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Greek Comedy

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Presentation on theme: "Greek Comedy"— Presentation transcript:


2 Greek Comedy

3 Greek Comedy Comedy became part of the Dionysian festival after about 50yrs. More prominent in another festival—the Lenaia- a smaller winter festival. Less people than the Dionysian, and so playwrights enjoyed more freedom to say what they wanted. 5 dramatists competed and only one play was presented at the Lenaia. Greek comedy denounced issues of politics, art, war.

4 At the end of the Peloponesian Wars (404 BCE) theatre changed.
Alexander the Great ( BCE) had build theatres all over the Mediterranean. Actors were powerful figures involved in politics. Theatre was state funded—professionalizing and institutionalizing theatre

5 Greek Comedy Playwrights
Old Comedy—political satire, written prior to 400 BCE Aristophanes ( BCE) New Comedy--lightweight themes of everyday people-no chorus in texts—written during the Hellenistic period Menander ( BCE)

6 Depiction of a Greek Comedy

7 Character Type of Comedy


9 From Republic to Empire
At first (753 BCE) Rome was small and insignificant town under the domination of Etruria--Etruscans. The Romans expelled their last Etruscan king and formed a republic. Rome began to expand. By 265 BCE Rome had expanded over all Italian peninsula and the Greek territories, and then Sicily.

10 Map of Roman Empire

11 Romans PATRIARCAL society---“the way of the fathers” the male head of the family held absolute legal power over everyone else in the family. Pietas ---respect for elders, authority, loyalty of the wife to husband, devotion to gods. Gravitas-dignity sober and enduring behavior. Slaves had no rights. Conservative, puritanical, moralistic, constrained behavior, return to virtues of the past. The empire became central and most important. As the empire grew the “fathers” relinquished legal power of their families to the state.

12 Performances in Rome Roman empire--- dialogic theatre no longer in place. Ludi Romani (the roman games) oldest public festival— The Romans initially celebrated ludi in honor of Jupiter. If something in the festival went wrong they would repeat it. Up to seven times in a year, once. There were probably other performance events outside of ludi like arranged indoor performances, or public performances for paying audiences. Main events at ludi--Gladiatorial contests, bloody spectacles, chariot racing (Daytona meets football), animal fights, staging of sea fights based on episodes of Greek history, and plays. Bloody performances that helped establish Rome’s power over everyone and everything. GLADIATORS---Gladiatorial combat was institutionalized—a fight to the death. Theatre companies were hired to give the performances at the festivals.

13 Sea Battles

14 Roman Theatre (240 BCE) influenced by
Etruscans (masked clowns, musical and dancing performers) Italians (Atellan farce-mimes playing type characters performing improvised situations) Greeks (playwriting).

15 Roman Comedy Comedy--plays in Greek dress and Greek locations.
fabula palliata—adaptations of Greek plays Andronicus a Greek writer who the Romans imported to adapt many of the Greek plays for Roman tastes (240 BCE), and also their own comedies.

16 Some recognized Roman playwrights
Terrence ( BCE) Educated slave—probably by his masters. Refined writing of dialogue and characters. Not as popular as Plautus. Plautus ( BCE) Most famous and recognized in his time and beyond. Seneca (5 BCE-65 CE) Wrote adaptations of Medea, Oedipus and Phaedra, to name a few. Plays weren’t produced, some think, because of the gruesome depictions of violence. They were read aloud to small groups. His plays were in Latin, so most renaissance writers read him over Greek plays---There the bloody scenes in Shakespeare.

17 Plays had to compete with other attractions, and consequently the actors had to provide entertainment that would satisfy a mass audience. In one of his prologues Terrence states, that it is the third attempt to present the play, because the first time the audience left to see the rope dancers and the second the gladiators. Plautus appealed to the tastes and the temperament of the masses at a time when they cared only for enjoyment and were indifferent to political questions. Very popular in his day and after.

18 Stylistic conventions
Music--A fluteplayer was on stage throughout the performance. Actors sang. Some suggest that the audience knew what character would soon appear based on the music being played. Could have resembles a modern musical. Acting--Character types. Doubling of roles. Masks conventionalized costumes and wigs. Highly developed comic technique, timing, rhythm, physical ability, singing, Costumes--Actors had costumes with bulging bellies and buttocks, and visible dangling phalloi.

19 Other Types of Theatre Atellan farce--(possibly linked to later commedia dell arte) With the decline of drama, mime and Atellan farce grew in popularity. Mime-- Many mime actors were possibly slaves. Some may have been entertainers for their masters. Others were part of theatre traveling troupes. Some of their performances included circus like acts, tightrope, trapezes, fire spitting, sword swallowing, juggling, daggers, etc. Performers became quite popular. Pantomime—Solo performance accompanied with more elaborate music. Strorytelling dance. Possible precursor to ballet.

20 There are two wars in Lysistrata: the war between Sparta and Athens and the war between the sexes. Compare and contrast the way in which these two struggles are articulated by the playwright. Notice that the tensions of war, the antipathy of opponents, and the reconciliation of Athens and Sparta take their energy directly from the buildup and (potential) release of sexual tensions as expressed by both male and female characters. In The Brothers Menaechmus, Plato often saves some of the some of the most biting commentary and his sharpest wit for the slave characters. Consider the role of slaves in Ancient Rome—consider also that Plautus is writing during one of the most conservative periods in the Roman republic, is there anything subversive about this choice, or is it simply a a festive display of the world temporarily turned upside-down before the social order is reestablished? While Peniculus can be placed in the role of comic relief, he has a lot of power. Moreover, Messiano solves the major problem regarding the brothers’ identity that is the issue at the crux of the play. Given that the female characters in Lysistrata were all played by men in exaggerated costumes, what kind of commentary is promulgated about the nature of men and of women? If the female characters were in fact written o be parodied or travestied to some degree by male actors, what would be the effect on the central theme of peace? Consider the representation of otherness in both plays: Spartans in Lysistrata,and slaves in Brothers Menaechmus. How does each playwright represent otherness and is that otherness somehow reconciled at some point in each play?

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