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Francis Marloe's primary role in the novel is comic. Francis is a classic buffoon style character, characteristic of Greek comedy or Shakespeare. Francis is comic because he is pitiful and easy to be laughed at. The other characters laugh at him consistently and cruelly. Bradley Pearson's cruel treatment of Francis, in particular makes us want to sympathize with him. But even as we long to respect Francis, his constant fumbling makes it difficult to take him seriously. He longs to doctor Priscilla, for example, but he leaves her alone to get drunk with Bradley's homosexual neighbor, during which time Priscilla kills herself. Furthermore, in his explanation of the incident, Francis insists that the neighbor, Rigby, drugged the wine so Francis could not return, whereas it is more likely that Rigby and Francis were having sex. Francis's final postscript makes him look entirely silly. Francis's identity as a comic figure also comes from his pitiful background, being a doctor whose license was taken away for misuse of pharmaceuticals. Finally, his tendency to ingratiate himself to everyone makes him easy to laugh at. In many ways Francis is a sad character, often talking about the pain of his life, but still his loose emotions serve for comic effect.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Black Prince!