Classics 20 Comedy

Classics 20 Comedy - Michael H. Festa Classics 20 Section...

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Michael H. Festa Classics 20 Section 1C Trickery and Roles of Authority in Plautine Comedy Generally speaking, it is said that if Greek New Comedy is about love, then Plautine comedy is about trickery. To understand this statement fully, let us explore what “comedy” really is. Comedy, defined by Plato as “the generic name for all exhibitions which have a tendency to excite laughter”, is thought to have originated in ancient Greece. While the origin of comedy is not known exactly, Aristotle claims that it can be traced back to “those who lead off the phallic songs.” The Phallic Procession, a common celebration of the Dionysians, consisted of a procession to a local religious center, where a sacrifice to the gods would take place. A procession such as this was called a “komos”, meaning “to revel”. During this time, many of the followers would engage in obscene actions and use crude language. This group of people was called a “comus”, and the vile song that they chanted was known as a “comoedia”. As many people (or at least the Greeks) seem to have a crude sense of humor, this type of boisterous parade appealed to people’s lighter, playful side, and thus, proves to be the beginning of Greek Comedy. Greek comedy, in the latter years, was divided into two main subsections: Old Comedy and New Comedy. As one would expect, the origins of comedy fit very well into what is considered “Greek Old Comedy”, as many comedians would wear phalluses as part of their costume, and engage in raunchy dialogue. While most new comedy was wild fun, writers such as Aristophanes began to incorporate political and satirical twists, playfully attacking many prominent Athenian citizens for their conduct in the Peloponnesian war (despite his popularity among the Athenians, he was actually prosecuted for “defaming Athens”.) While representing in a way a period of “Middle Comedy”, he, and comedians of his type, is responsible for comedy shifting from completely crude (lower class) to slightly more educated (upper class). It is also crucial to note that since comedy was considered more of a celebration than an important event, its early records are not as certain as newer comedy, as the latter was deemed more
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important because of the more interesting writers and stories, and popularity that they attracted. Finally, with the introduction of Menander, comes Greek New Comedy. Starting roughly in the mid 340s BC and ending around 250 BC, Greek New Comedy represented another shift; this time, from politics and satire to “daily life” and “love”. Due to shifts in political power and rule, audiences tended to be populated more by the educated than the laymen, leading comedies of the new age to be much less obscene than the originals. New comedy was also marked for its predictability; plots tended to be very similar,
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This essay was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course CLASSIC 20 taught by Professor Gurval during the Fall '00 term at UCLA.

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Classics 20 Comedy - Michael H. Festa Classics 20 Section...

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