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Dickensian LaughterEssays on Dickens and Humour$
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Malcolm Andrews

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199651597

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199651597.001.0001

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Comic Timing

Comic Timing

The secret of great comedy is—wait for it—timing

(p.50) 3 Comic Timing
Dickensian Laughter

Malcolm Andrews

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates the mystery of comic timing as practised by stand-up comedians and asks whether and how a comic novelist can be said to demonstrate this technique. Dickens was an accomplished actor and a dramatic reader of his own works; it is also known that he rehearsed his characters' speeches and facial expressions in his study as he composed. So did he translate his performed comic timing into his novels? If so, how? Do we as readers need a developed sense of comic timing to ‘bring off’ Dickens' humorous moments? The chapter analyses in some detail a number of Dickens' character monologues, his comic dialogues, and his scenes of comic action, and tests out his capacity for comic timing.

Keywords:   comic timing, character monologues, stand-up comedy, dialogue

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