Someone told me this morning that he had, years before, seen a commentary published in the back of a volume of g'mara, likely Maharsha or Maharam, say that many of the agados throughout shas were said in order to break up the dry material and keep students awake. He has been unable to find this and asked me if I knew where it is. I did (and do) not, and turn to you.
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The Rashb"o in Chindushai HaHagodos (Mosad Horav Kook) to Brochos 54b states that after a long halachik discussion the Ameroim switched to Agadato to awaken the students.