The City as Comedy: Society and Representation in Athenian Drama

By Gregory W. Dobrov | Go to book overview

transgression, effacing the medium and rejecting the reading public at the climactic moment of the play.


Notes
1.
Note the manner in which Strauss 1966, 135, summarizes his view of Wasps: "The Aristophanean comedy achieves the right mean, not by avoiding vulgarity on the one hand and transcendent wisdom on the other, but by integrating vulgarity and transcendent wisdom into a whole that can, among other things, convey the moderate political message. The Aristophanean comedy circles around the mean between vulgarity and transcendent wisdom, i.e., it avoids it while points toward it." Strauss thus summarizes the play in terms of high and low, but his analysis subtly privileges the "mean," averaging out, as it were, the rough edges and extremes of the play to sanitize it and lend it a less troubling position in the canon.
3.
Succinctly put, e.g., by J.-C. Agnew 1986, 6-7; for the development of this idea in England, see Williams 1958, 130-58; for the role of aestheticism in Germanic thought, see now Terry Eagleton 1990.
4.
Henderson 1990b, 272; contrast Redfield 1990, 334: Aristophanes "may have wanted to do more with his art, to make it a vehicle of genuine teaching and of public education. In so doing, he stretched his genre to and beyond its limit, for Old Comedy cannot, ultimately, be used to correct the world; it can only enjoy it."
5.
See Oates and O'Neill 1938, which ascribes "Translator Anonymous" to ten of Aristophanes' plays.
6.
On Aristophanes in particular, see Henderson 1990b; see also Dover 1978.
7.
On this, see Stallybrass and White 1986.
8.
For an extended, if different, analysis of Panhellenic poetry, see Nagy 1990, 82-115.
9.
Pindar's poetic utterances are arrows that "speak to the wise, while the mass of mankind needs interpreters" ( Ol. 2.85-86). Praise counts, but only from the intelligent ( Pyth. 5.107). Pindar coyly asks whether his patron (and, through him, the audience) knows how to understand "the true essence of words" ( Pyth. 3.80-81). "You are wise" (essi gar On sophos, Isth. 2.12), the poem asserts and challenges at once. "Wise" (sophos) and "wisdom" are favorite words for Pindar, appearing thirty and twelve times respectively in his epinician poetry. The poet must entice the attention of his audience and must spread his net wide, but not so very deep--the Pindaric ode is aimed at an elite which it seductively defines. Only the elite of the Greek world can appreciate his poems, and this exclusivity of discourse is both a challenge and an offer.
10.
E.g., Aristarchus of Tegea ( TrGF 1.14), Ion of Chios ( TrGF 1.19), Achaios of Eretria ( TrGF 1.20), Spintharos of Herakleia ( TrGF 1.40).
11.
See Goldhill 1987, 97-129; for Isocrates' judgment, see De Pace82:
12.
See Kolb 1981; note also Longo 1990, 16: "the community of the plays' spectators, arranged in the auditorium according to battle order (no different from what happened on the field of battle or in the burial of the war dead), was not distinct from the community of citizens."
13.
See Ober and Strauss 1990, 237-70.
14.
Individual playwrights were, of course, to some extent subordinate to the normative values of the polis, but a Marxist analysis which views poets as "products" of the normative values in the polis is too reductive; see, e.g., Longo 1990, 14: "In the total machine of the 'polis theater,' the author is but one of many mechanisms of dramatic production, located between two acts of selection: the preliminary selection . . . administered to his text outline, . . . and the subsequent

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