When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge an eminent Professor of French came to lecture us on 'Rabelais and the Comic'. At one point in his presentation he paused to read a passage in which the tables turned on one of Rabelais's villains attempts to flee on the back of a donkey from those he has just been persecuting. As he careers along on his out-of-control mount, he tumbles from the saddle, his foot becomes trapped in one stirrup, and he is dragged along, beaten black and blue and scraped raw over the uneven ground, in a cloud of dirt, until he has been flayed alive.
The professor chuckled through the first few paragraphs. He chortled as he came to the fall. He laughed until tears ran down his cheeks as he read the description of the bruised and battered body bumping along the cobbles. We sat there aghast, unable to see the funny side of