Aristophanes And His Theatre of the Absurd by Paul Cartledge

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By Paul Cartledge

Aristophanes, the Athenian comedian dramatist, continues to be renowned regardless of old alterations in angle and trust. putting the performs of their overall civic, spiritual and dramatic context, this account explores their importance for modern audiences, and their carrying on with attraction. Separate chapters handle elements of his paintings and international, and try and define the playwright's personal reviews at a time of severe political debate. With unique texts quoted in translation this complete and energetic examine will offer scholars with a useful perception into the performs and their position in classical Athens.

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Happily, from this standpoint, Tliesmophoriazusae is remarkably free from vitriolic personal abuse and obscure topical political allusion and does illustrate most of the main types of Aristophanic humour. The slapstick of the shaving routine, the bawdy of the unmasking scene, and the relentless verbal paratragedy have already been mentioned. The humour of the Scythian policeman's fractured speech, sadly, was probably racist, since that was the sort of pidgin Attic Greek such 'wogs' probably did actually speak.

In defence ofpoetry? Among the gallery of plausible stereotypes that Aristophanes parades across his comic theatre there is one significant absentee: the poet as such. The 'philosopher' is there (Socrates), the 'politician' (Kleon aka the Paphlagonian slave in Knights: see chapter 5), the milesgloriosus (Lamakhos mAcharnians), and so on. But not the poet. Individual comic and tragic poets are of course abused or satirised, more or less good- or ill-naturedly, and tragedy as a genre is consistently sent up.

A 'general amnesty' was technically in force at Athens, which legally prohibited public muckraking of any sort that involved reference to a man's alleged implication in oligarchic counter-revolution during or immediately after the war. But in the years around 400 half a dozen major public trials were held (or perhaps we should say 'staged') which in spirit if not in the letter breached the amnesty. One of these, the most famous today, was the trial in 399 of Socrates, former teacher or intimate associate of notorious oligarchs, who was accused of impiety and corrupting the young.

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