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William Hazlitt's Understanding of The Role of Laughter

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Each and every day, people encounter many hardships and adversities that inflict agonizing pain and sorrow. Misery and suffering linger with people’s minds, with little to no chance of recovering. Laughter however, provides relief from these types of feelings. Although forgetting pain and tragedy is extremely difficult, William Hazlitt uses first person point of view, passionate tone, and periodic syntax to propose that amusement provides comfort and healing from misfortunes, which shows that laughter is a necessary human trait to cope with life.

Hazlitt uses first person point of view to argue that amusement alleviates distress from people. He uses first person point of view to relate himself to the audience and support his argument when he states, “we shed tears from sympathy…; as we burst into laughter from want of sympathy.” By connecting himself to the audience, he relates the same emotions he feels in times of distress and supports that everyone, including himself, finds comfort in amusement. He shows that it is not only a small minority, but a majority of people that find emotional rescue from distress through comical events. He strengthens his argument by being able to convey his own feelings about this subject towards his audience, to show that other people feel the same way. By arguing that amusement saves people from distress, he claims that amusement is necessary to live. Without some sort of pleasure, people would just live monotonous and mundane lives, which overall would affect social health.

Hazlitt also uses emotional diction to create a passionate tone, which supports his claim of laughter provides rescue from distress. He uses words such as, “misfortune” and “sympathy,” to reach out to his audience and make his argument very personal. By using words like these, people are more likely to understand from what context Hazlitt comes from. The emotional words Hazlitt uses creates the passionate tone he has throughout his lecture. Through his tone, he grasps the readers’ attention and instills the same feelings he has into his audience. Readers are able to feel his passion this subject and relate to Hazlitt. They are able to become more aware about how laughter is able to heal distress caused by hardship. At the same time, however, Hazlitt is able to imply that emotions, especially pleasure and amusement, provide the happiness within life. Without it, people would not be able to live life to its fullest enjoyment.

Also, Hazlitt supports that laughter soothes emotional distress through the use of periodic syntax. Within his periodic sentences, Hazlitt incorporates scenarios to illustrate the same devastation people experience due to misfortunes, then shows how laughter resolves it when he says, “if every thing that went wrong, if every vanity or weakness in another gave us a sensible pang, it would be hard indeed: but as long as the disagreeableness of the consequences of a sudden disaster is kept out of sight by the immediate oddity of the circumstances, and the absurdity or unaccountableness of a foolish action is the most striking thing in it, the ludicrous prevails over the pathetic, and we receive pleasure instead of pain.” By providing examples of similar depressing emotions, readers are able to relate to them and become more convinced to how amusement provides alleviating pleasure. Furthermore, his periodic sentences also include exclamation points to show that he is an advocate for laughter being incredibly important within human life, in which life requires some sort of pleasure to be meaningful.

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William Hazlitt’s Understanding of the Role of Laughter. (2019, August 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from
“William Hazlitt’s Understanding of the Role of Laughter.” GradesFixer, 28 Aug. 2019,
William Hazlitt’s Understanding of the Role of Laughter. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Sept. 2021].
William Hazlitt’s Understanding of the Role of Laughter [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Aug 28 [cited 2021 Sept 19]. Available from:
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