One may say that tragedy deals with the sufferings of mankind in a less serious way than comedy

Lotte Lenya singing “Seeräuber Jenny” in the original 1931 film Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera)

In a 1974 interview, Arendt said that one of her main goals in writing Eichmann in Jerusalem was “to destroy the legend of the greatness of evil, of the demonic force, to take away from people the admiration they have for the great evildoers like Richard III.” After publishing Eichmann in Jerusalem, she discovered an essay by Brecht on his play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui that describes his similar goal of holding Fascists up to ridicule. In her interview, Arendt quoted Brecht at length, supporting his claim that “the great political criminals must be exposed and exposed especially to laughter.” Hitler, Brecht writes, “is not entitled to a privileged position in our view of history. That is, the fact that he (was permitted to become) a great crook and that what he does has great consequences does not add to his stature.” Brecht then turns his remarks on Hitler into a much broader claim about history and genre: “One may say that tragedy deals with the sufferings of mankind in a less serious way than comedy.”

Benjamin describes the role of laughter in epic theater in similar terms: “There is no better starting point for thought than laughter; speaking more precisely, spasms of the diaphragm generally offer better chances for thought than spasms of the soul.”

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