Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Humor, Identity, and the History of Comedy in “Purlie Victorious”


Purlie Victorious, written by Ossie Davis, is a touching story that puts both styles like humor, identity and suppression in the fifties. This era was characterized by racial separation and the Rights of Civil Movement. Davis highlights a humorous farce by looking at Africans’ inner struggles with identity amidst external limitations. The essay examines how honor plays a crucial part in different scopes and specific situations involving certain scenes and personas criticizing and supporting the establishing of an ethnic identity for Africans in America. The analysis is grounded within history and encompasses the influence of “the fools” of Chelm and the more significant history of comedy. It explores the different types of honor within the drama before concluding on the relevance of laughter as an instrument for social criticism.

Humor as a means of exploring identity

Ossie Davis’ play Purlie Victorious describes how humor and farce can be used to challenge and reinforce the African American identity during the civil rights movement. The mood in the space is not used for distracting the individual but contains components that make crucial statements in the community. Dav says that laughter is a critical tool that provides a better environment where people can openly discuss racial discrimination and civil rights issues.

Davis strategically put comedy and farce in the story to enable viewers to address the significant concerns of the day while offering fresh insights into the characters affected by struggles. Laughter serves as a means to better understand different aspects of constructing identity under the oppressed people. It also serves as another platform through which people can relate to each character by sympathizing with them and thinking about broader social impacts.

In Purlie Victorious, humor breaks down challenges between different people by allowing all present to enjoy themselves together, while Resilience is underscored in comedic moments.

Influence by “Fools of chelm” and Satire

Looking at specific scenes and characters in the play “Purlie Victorious,” one can see clearly that humor plays a significant role in shaping identity. Purlie Victorious, played by Davis, is an important character because he uses humor as a subversive tool against power relations, challenging the dominant identity narrative.

The humor also helps to create a dialogue with oppressors. In his interactions with white characters, Davis uses comedy and wit strategically to dismantle the oppressive racial dynamics of the time. Purlie’s resistance through humorous acts brings out two aspects about him: firstly, he is a man who has learned how to negotiate who he is despite living in a society where there are clear divisions based on race; secondly, he is one of those people who do not believe that African-Americans should be treated like robots. Humor allows Purlie to confront the racism that is widely spread around him.

Other players like Lutiebelle, Gussie Mae, and Cotchipee are involved in satirizing the use of comedy as a tool for survival and resistance. Their sense of humor helps them to maintain their autonomy and resist the oppression that comes with it. This is because they know too well how laughter can transform situations. It helps them navigate through their challenges without losing their true self.

These characters’ analyses and scenes reveal the effect of humor on the way an audience perceives identity. The laughter emanating from these exchanges is more than mere entertainment; it also dispels stereotypes, defies preconceptions, and strengthens blacks. The use of comedy is not just for comic relief in this play. Still, it acts as a social commentary to reshape the understanding of African American identity during the Civil Rights period. In other words, humor can be seen as a weapon in an oppressive situation since it enables one to withstand those circumstances while claiming identity.

I was influenced by “Fools of Chelm” and Satire.

The historical perspective of “The Fools of Chelm,” a collection of Jewish stories from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, portrays the people living in the imagined city of Chelm as well-meaning but foolish people who frequently find themselves caught in ridiculous and humorous scenarios. Based on Jewish tradition, these narratives are meant to be entertaining and deliver moral guidance and Satire to society.

Recognizing the Humor in Chelm Folklore Tales and “Purlie Victorious

Ossie Davis takes cues from “The Fools of Chelm” when he writes the hilarity in “Purliem Victorious.” Like the folktales of Chelm, Davis employs comedy for entertainment and as a means of societal criticism. Like Chelm’s folklore, the play’s humor goes beyond simple amusement to communicate more profound lessons about power relations, cultural follies, and the individual spirit’s ability to persevere in difficult circumstances.

