OEDIPUS REX - GREEK DRAMA THEMES - SOPHOCLES
GREEK DRAMA THEMES
Comedy was the other major form of Greek drama. Greek comedies often made fun of people, particularly politicians, military leaders, and other prominent figures. Victor Ehrenberg noted in The people of Aristophanes that “In no other place or age were men of all classes attacked and ridiculed in public and by name with such freedom.” Greek comedies were varied productions, ranging from the intellectual to the bawdy.
Some comedies were satirieal, some slapstick. They included such devices as verbal play, parody, metaphor, and allegory. Aristophanes, the most noted comic playwright, used satire to make fun of the leaders and institutions of his day. He often placed them in absurd situations, such as the one in the Birds, in which the heroes try to build “Cuckoo City,” a peaceful community in the sky.
Greek comedy is divided into three periods. Old comedy – the first phase of ancient Greek comedy – emerged during the fifth century B.C., primarily known through the work of Aristophanes, it is sometimes referred to as Aristophanic comedy. The high-spirited satire of public figures and events characterize these plays. Though they are filled with songs, dances, and buffoonery, they also include blatant political criticism as well as commentary on literary and philosophical topics. They plays of Aristophanes parody tragedy.
Middle Comedy, dating from the closing years of the fifth century B.C. to nearly the middle of the fourth century B.C., represents the transition from Old Comedy to new comedy. Comedies from this period make good-humoured attacks on classes or character types rather than individuals. The playwright Menander introduced the New Comedy in about 320 B.C. Like Old Comedy, it satirized contemporary Athenian society, but the ridicule was for milder. New Comedy also differed from Old Comedy because it parodied average citizens –fictitious characters from ordinary life rather than public figures, and it had no supernatural or heroic overtones. The plays of New Comedy often focused on thwarted lovers and concealed identities, and playwrights presented a host of stock characters, such as the cruel father, the clever slave, and the conceited cook.