Social shifts may have altered many of the elements that have made Lazarillo de Tormes a delightful reading experience, but its principal characteristic, humor, is as pertinent to our aesthetic enjoyment today as it was in the sixteenth century.
The word humor has devolved from its originally exclusive use as a term for the four humors of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, black bile), the predominance of any one determining the temper of the mind or body, to its present meaning as it applies to everything that appeals to man's disposition toward comic laughter. Laughter, according to some psychologists, is ascribed to surprise; "we laugh at the new and unexpected." Thus, if one is able to explain why a situation is new or unexpected, he may by the same method explain why it is humorous. Such categorizing seems rigidly arbitrary, as indeed are most attempts at categorizing. Perhaps a brief review of the most pertinent theories regarding humor is apropos to mitigate, if possible, the tendency toward arbitrariness in dealing with the problem as it relates to Lazarillo de Tormes.