The play “Purlie Victorious” contains Satire influenced by “The Fools of Chelm.” This is the effect of its inspiration on the space (Hilton et al.,15). Davis gives the story a satirical tinge by referencing the past viewpoints of Chelm’s stories. The silly yet lovable creatures created by Chelm find resonance in the antics of “Purlie Victorious,” serving as a sarcastic mirror reflecting the inequalities and absurdity of the racial discrimination that was in place throughout the period known as Civil Rights.

Citing Excerpts to Illustrate Connections Among Them:

A detailed observation of the link between Purlie Victorious and The Fools of Chelm is made more accessible by reading the content from both books. It is possible to draw attention to the differences between Satire and humor in terms of comedic tropes, character interactions, and the fundamental aspects of transgression and resiliency. These passages function as textual proof, showing how Davis relies on folklore from Chelm to imbue the play with a mind of humor, foolishness, and societal injustice.

The history of comedy and Satire in the U.S.

American comic history was changed in the nineteenth century by a form of theater, minstrelsy. African entertainers made white performers dress in face paint as an idea to promote negative racial presumptions and representations. This strengthened disparities between races and ingrained unfavorable opinions in the culture of America.

Ossie Davis uses a counter-narrative, such as laughter, to address this unsettling past. The main message of the drama was to stay away from the poor traditions of blackface minstrelsy to highlight the grit and autonomy of African-American characters. Black artists launched a similar campaign at the same time to challenge these stereotypes through media like race films. These videos were created into potent platforms for portraying real African American lives, dispelling myths, and using humor as a significant source to break down challenges to acceptance. Purlie Victorious contributes to redefining comedic traditions and clearing the harmful racist assumptions embedded in the history of American humor through its simultaneous investigation of accounts and opposing stories.

Types of humor Purlie Victorious

The play Purlie Victorious keeps an eye on the problems that African Americans faced during the fight for Civil Rights by looking at different humorous styles, including humor, slang, slapstick, and absurdity. Overstated movements and physical gags characterize slapstick humor, a form of relief and a statement of resiliency. Characters of the play provide an extreme release for both the observer and themselves by temporarily transcending the harshness of their social restrictions through periods of excessive antics.

Wordplay becomes a linguistic battlefield as characters intensely work around the challenges placed on them by the discriminated community. The play’s deft use of speech permits rebellion by allowing people to be witty and intelligently quiet, maintain accepted standards, and proclaim their identities.

Institutional challenges and unexpected outcomes are being looked out for in farce. The underlying flaws in the social system causing the absurdity of racial prejudice through comic exaggeration are also looked upon in the play.

Satires act as a link in offering a critical prism through which community challenges are observed. The play initiates satirical aspects to provide a deeper understanding of the persistent barriers that African Americans faced during a crucial juncture in American history while also engaging in a stinging satire on racial injustice. The play’s varied use of humor is a powerful and active medium for revealing the intricacies and structural challenges that were part of the African American feelings throughout the Civil Rights Movement.


The play shows how humor can be a transforming element while addressing the serious issues surrounding racial discrimination and the fight for people’s rights. The traditions, allusions to history, and character scenes of the play have all been observed in the essay by giving an outlook of how Homer and Farce are essential tools that support and criticize African Americans’ ideas in these crucial historical periods. We better understand the play’s importance and the critical role comedy played in the larger egalitarian struggle when we consider its ongoing importance of laughing as an avenue of political commentary.

The play is a light in the face of misfortune, demonstrating how humor can be a decisive reaction to social injustice. The space engages the audience with its deftly constructed humorous elements and challenges them to consider the complexity of personal identities and social impacts. This can lead to a change that can be transformed into a potent force that encourages empathy, demolishes stereotypes, and builds African Americans’ Resilience. The freeing sound of laughing becomes a mighty and everlasting representation of overcoming hardship and achieving equal opportunities.


Hilton, Leon J., and Mariahdessa Ekere Tallie. “The Unwieldy Otherwise: Rethinking the Roots of Performance Studies in and through the Black Freedom Struggle.” Performance Matters 8.2 (2023): 11-20.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics