• Jokes & representations of male and female genitals carried in a solemn procession; a feast celebrated only by women (cakes in the shape of genitals were on the menu).
Topic 3: The early history of Greek comedy 1. Prehistory of drama
Greek proto-dramatic rituals
Komoi = wild celebrative processions, frequently with the bearing of phallus as a symbol of fertility, accompanied by heavy wine drinking;
The oldest Attic festivals celebrating Dionysos were the Rural Dionysia. Their faces painted or masked, chanting obscene refrains, the farmers carried the phallos, the ultimate symbol of fertility.
The word ‘comedy’ is derived from the name of this procession, komos, and the word for song, ode.
Pharmakos: ahuman scapegoat
During the festival of Thargelia and in adverse periods such as plague and famine, the Athenians and Ionians chose a scapegoat from among the poor and ugly. He obtained a special treatment in the pritaneion, then was led in a procession around the city to the sound of unharmonious music, beaten on the penis with wild or infertile plants and finally pelted with stones and chased over the border.
2. The festival during which literary comedy was performed was the Great Dionysia introduced by the tyrant PEISISTRATOS 3. Organization of the Great Dionysia
a. The festivities were presided over by the state official called “archon” the ruler
b. The Dionysia lasted three to five days and involved four kinds of theatrical performances
4. ‘Literary’ dramatic genres performed at the Dionysia
a. Serious drama: tragedy and dithyramb
b. Comic drama satyr plays (featuring mythological characters) and comedy (featuring fictional characters)
Topic 4: ARISTOPHANES (5th-4th BCE) 1. Aristophanic laughter
a. By Aristophanes’ time, the comic theater is already an independent institution
b. Nevertheless, comedy is still deeply rooted in festive humor.
c. His carnival representations mock a world upside-down, thus reinforcing the pre-existing order.
4. Aristophanes and the City
a. Concern for the welfare of his POLIS, the city-state, dominates all comedies by Aristophanes.
b. Sexual metaphors and obscenities are primarily a means for denouncing the degradation of political life.
Topic 5: Lysistrata 411 BCE 1. Plot
a. Women go on sex strike and occupy the Acropolis
b. Old men try to defeat them, with no success
c. The play ends with the restoration of love and marriage
a. Athenian theater was created by men and for men, yet it is generally believed to contain some of the best female roles in the world repertory.
b. It was state-sponsored and attended only by men.
c. All actors were men.
d. Athenian women
• were legal non-entities.
• did not take part in any public events, except for certain religious activities
Topic 1 COMOEDIA PALLIATA Means: ‘comedy in Greek mantle’ used the scripts of Greek New Comedy (which developed after Aristophanes and had more realistic plots) and adapted them to suit the taste of Roman audiences, often combining several plays into one.
Predictable plots can be reduced to a few simple models, mostly:
Boy wants girl BUT Rival/pimp has girl
Boy with the help of slave overcomes obstacles
Boy acquires girl
No indoor scenes, everything happens on the street
Distant actions narrated
Dialogues: take place in the street
Monologues: characters offer reflections, deliberate what will happen
Asides: eavesdropping asides, asides in conversations, addressed to nobody, another character, or the audience
Boy: a bit dumb
Girl: clever or innocent
Old man: does not want to share
Matron: owns husband or serves him
Slave: foolish or clever
Maid: devoted to mistress
Slave, trickster, and director
Often referring to himself as imperator, architect, engineer
The poet’s self-centered and conceited alter-ego
Indulges in meta-theatrical dialogues with the audience
Fortuna reigns supreme over all comic plots
While the efforts of the slaves provide the playwrights with the material for action, the final solution is usually the result of a lucky coincidence
Topic 2 PLAUTUS Full name: Titus Macc(i)us Plautus = Dick Clowns’son Flatfooted
Was active between towards the end of the third and the beginning of the second century BCE
We have the dates of two plays.
Cicero gives us the date of Plautus’ death.
Contemporary of Cato The Censor (3rd-2nd BCE)
Stood for moral, social and economic reconstruction.
Cultivated a rustic and conservative pose, and was strongly against everything Greek.
Taxed luxury and spent money on building a sewerage system.
The Punic Wars: 3rd century BCE
I Control of Sicily; The Romans occupy Sicily
II Italy attacked by Hannibal Hannibal is defeated
Theater at the time of Plautus
Troupes consisting mostly of slaves under the direction of domini gregis
Possibly officials were approached by the domini of various troupes in search of contract for performances
Actors slaves, yet organized into a guild
Ethnic Identity? Gellius (NA, 3.3) claims that Plautus was an Umbrian from Sarsina
• Spoke a language closely related to Latin
• Were conquered by the Romans at the beginning of the third century BCE
Topic 2 PLAUTUS PLAUTUS’ BACCHIDES = Wild, Wild Women (?) 1) A summary
• A young Athenian goes to Asia to collect a debt for his father and asks his friend to take care of his courtesan girlfriend Bacchis.
• Meanwhile, with the help of his slave Nugget, he manages to use a large part of the collected money to buy his girl’s freedom.
• Upon coming back home, he hears that his friend has an affair with Bacchis and gives the money back to his father.
• Too late, he realizes that his faithful friend was kissing the twin sister of his beloved.
• The clever slave manages to steal the money form the old father twice more.
• The two reunited couples are soon threatened by the visit of the fathers of both young men.
• However, the girls manage to find a peaceful solution: the fathers join the party.
2) Bacchiac laughter and Roman attitudes towards homosexuality
• The original title of the Wild, Wild Women, BACCHIDES was reminiscent of Bacchae and Bacchanalia
• In Greece Dionysus = Bacchus was the official patron of theater
Guild of actors = Artisans of Dionysus
• Roman actors were probably worshipers of Bacchus
• This is problematic because the worship of Bacchus (=Bacchanalia) was prohibited by the Roman senate by a decree from 186 BCE and those involved were punished by death
This cult of Bacchus
• Was originally attended only by women
• Some time in the 3rd century admission to Bacchae (‘Wild Women’) was extended to men.
• From Livy’s description we conclude that homosexuality was one of the issues that cause the prosecutions.
Romans had a complex set of moral restrictions designed to protect children from abuse or any citizens from force or duress in sexual relations.
Plautus’ plays show a similarly tolerant attitude towards homosexuality as Bacchic cult.
Bacchides (190) Suppression of Bacchanalia (186)
Male actors wearing women’s clothing Male worshipers wearing women’s clothing
Old and young mixing together Old and young mixing together
In a “temple of Bacchus” In a temple of Bacchus
Criticized by severe moralist (Zeugma). Criticized by severe moralists (the senate)
When he shows the triumph of the Bacchides as the (originally severe) fathers join their sons, Plautus may be voicing his opinion on a hot social and political issue.
Topic 3 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum The play opened on Brodway on May 8 1962 at the Alvin Theater and ran 964 performances.
In 1966 the play was made into a film, directed by Richard Lester with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford.
Plautus often used many plays by Greek playwrights in order to create one of his most hilariously complex comedies.
This is precisely what Stephen Sondheim did to Plautus...
Topic 4 TERENCE
Name: Publius Terentius Afer
• Born in Cartage
• Educated by Terentius Lucanus
• Part of Scipio’s circle of intellectuals
• At the age of leaves Rome setting out for Greece, and never comes back.
• In the second half of the second century BCE, Lucius Aemilius Paulus wins the decisive battle of the Third Macedonian War and Greek art becomes fashionable among aristocracy
• But not without opposition:
Worship of Bacchus suppressed
Epicurean philosophers banished from Rome
Plans to build a stone theater thwarted
• Patterns typical for Terence
Young man falls in love but cannot marry until obstacles are overcome + a side-plot
The first dialogue introduces the theme of loyalty. Contrary to the standard complaints about feminine infidelity, Terence has two women complain about male infidelity.
The theme is developed as we see that…
• Pamphilus was indeed disloyal to Bacchis
• His father mistrusts his wife Sostrata
• His father-in-law mistrusts his wife—Myrrina
• Philumena has left Pamphilus’ house without explanation
• Philumena has given birth to an illegitimate child
• Both patriarchs go inside to vent their anger on their wives…
• Myrrina lies to her husband about the child
• Pamphilus lies to his parents about the reason for his rejection of Philumena
The most loyal and honest figure in this play is the prostitute, the traditional champion of mendacity (recall the women in Major Blowhard and Wild, Wild Women).
Other characters also act against the stereotypes:
The clever slave is unable to fulfill the simplest task
The mother-in-law loves her daughter
The selfish lover shows compassion.
Topic 6 SATIRE Name: SATURA
Satyrus may be associated with Greek satyr plays
Lanx satura = a full dish, an offering at a harvest home including a variety of fruit = pot pourri
Improvised Versus Fescennini Satire and ritual
Public ritualized blame used to enforce community values and punish transgressions
Akin to, but more aggressive than, carnivalesque laughter
Mime (sketches depicting scenes from everyday life)
Diatribe (ethical sermon preached by a philosopher)
Menippus of Gadara(3rd BCE) a Cynic philosopher writing diatribes in a mixture of prose and poetry.
Quintus Ennius (3rd-2nd BCE) four books in a variety of meters.
Lucilius (2nd BCE)
Inventor of the genre
Specialized in personal invective naming the victim
Varro (1st BCE) volumes of satire imitating Menippus
Topic 9 CHRISTIAN OPPOSITION AGAINST COMEDY TERTULIAN (2nd -3rd CE)
• Well educated
• Wrote and lived in Carthage (a center of both Christianity and show-buisness)
• Published a book condemning theater entitled On Spectacles Thought
• Christian women should wear veils
• Remarriage should be forbidden
Arguments against theater
• Idolatry—pagan religious origin of the games.
