The primary objective of this chapter is to uncover the system of justice underlying the seemingly gratuitous acts of violence and punishments that abound in farce, while examining the ethical and moral implications that can be inferred from which behaviors are punished in the plays. As a manifestation of so-called popular culture (a culture far from homogeneous), this genre of theater offers fascinating insights into acceptable and unacceptable forms of conduct within a particular, though somewhat varied cultural context. There is, in fact, a rather consistent ethical system underlying the attacks and reprisals that constitute the core element of farce, which includes limits on punishments and rules of engagement.1 JeanClaude Aubailly has captured the essence of this embedded system of justice contained in the plays, highlighting that victims in farce are typically guilty of some form of démesure, or excessiveness:

This fundamental ethical framework governing the turbulent action of traditional farce, with its insistence on punishments predicated on a victim’s overstepping prescribed norms, points to the conservative nature of the genre. Investigating the crimes and punishments of farce will illustrate specific correlations between the two; it will become clear that those punished in farce are almost always guilty of excessive behavior. Victims in farce invariably demonstrate some sort of exaggerated appetite, often base appetites such as avidity, gluttony, concupiscence,

or the condemnable vice of pride. In farces aimed at a more educated audience, the victim is typically mocked for his or her pretentious aspirations. In all cases, farce’s ethical underpinnings can be described as traditional or conservative, although the genre does not adhere to any conventional Christian ethics or morality: sex, primarily in its illicit varieties, permeates the genre, and lying and cheating are essential to a character’s survival in a dramatic world populated with conmen and hucksters. In farce, naïveté is very much a punishable offense, with no pity shown towards the gullible and the credulous.