iPlayer Radio What's New?
Listen
On Now : Book of the Week
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh - 2. Awakenings
Image for Comedy in Ancient Greek Theatre

Play now 45 mins

Comedy in Ancient Greek Theatre

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 13 July 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss comedy in Ancient Greek theatre including Aristophanes and Menander. In The Birds, written by Aristophanes, two Athenians seek a Utopian refuge from the madness of city life and found a city of birds located between Earth and Olympus. Unfortunately, the idealism of their perfect new City - christened (in 414 BC) 'Cloud Cuckoo Land' - becomes corrupted and its decline was portrayed by one man (the chorus) playing 24 different species of bird. In one of Aristophanes' other politically anthropomorphic plays, The Wasps, was devised as an attack on the failures of Athenian democracy. It featured a chorus of actors dressed in black and yellow stripes who swarmed the stage stinging each other. Crammed with absurd images and satirical barbs, Comic theatre was a popular art form where mass appeal and coarse humour was combined with men in drag lambasting political figures and local big wigs. And from the fifth century BC onwards, Greek comic theatre fizzed and flourished, crossing boundaries of time and space, often informed by a savage political spleen. But how did Greek comedy evolve? Why did its subsequent development differ so radically from that of Greek tragedy? To what extent did it reflect the anxieties and preoccupations of a nascent democracy? And can it be said to have left any lasting legacy? With Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at the University of Cambridge; Edith Hall, Professor of Drama and Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London; Nick Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London.

  • Further Reading

    Kenneth Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (University of California Press, 1972)

    Douglas MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens (Oxford, 1995)

    Michael Silk, Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford, 2000)

    Paul Cartledge, introduction in: Aristophanes and his Theatre of the Absurd (Bristol Classical Press, 1990)

    David Wiles, The Masks of Menander (Cambridge, 1991)

    Mary Renault, The Mask of Apollo (Arrow, 2004)

    A.M. Bowie, Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual and Comedy (Cambridge, 1993)

    A.H. Sommerstein, Greek Drama and Dramatists (Routledge, 2002) esp. pp. 63-76

    N. Miller, Menander: Plays and Fragments (Penguin Classics, 1987)

    R.L. Hunter, The New Comedy of Greece and Rome (Cambridge, 1985)

    N. Zagagi, The Comedy of Menander (Oxford, 1995)

    David Konstan, Greek Comedy and Ideology (Oxford, 1995)

    Alan H. Sommerstein (ed. & tr.), The Plays of Aristophanes (Aris & Phillips, 12 volumes, 19 -2004)

    Martin Revermann, Comic Business: Theatricality, Dramatic Technique and Performance Contexts of Aristophanic Comedy (Oxford, 2006)

    David Harvey & John Wilkins (ed.), The Rivals of Aristophanes (Duckworth/Classical Press of Wales, 2000)

    Susan Lape, Reproducing Athens: Menander's Comedy, Democratic Culture and the Hellenistic City (Princeton, 2004)

  • Translations

    Aristophanes: The Frogs and other Plays, translated by David Barrett (Penguin, 1964 and many reprints)

    Aristophanes: The Birds and other Plays, translated by Stephen Halliwell (Oxford World's Classics, 1998)

    Menander: Plays and Fragments, translated by Norma Miller (Penguin, 1987)

    Menander: The Plays and Fragments, translated by Maurice Balme (Oxford World's Classics, 2001)

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn BRAGG
Producer
Natasha MAW

Broadcasts

Featured in...

  • Culture archive

    Popular culture, poetry, music and visual arts and the roles they play in our society.

  • Ancient Greece

    Browse the Ancient Greece era within the In Our Time archive.

In Our Time Downloads

melvyn-bragg.jpg

Every episode of In Our Time - available to download to listen to when & where you want.

Podcasts

  1. Image for In Our Time Archive: Culture

    In Our Time Archive: Culture

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas as it applies to culture - from literature…

  2. Image for In Our Time Archive: History

    In Our Time Archive: History

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the people, conflicts and events that have shaped the world.

  3. Image for In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of philosophy - from ancient Greek thinkers to the…

  4. Image for In Our Time Archive: Religion

    In Our Time Archive: Religion

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of religious ideas - from the faith systems of…

  5. Image for In Our Time Archive: Science

    In Our Time Archive: Science

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas and the evolution of the sciences - from…

  6. Image for In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

    In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy,…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss