Thomas More's humor in his religious polemics

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Thomas More's humor was influenced by his studies of Greek Old and New Comedy and Lucian's Dialogues. He was fascinated by the multiple ways human follies could be exposed to provoke laughter. Although aware of the "anti-laughter" tradition of the Early Church Fathers, he asserted that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual superiority of "the man who laughed" justified using humor to provoke "critical laughter" as an effective rhetorical strategy to ridicule the comic incongruities and corruption of "the inferior man who was laughed at." In his religious polemics: Responsio ad Lutherum, Supplication of Souls, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, and Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, More enjoyed using invectives, lampoons, and scholastic parody to denigrate Lutherans and their heretical doctrines. He considered laughter an appropriate response to heresy, and his vituperative humor provided a rhetorical punishment of derision as an alternative to the horrifying physical punishment of execution proscribed for heretics. More's humor was intended to discourage his readers from accepting Lutheran doctrines, but it also invited them to share his joyful superior affirmation of faith in the tenets of the Catholic Church that will lead them to "the eternal merriment of heaven.".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-49
Number of pages43
Issue number203-204
StatePublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Edinburgh University Press. All rights rerserved.


  • Anticlericalism
  • Catholic doctrine
  • Greek Old Comedy
  • Humor
  • Lucian
  • Lucian's Dialogues
  • Lutheran heresies
  • Martin Luther
  • Religious polemics
  • Simon Fish
  • Thomas More
  • William Tyndale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Law


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