Aristophanes - Wikipedia
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Hippocrates - Wikipedia
By comparison the well-established Match. He observes to the audience that every time he is on hand to hear a joke from a comic dramatist like Phrynichus one of Aristophanes' rivals he ages by more than a year. Gods, artists, politicians and ordinary citizens were legitimate targets, comedy was a kind of licensed buffoonery,  and there was no legal redress for anyone who was slandered in a play.
Impiety could be punished in 5th century Athens, but the absurdities implicit in the traditional religion were open to ridicule. For convenience, Old Comedy, as represented by Aristophanes' early plays, is analysed below in terms of three broad characteristics— topicality, festivity and complexity.
Dramatic structure contributes to the complexity of Aristophanes' plays. However, it is associated with poetic rhythms and meters that have little relevance to English translations and it is therefore treated in a separate section. Topicality[ edit ] Old Comedy's emphasis on real personalities and local issues makes the plays difficult to appreciate today without the aid of scholarly commentaries—see for example articles on The KnightsThe Wasps and Peace for lists of topical references.
The topicality of the plays had unique consequences for both the writing and the production of the plays in ancient Athens. All actors in classical Athens wore masks, but whereas in tragedy and New Comedy these identified stereotypical characters, in Old Comedy the masks were often caricatures of real people. Perhaps Socrates attracted a lot of attention in Old Comedy because his face lent itself easily to caricature by mask-makers.
Since Old Comedy makes numerous references to people in the audience, the theatre itself was the real scene of action and theatrical illusion was treated as something of a joke. In The Acharnians, for example, The Pnyx is just a few steps from the hero's front door, and in Peace Olympus is separated from Athens by a few moments' supposed flight on a dung beetle.
The audience is sometimes drawn or even dragged into the action.
When the hero in Peace returns to Athens from his flight to Olympus, he tells the audience that they looked like rascals when seen from the heavens, and seen up close they look even worse. Frequent parodying of tragedy is an aspect of Old Comedy that modern audiences find difficult to understand.
But the Lenaia and City Dionysia included performances of both comedies and tragedies, and thus references to tragedy were highly topical and immediately relevant to the original audience.
It is possible, as indicated earlier, that Aristophanes mocked his own baldness. In The Clouds, the Chorus compares him to an unwed, young mother  and in The Acharnians the Chorus mockingly depicts him as Athens' greatest weapon in the war against Sparta. The Lenaia and City Dionysia were state-sponsored, religious festivals, and though the latter was the more prestigious of the two, both were occasions for official pomp and circumstance.
The ceremonies for the Lenaia were overseen by the archon basileus and by officials of the Eleusinian mysteries. The City Dionysia was overseen by the archon eponymous and the priest of Dionysus. Opening ceremonies for the City Dionysia featured, in addition to the ceremonial arrival of the god, a parade in full armour of the sons of warriors who died fighting for the polis and, until the end of the Peloponnesian War, a presentation of annual tribute from subject states.
Even jokes can be serious when the topic is politics—especially in wartime. The butts of the most savage jokes are opportunists who prey on the gullibility of their fellow citizens, including oracle-mongers,  the exponents of new religious practices,  war-profiteers and political fanatics.
In The Acharnians, for example, Lamachus is represented as a crazed militarist whose preparations for war are hilariously compared to the hero's preparations for a dinner party. A festival audience presented the comic dramatist with a wide range of targets, not just political or religious ones—anyone known to the audience could be mocked for any reason, such as diseases, physical deformities, ugliness, family misfortunes, bad manners, perversions, dishonesty, cowardice in battle, and clumsiness.
Festivity[ edit ] The Lenaia and City Dionysia were religious festivals, but they resembled a gala rather than a church service. A relaxation in standards of behaviour was permitted and the holiday spirit included bawdy irreverence towards both men and gods. He is then envisioned hurling the turd at his attacker, missing and accidentally hitting Cratinus, a lyric poet not admired by Aristophanes.
The Chorus was vital to the success of a play in Old Comedy long after it had lost its relevance for tragedy. In Aristophanes' time, the Chorus in tragedy was relatively small twelve members and its role had been reduced to that of an awkwardly placed commentator, but in Old Comedy the Chorus was large numbering 24it was actively involved in the plot, its entry into the action was frequently spectacular, its movements were practised with military precision and sometimes it was involved in choreographed skirmishes with the actors.
Consistent with the holiday spirit, much of the humour in Old Comedy is slapstick buffoonery and dirty jokes that do not require the audience's careful attention, often relying on visual cues.
Actors playing male roles appear to have worn tights over grotesque padding, with a prodigious, leather phallus barely concealed by a short tunic. Female characters were played by men but were easily recognized in long, saffron tunics.
The holiday spirit might also have been responsible for an aspect of the comic plot that can seem bewildering to modern audiences. The major confrontation agon between the 'good' and 'bad' characters in a play is often resolved decisively in favour of the former long before the end of the play.
The rest of the play deals with farcical consequences in a succession of loosely connected scenes. The farcical anti-climax has been explained in a variety of ways, depending on the particular play.
In The Wasps, for instance, it has been thought to indicate a gradual change in the main character's perspective as the lessons of the agon are slowly absorbed. The celebration of the hero's victory often concludes in a sexual conquest and sometimes it takes the form of a wedding, thus providing the action with a joyous sense of closure. Old Comedy provided a variety of entertainments for a diverse audience. It accommodated a serious purpose, light entertainment, hauntingly beautiful lyrics, the buffoonery of puns and invented words, obscenities, disciplined verse, wildly absurd plots and a formal, dramatic structure.
Fantasy in Old Comedy is unrestricted and impossibilities are ignored. Absurdities develop logically from initial premises in a plot. In The Knights for instance, Cleon's corrupt service to the people of Athens is originally depicted as a household relationship in which the slave dupes his master. The introduction of a rival, who is not a member of the household, leads to an absurd shift in the metaphor, so that Cleon and his rival become erastai competing for the affections of an eromenoshawkers of oracles competing for the attention of a credulous public, athletes in a race for approval and orators competing for the popular vote.
All of Aristophanes' boyhood was spent while Athens was one of the two leading Greek political powers and the center of artistic and intellectual activity. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three Aristophanes began submitting his comedies for the annual Athens competition. His easy humor and good choice of words made most laugh and at least one politician take him to court. Whatever punishment resulted was mild enough to allow Aristophanes to continue his clever remarks at the leader's expense in his forthcoming comedies.
His plays Aristophanes' special touch with comedy is best explained with a look at the original Greek comedy. The original Greek comedy, Old Comedy, was a unique dramatic mixture of fantasy, satire literary scorn of human foolishnessslapstick, and obvious sexuality. Aristophanes used beautiful rhythmic poetry as the format for all of his comedy.
He had a way of shrinking the self-importance of people involved in politics, social life, and literature, but above all he used his unlimited amount of comic invention and high spirits.
In one such comedy, The Knights, Aristophanes represented the local Athenian leader as the greedy and dishonest slave of a dimwitted old gentleman the Athenian people come to life. The slave is his master's favorite until displaced by an even more rude and nasty character, a sausage seller. At the time the featured politician was at the height of his popularity, yet Athenian tolerance even in wartime allowed Aristophanes first prize in the competition for comedies.
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Downfall and death All of Aristophanes' comedies kept pace with the political climate of Athens.