The artist says: I like this etymology because it shows the way in which ‘farce’ as a dramatic form was used knowingly to distract from the real business at hand, and that hasn’t changed. The ridiculous subplots keep us passively sitting down, cheerfully swallowing what is being fed us. Farce is the stuffing and we are the stuffed. I made a trivial and pointless engraving for this illustration, and really enjoyed doing it.
The text reads: Originating from the Latin ‘farcire’, to stuff, the word was used in 13th Century Old French to describe stuffed dishes in cooking. In English it had a similar meaning, as in the English ‘forcemeat’. In Ecclesiastical Latin of the same period, it described phrases used to pad out the liturgy. Initially these were expressions inserted between the words of a formulaic expression, notably ‘kyrie eleison’, Lord have mercy, expanding on ‘Lord’ with additional words of praise in a practice called ‘farcing’. Other more extended insertions followed, with the tradition of adding impromptu comic interludes to religious plays. By the 15th Century farce emerged as its own theatre form in France, followed in 1690 by England. These are plays that are characterised by inconsequential action and artificial gags, existing purely to entertain. Outside the theatre farce is used to describe a situation that is ridiculous, hollow and futile.