1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Farce

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FARCE, a form of the comic in dramatic art, the object of which is to excite laughter by ridiculous situations and incidents rather than by imitation with intent to ridicule, which is the province of burlesque, or by the delineation of the play of character upon character, which is that of comedy. The history of the word is interesting. Its ultimate origin is the Latin farcire, to stuff, and with the meaning of “stuffing” or forcemeat it appears in old cookery books in English. In medieval Latin farsa and farsia were applied to the expansion of the Kyrie eleison in litanies, &c., by interpolating words and phrases between those two words; later, to words, phrases and rhymed verses, sometimes in the vernacular, also interpolated in various parts of the service. The French farce, the form to which we owe our word, was originally the “gag” that the actors in the medieval drama inserted into their parts, generally to meet the popular demand for a lightening of humour or buffoonery. It has thus been used for the lighter form of comic drama (see Drama), and also figuratively for a piece of idle buffoonery, sham, or mockery.