EUROPEAN THEORIES OF THE DRAMA
GREEK DRAMATIC CRITICISMWith the exception of the more or less
fragmentary Poetics of Aristotle there is
very little in Greek literature touching
upon the subject of dramatic theory.
What we possess are (1) quotations from
Greek writers like Theophrastus (in the Ars Grammatica of
Diomedes), and from
Greek dramatists (in The Deipnosophists
Athenæus); (2) passages from Aristophanes; and (3) works or fragments of
a more general character, of such writers
as Plato and Dionysius of Halicarnassus;
and (4) the Scholia, or commentaries on
the dramatists.Of dramatic criticism proper there is
nothing either in Plato or Aristophanes; Plato Republic, Phædrus, Ion, Laws,
and other dialogues contain a good deal
on the subject of poetry, and much on
dramatic poetry, but, as might be expected, the philosopher is concerned
rather with the moral and philosophic
than the purely literary and dramatic aspects.
Aristophanes' Frogs in particular, is full of dramatic criticism of an
indirect kind, but is neither so objective
nor so organized as to entitle it to serious consideration as a distinct theory of
the drama. It is only by inference that
the student may form any definite idea
of Aristophanes' esthetic ideals. In
indispensable Histoire de la
Critique chez les Grecs there is quoted a
passage attributed to Antiphanes on
tragedy and comedy. Another short passage, attributed to Simylus, practically
completes the list.It was impossible to formulate any
considerable body of dramatic theory before the close of the great dramatic
epoch ushered in by Æschylus, so that
the absence of any such work as the Poetics during that period is not surprising, Aristotle had before him the
masterpieces of his country and was able
to formulate a complete body of doctrine.
While it has been pointed out that he
was at a decided disadvantage in not
knowing the literature of at least one
other nation besides his own, it is doubly
fortunate that so well-balanced a philosopher should have happened at the right
time to sum up the dramatic theory of
the age which immediately preceded him.Of the rhetoricians and grammarians
who followed Aristotle, of the great
mass of Scholia on the tragedians and Aristophanes, there is very little to be
said. Most of the commentators were
concerned almost altogether with questions of philology, grammar, and the
more formal aspects of the drama.
Plutarch--in his Comparison of Aristophanes and Menander--
turns to the drama, but his remarks are
applicable mainly to the moral and stylistic side. Athenæus (in the third century
A.D.) did no more than collect passages
from earlier writers, some few of which
are concerned with the drama.General works on Greek literature,
criticism and critics:
| Paul Masqueray, Bibliographie pratique
de la Litterature grecque, des origines
à la fin de la période romaine ( Paris, 1914).|
| W. Christ, Geschichte der grieschischen
Literatur (in Müller's Handbuch der
klassischen Altertumswissenschaft. Bd. VII, München, 1890).|
| Emile Egger, Essai sur l'histoire de la
Critique chez les Grecs ( Paris, 3rd ed., 1887).|
| Gilbert Murray, A History of Ancient
Greek Literature ( New York, new ed., 1900).|
| L. D. Barnett, Greek Drama, ( London, 1900).|
| Lewis Campbell, A Guide to Greek Trag
edy, etc. ( London, 1891).|
| A. et M. Croiset, Histoire de la Littérature grecque.|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: European Theories of the Drama:An Anthology of Dramatic Theory and Criticism from Aristotle to the Present Day.
Contributors: Barrett H. Clark - Author.
Publisher: Stewart & Kidd.
Place of publication: Cincinnati.
Publication year: 1918.
Page number: 3.
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