The Concept Of Comedy In Aristophanes’ Acharnian

2614 words - 10 pages

Abstract: By analyzing the idea of comedy that Aristophanes described in his comedy Acharnians, and comparing it with that of Aristotle and Horace, I am trying to develop a revolution of the theory of comedy as the basic genre in western literature.Key Words: Theory of comedy, Aristophanes, Aristotle, catharsis Greek Comedy developed through three phases: 1) Old Comedy, popular at Athens during the fifth century BC, characterized by the prominent role of the chorus, the use of obscenity in both language and gesture, an emphasis on political and social satire, and a vigorous concern with current events; 2) Middle Comedy, a term used to refer to comedies written between 400 and 320 BC, characterized primarily by the decline in importance of the chorus; 3) New Comedy (320 to about mid-third century BC), a non-political form of comedy that ignores current events and has young love as a primary theme, with a chorus that does not participate in the plot. Middle and New Comedy were much less obscene.Greek New Comedy is represented only by one virtually complete play of Menander and some large portions of six other plays. Of Old Comedy, we have only ten plays of Aristophanes, and his Plutus as the only surviving example of Middle Comedy. History contains few notices of Aristophanes' life, though he has been praised now as the greatest comedian of his age, and perhaps of all the ages. Even the dates of his birth and death can only be inferred from his works, the former being estimated at 456 B.C. and the latter at 380. He was said to be only an adopted citizen of Athens, was doubtless educated at Athens.Traditionally, comedy has to do with the concerns and exploits of ordinary people. The characters of comedy therefore tend to be plain, everyday figures (e.g., lower or middle-income husbands and wives, students and teachers, children and parents, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers) instead of the kings, queens, heroes, plutocrats, and heads of state who form the dramatis personae of tragedy. Comic plots, accordingly, tend to be about the kind of problems that ordinary people are typically involved with: winning a new boyfriend (or reclaiming an old one), succeeding at a job, passing an exam, getting the money needed to pay for a medical operation, or simply coping with a bad day. Again, the true hallmark of comedy isn't always laughter. More often, it's the simple satisfaction we feel when we witness deserving people succeed.Unlike classical Eastern theoretical works on drama Aristotle's work makes only minor passing observations on the physical realization of the dramatic text, thus establishing an orientation essentially unchanged until the past century. Aristotle considers both the nature of tragedy (an idealized imitation of human action) and its function (the catharsis of such emotions as pity and fear). This argument for the psycho-social benefit of catharsis may have been at least partly in response to Plato's distrust of art as a stimulus to...

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