• Obscenity of Atellan farces, naked prostitutes, etc.
• Venus and Bacchus allied demons promoting immodesty of gestures and attire
• Pagan conspiracy (an attempt to jeopardize the Christian souls)
• A woman went to theater and came back possessed; during exorcism, the demon replied: ‘I found her in my domain.’
‘Our pleasures are yet to come’: The final judgment will be the true spectacle
Augustine (4th CE)
• Lived most of his life in Roman Africa
Baptized Christian in 387
Bishop of Hippo and publishes Confessions • Augustine on Theater
Theater as site of debauchery
Social practice inappropriate for Christians
An expression of polytheism
Theater as a language inappropriate for Christian contents
Topic 10 HROTSVIT OF GANDERSHEIM Medieval Comedy
No scripts of medieval comedy or references to comic performances survive.
There is hardly such a thing as a medieval drama…
Medieval drama originated from
Easter liturgy HROSVIT (10th CE)
• Works Legends of saints
• Life (based on prefaces)
Founded in ca. 850
Since a “free abbey” independent of the crown
An impressive library most likely including Terence, Virgil, and Ovid
• Religious feelings: “He has given me ability to learn—yet of myself I should know nothing. ”
• Hrotsvit and Terence
Hrotsvit wants her plays to be read (possibly aloud) instead of Terence, whose text was frequently used in school recitations
She considers her output to be morally superior to Terence from whom she borrows formal devices
Hrotsvit’s, concept of Contrasting World-views
Enjoyment of worldly beauty True beatitude possible after death
Contempt for spiritual values Contempt for physical pleasure and pain
Goal: enjoyment of life Goal: spiritual wedding with God
DULCITIUS dramatization of this contrast
First Confrontation: Power
I have power Power = corruption, idolatry
Ancient religion, the worship of the gods ‘demons’
Christianity is ‘a new superstition’ Deus omnipotens
Second Confrontation: Physical Love
I have been captured by their appearance May God protect us
Flattery and threats Hymns at night prayer, privation
Humiliation of Dulcitius
In the eyes the girls who witness his rendezvous with pots and pans
In the eyes of his soldiers who take him for a demon
Beaten by the palace guards
Recognized and pitied by his wife
Pitied by Diocletianus
Third Confrontation: Pain & Death, Part 1: Agape (Love) & Chionia (Snow-white Purity)
Sisennius Virgins A & Ch.
Forbids them to practice their religion Disobey
Sentences them to death Continuously ask for death
Miracle: Their bodies bear no trace of fire; their spirits ascend to heaven
Third Confrontation: Pain & Death, Part 2: Hirene (Peace)
Threatens her with a slow death and rape Hirene is eager to die (the more I suffer, the more I will triumph) and not afraid of rape (because she will not enjoy it)
Two strangers have placed Hirene on a top of a mountain
Sisennius and his soldiers quickly hurry up to see what happened;
They kill her with an arrow; dying Hirene speaks of her triumph
Is Dulcitius a comedy?
1) By ancient standards?
Aristotle on Comedy
“Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type, not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the Ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness that is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain.”
2) By modern standards?
Comedy is the use of humor in the form of theater, where it simply referred to a play with a happy ending, in contrast to a tragedy.
Mel Brooks on comedy and tragedy: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an elevator shaft and you die."
Characteristics of Comedy
• Humor (something some people find funny)
• Happy ending
Topic 11 SHAKESPEARE AND RENAISSANCE COMEDY • Shakespeare’s Education:
— 'The King's New School of Stratford-upon-Avon'.
— ‘Trivium' of grammar, logic, rhetoric, and the 'quadrivium' of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.
Latin strongly emphasized
Plays of Plautus and Terence studied and imitated
Declamation of Latin speeches
Laughter and Elizabethan Society
Shakespeare’s humor • Renaissance perceptions of laughter
Joubert’s Treatise on Laughter (‘one of the most astounding actions of man’)
— Laughable in deed (accidental versus deliberate)
Accidental: body parts, fall (damage cannot be too serious)
Deliberate: practical jokes, imitation
— Laughable in word (stories, wordplay)
b) Folk Practice: Inversion and Laughter
• The Lord of Misrule (source Philip Stubbes)
— Election followed by a visit to the church during which religious ceremonies were parodied
• Today’s perceptions
Old jokes “signposts in foreign alphabet”
We often laugh for different reasons
Perceptions of laughter change
Constant: laughter as a form of coping with anxiety, embarrassment, etc.
Freud: laughter is an expression of the unconscious
Bakhtin: carnival spirit was separate from official celebrations; it offered ‘a second world outside officialdom’
Carnival laughter attacks all people, including the participants of the carnival; it often brought things to the materialistic and bodily levels.