Greek Comedy and Ideology
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In comedy, happy endings resolve real-world conflicts. These conflicts, in turn, leave their mark on the texts in the form of gaps in plot and inconsistencies of characterization. Greek Comedy and Ideology analyzes how the structure of ancient Greek comedy betrays and responds to cultural tensions in the society of the classical city-state. It explores the utopian vision of Aristophanes' comedies--for example, an all-powerful city inhabited by birds, or a world of limitless wealth presided over by the god of wealth himself--as interventions in the political issues of his time. David Konstan goes on to examine the more private world of Menandrean comedy (including two adaptations of Menander by the Roman playwright Terence), in which problems of social status, citizenship, and gender are negotiated by means of elaborately contrived plots. In conclusion, Konstan looks at an imitation of ancient comedy by Moliére, and the way in which the ideology of emerging capitalism transforms the premises of the classical genre.
dramatic illusion; choruses in the guise of animals such as wasps, birds, and frogs, or dressed as clouds—all mark Old Comedy as an exuberant and satirical genre, rich in fantasy and spunk.3 New Comedy, by contrast, tends to naturalism. A famous remark by an ancient critic runs: "O Menander and life, which of you has imitated the other?" Menander's plays preserve the integrity of the dramatic scene and avoid mention of living figures. According to testimonies by classical writers, confirmed by
extent, perhaps, represents the kind of ambitious individualism associated with a sophistic conception of human nature, which takes advantage of the weakness or credulousness of simpler creatures. But this role may also be a synecdoche for the imperial power of the city of the birds as a whole, the polis as tyrant with a tyrant's grandiose aspirations and untrammeled license. If Pisthetaerus vaunts and struts, it is because he represents here the megalonomian moment of Cloudcuckooland itself,
reference to his name (phrune = toad) in the use of frogs.43 However that may be, the competition with the frogs represents the mode of Heracles transposed into the domain of sound. In the scene at Hades' door, one may perhaps recognize another agon in the competition between Dionysus and Xanthias to say nothing under the stress of blows, and thereby prove themselves superior to pain. Here the effort to preserve silence may be seen as language in the mode of secrecy, or what we may call the
accompaniment of a flute (there is a stage direction in the papyrus after verse 879), and the spirit is bright and farcical.16 The humbling of the ogre-like Cnemo has a fairy-tale quality. As Gomme and Sandbach observe in reference to the finale, "Knemon and his unsocial way of life must be shown as defeated by the normal view that takes man to be a social animal."17 To be sure, Cnemo's capitulation in joining the party is grudging and superficial—Gomme and Sandbach charge Menander with a want of
father to that of her husband. To return to Moliere, the next scene reveals that Elise's brother, Cleante, is also in love, with a poor but beautiful girl named Mariane The Miser 157 who lives nearby with her mother. It has been remarked that in ancient New Comedy, the father typically blocks his son's liaison with a partner ineligible for marriage, for example a courtesan or foreigner, in favor of a legitimate and advantageous alliance with a respectable citizen family; in this way, he