Entertainment / Literature / Comedy Of Innocence: (1) In anthropological terms, a comedy of innocence is a ritualized symbolic behavior (or set of such behaviors) designed to alleviate individual or communal guilt about an execution or sacrifice or to hide the blame for such an action. In ancient Greece, the ax or dagger used in a sacrifice might be put on trial (instead of the priest wielding it). The sacrificial animal might be required to 'volunteer' by shaking its head or by walking up to the altar to eat the grain sitting on it. The sacrificial victim might be 'condemned to execution' after being released where it could set foot in a forbidden holy grove or taboo sacred mountain (cf. Exodus 19:12-13 and Judges 11:30-40). In America, we see remnants of the comedy of innocence in customs such as the 19th-century's hangman's black mask (to erase the executioner's identity) or the custom of granting the condemned prisoner's last request or final meal (to alleviate any sense of cruelty on the jailer's part). (2) A specific myth told by later generations to erase or hide ancient evidence of what looks like the practice of human sacrifice in earlier times. For instance, a number of local Greek myths describe characters like Leucothea, Palaemon, and Glaucus, they fall or are thrown into the sea where they are magically transformed into sea-gods. Given the relative insignificance of these gods in the Greek pantheon, it is likely this sort of tale either (a) developed out of local hero cults or (b) the tale alludes to an ancient or prehistoric belief that drowned sacrificial victims would live on as animistic spirits. Another common version of the comedy of innocence is the motif of a human sacrificial victim (usually a child) who is miraculously saved (deus ex machina) and an animal substituted in his or her place. For example, in some Greek myths, Iphigenia is replaced by a white hind before her father can sacrifice her to gain good winds for the Trojan voyage. Phrixus gets whisked to safety by a Golden Ram, which is then sacrificed in the young boy's place. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh stops Abraham from killing Isaac, and he directs Abraham's attention to a ram with its horns caught in a thicket (Genesis 22:9-13). Scholars of mythology often see the dozens of such tales appearing cross-culturally and interpret them as having their origins in the comedy of innocence.
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