

Later in the film...

William of Baskerville: But what is so alarming about laughter?

Jorge de Burgos: Laughter kills fear. And without fear, there can be no faith. Because without fear of the devil, there is no more need of God.

William of Baskerville: But you will not eliminate laughter by eliminating that book.

Jorge de Burgos: No, to be sure. Laughter will remain the common man's recreation. But what will happen if, because of this book, learned men were to pronounce it permissible to laugh at everything? Can we laugh at God? The world would relapse into chaos. Therefore, I seal that which was not to be said and the tomb I become.