Comedy: Aristophanes and the Birds

  • Peter D. Arnott


By an accident of history, Greek comedy and Aristophanes are almost synonymous. Eleven of his plays are the only complete examples to come down to us. His predecessors and contemporaries are represented by a large body of fragments of varying length and tributes to their powers in other authors, his successors by two near-complete plays of Menander, more fragments, and what can be deduced of the Greek plays from their Roman imitations. If the work of a whole period is to be represented by one man, we could hardly have a better. Aristophanes was not consistently successful; some of his work was caviare to the general, and he won only four first prizes, three second and one third. But there is no doubt that he was the cleverest poet of his time. His life, too, covers the radical change in the Greek theatre when Athens’ defeat by Sparta made free speech dangerous. There is a marked transition from the uninhibited licence of his first plays to the innocuous allegory of his last.


Lightning Flash Marked Transition Greek Play GREEK Theatre Comic Poet 
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Copyright information

© Peter D. Arnott 1959

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  • Peter D. Arnott

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