Figures of Play: Greek Drama and Metafictional Poetics

By Gregory W. Dobrov | Go to book overview

3
Figures of Play, Part 2 The Comic Contrafact

A Poetics of Transformation

Aristophanes' Akharnians, the earliest extant Greek comedy, is a natural point of departure chronologically and technically for a presentation of the third metafictional mode briefly outlined in chapter 2. This comedy has recently received considerable scholarly attention, much of which has been directed at the contrafact -- the "improvisation" of a new stage play from tragedy that is transposed into a comic key. Euripides and his Telephos are integral to the design of Akharnians in a sophisticated sequence that serves well as a paradigm for other contrafacts whose technique may appear, superficially at least, quite different. A review of this familiar example will set a hermeneutic pattern for the less familiar transformations presented in chapters 6, 7, and 8 such as that of ( Sophokles') Tereus in Birds and ( Euripides') Peirithous in Frogs. Taking translation as the governing metaphor, however, it is necessary first to consider the discourse that serves as the "target language" for Aristophanes' renderings of tragedy: the "idioms" and "grammar" of a comic poetics developed in the last quarter of the fifth century.

As fate would have it, with the exception of Euripides' Helene, all the tragedies upon which Aristophanes "improvises" are lost. To avoid circularity and enhance clarity, each chapter (6, 7, 8) devoted to a contrafact begins with an overview of the lost play in question, that is, Euripides' Telephos, Bellerophontes, and Peirithous and Sophokles' Tereus. Juxtaposition of two intertextually related plays allows for the development of a critical dialogue: the tragic reconstruction adumbrates many of the issues raised by the comedy, while the "anatomy" of the contrafact reviews and redefines much of what was said about the tragedy.

Telephos and Akharnians are unique, however, in that they have received thorough scholarly coverage in the years between Pucci's groundbreaking Aristofane ed Euripide and Collard, Cropp, and Lee's edition of the tragic fragments. The same cannot be said for the other lost plays presented below. The Akharnians-Telephos case is presented here as a programmatic example in which demonstration is given priority over originality. The familiarity of this example will help clarify the approach

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Figures of Play: Greek Drama and Metafictional Poetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Part I - Metatheater 1
  • 1 - Drama and Metafiction 3
  • 2 - Figures of Play, Part 1 14
  • 3 - Figures of Play, Part 2 the Comic Contrafact 33
  • Part II - The Anatomy of Dramatic Fiction 55
  • 4 - Aias 57
  • 5 - Pentheus 70
  • Part III - The Anatomy of Dramatic Fiction 87
  • 6 - Bellerophontes 89
  • 7 - Tereus Sophokles' Tereus and Aristophanes' Birds 105
  • 8 - Herakles 133
  • Notes 163
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 233
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