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A Comic Turn HUM 2051: Civilization I Fall 2013 Dr. Perdigao September 25-30, 2013
A Comic Tradition • Aristophanes (450-385 BCE) • Lysistrata 411 BCE • Komoidia: song of a band of revelers • Komos: revel, banquet • Komos—revelers—like animals, perform wild antics, connected to fertility rites
From Old to New Comedy • Old comedy: mix of wild or antic and thoughtful; imaginary defeat of real limits • Reconciliation: (banquet, revel, marriage) reconstitution of society on freer, more natural grounds • “In Aristophanic comedy, the comic hero typically upsets the status quo to produce a series of extraordinary results and a wish-fulfilling ending” (721). • Aristophanic—or old comedy—known through work of Aristophanes—Clouds, Frogs • New comedy: 4th century BCE; comedy of manners—love blocked, obstructions overcome
Central Conflicts • Lysistrata: performance on two levels: War between Athens and Sparta as the supposed plot and then the chorus speaks in name of author on contemporary issues • Agon between Lysistrata and the state; issue of subversion: state’s authority to conduct war vs. quarrel in smaller terms • “Reversing the words of Hector to Andromache, which had become proverbial, Lysistrata claims that ‘war shall be the business of womenfolk’” (721). • Female sexuality—subverts male warlike concerns
Central Conflicts • Tragedy—hero challenges limits in knowledge but the limits can’t be overcome • Comedy—through imagination, limits can be overcome as it represents the imaginary surpassing of limits • But limits are given in each form
Grrrl Power • Lysistrata: “according to the men we’re capable of all sorts of mischief” (723) • Kalonike: “But what can mere women do that’s intelligent or noble?” (724). • Lysistrata: “Oh what a low and horny race we are! No wonder men write tragedies about us” (726). • Men: “This behavior of theirs amounts to extreme hubris” (739).
Role-playing • (726): Battle call • (740-741): Losing control of the women • (743-747): Episode with Myrrhine and Kinesias • (751-753): Reconciliation introduced
Oxymorons • Chorus-Leader: “Hail, manliest of all women! Now is your time: be forceful and flexible, high-class and vulgar, haughty and sweet, a woman for all seasons; because the head men of Greece, caught by your charms, have gathered together with all their mutual complaints and are turning them over to you for settlement” (751). • Lysistrata: “Where’s Reconciliation?” (751) • Lysistrata: “I am a woman, but still I’ve got a mind: I’m pretty intelligent in my own right, and because I’ve listened many a time to the conversations of my father and the other men I’m pretty well educated too” (751).
Comedy as Deus Ex Machina? • First Athenian Ambassador: “Well! Now that everything else has been wrapped up so nicely, it’s time for you Spartans to reclaim these wives of yours; and you Athenians, these here. Let’s have husband stand by wife and wife by husband; then to celebrate our great good fortune let’s have a dance for the gods. And let’s be sure never again to make the same mistakes!” (755) • Spartan Ambassador: “And sing for the goddess who’s won a total victory, Athena of the Brazen House!” (756).