Release Date: 01 October 2007
THE PLAYS OF ARISTOPHANES VOLUME ONE -- 1909 -- INTRODUCTION - ARISTOPHANEthSe, greatest of the Greek writers of comedy, was born at Kydathenaion, a deme of Athens, in the middle of the fifth century B. C. 450 B. c. We know but little of the details of his life, save the plays he wrote, and the dates at which they were produced. Although some lines of a contemporary poet, Eupolis, complaining of the success of foreigners, have been supposed to refer to him. his full Athenian citizenship can hardly be doubted because, when Kleon, the great leader of the democratic party at Athens, in revenge for the bitter attacks made upon him by Aristophanes, brought an accusation against the latter in 426 B. C. of fraudulently using the privileges of a full citizen, the prosecution failed. Aristophanes tells us that he owned land in the island of Aegina, which must have been left to him by his father Philippos and this, taken in conjunction with the facts that he produced at least eight of his plays under the names of other people-an arrangement which implies a sacrifice of pecuniary profit in order to avoid the labour of training the chorus and superintending the actual details of production-and that his whole attitude to his time is that of the independent aristocrat, warrants us in believing that he must have been a man of independent means. He died about 385 B. C. and left three sons, Philippos, Araros. and Nikostratos, all of whom were comic poets. He is said to have written in all fifty-six plays, of which only eleven have come down to us-entii, though we possess many fragments of the others through their having been preserved as quotations in the works of later writers. The Old Comedy ofAthens, of which the plays of Aristophanes are the only extant examples, was merely a highly-developed form of the mumming which took place at the vintage and harvest festivals festivals which were, generally speaking, celebrated in honour of some god of fruitfulness or increase, whose name varied In different vil vlll Aristophanes PlaYs tocalities. At these revels, with their attendant processions, tUe utmost license was allowed. Especially was this true ln the matter of speech. The band of mummers who marcfrea about at the iestival of Pan or Dionysus not only, r, g, oog in honow ol the god, but were permitted by . o. io ti mock at and insult those Persons whose influence and authority ordlnarily kept them ln awe Gradually fitst, by givingthem a song to sing-written specially foi the occasiorr-next by organising their improvised towning into definite set-acting, the K-omoi, or bands ol revelleri developed into the chorus and actors who per-Iormed a Komoidia or comedy. We can thus understand l o ttuta tetistics ol Aristophanes which are apt to s rike in oa reader with astonishment and repulsion Thc reckless abuse and bitter satire of the old comedy were a continuation of the freedom and license of the village iJir ft, while his indecency is due Partly o the survival . f tnu iestivals of Dionysus of - very primitive lorms ol nrtttttip, and partly to thl simple and outspoken frankness oitnu Ct. tt on iopics which modern taste leaves rigorootty o ationed. Towards that nostalgie de la bone which is so dangerous a snare to all emotional races the Creet atUtuae o-f mind was one of fraqk recognition lt as Aristofle says, the obiect of tragedy f to Purge our - i a of pityand terroi byrepresenting pathetic and awe-inspiring scenes uPon the stage, then it is easy to ia irll a f, ow the Greeks brought themselves to believe tn...
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