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Greek Comedy - Essays


NB Any Q800 students taking the module with Greek language should look on the Q800 syllabus/coursework page for prescribed coursework requirements for term 2.


If you need further guidance or assistance finding bibliography, please consult the lecturer.

Assessed Essay 1: to be handed in by 12 noon, Tuesday 2nd December

Write an essay of approximately 2500 words on ONE of the following topics:


1. ‘Tragedy is a glorious kind of poetry in every way. For one thing, the stories are familiar to the audience, before anyone’s opened their mouth. If I say ‘Oedipus’, they all know the rest … But we can’t do any of that. Everything has to be invented.’ (Antiphanes, Poetry fr. 189) Discuss what makes Old Comedy distinctive, with reference to EITHER characterization OR plotting.

Robson, J. Aristophanes: an introduction (London 2009)
Silk, M. S. 'The People of Aristophanes', in C. B. R. Pelling (ed.), Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford 1990), 150–73
Ehrenberg, V. The People of Aristophanes (2nd ed., Oxford 1951)
Silk, M. S. Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy
Ruffell, I. Politics & Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy
Lowe, N. J. 'Comic Plots and the Invention of Fiction', in Harvey and Wilkins (eds.) The Rivals of Aristophanes, 259–72
Hall, E. 'Casting the Role of Trygaios in Aristophanes’ Peace', in E. Hall, The Theatrical Cast of Athens: Interactions between Ancient Greek Drama and Society (Oxford 2006) 321–52


2. ‘No fragmentary author matches Cratinus' potential to unsettle complacency in the belief that antiquity selected and transmitted its best and most innovative authors’. Discuss.

Bakola, E. Cratinus and the Art of Comedy (Oxford 2009)
Rosen, R. 'Cratinus’ Pytine and the Construction of the Comic Self', in Harvey and Wilkins (eds.), The Rivals of Aristophanes, 23–39
Biles, Z. P. Aristophanes and the Poetics of Competition (Cambridge 2011)
Sidwell, K. 'Poetic Rivalry and the Caricature of Comic Poets: Cratinus' Pytine and Aristophanes' Wasps', in A. Griffiths (ed.), Stage Directions: Essays in Ancient Drama in Honour of E. W. Handley (London 1995) 56–80
Wright, M. 'Comedy and the Trojan War', Classical Quarterly 57 (2007) 412–31
Bakola, E. 'Old Comedy Disguised as Satyr Play: A New Reading of Cratinus' Dionysalexandros (P.Oxy. 663)', ZPE 158 (2005) 46–58 COPY AVAILABLE FOR SHORT LOAN FROM DEPARTMENTAL OFFICE
Biles, Z. P. 'Intertextual Biography in the Rivalry of Cratinus and Aristophanes', AJP 123 (2002) 169–204
Marshall, C. W. and Kovacs, G. 'Pursuing nemesis: Cratinus and mythological comedy', in Marshall, C. W. and Kovacs, G. (eds.) No Laughing Matter: Studies in Athenian Comedy (London 2012)
O’Sullivan, N. 'Aristophanes’ First Critic: Cratinus fr. 342 KA', in J. Davidson, F. Muecke, and P. Wilson (eds.) Greek Drama III: Essays in Honour of Kevin Lee (London 2006), 163–9
Revermann, M. 'Cratinus' Διονυσαλέξανδρος and the Head of Pericles', JHS 117 (1997) 197–200


3. 'Old Comedy's weakness was its inability to have any real effect on Athenian politics.' Discuss.

Halliwell, S. 'Comic satire and freedom of speech in Classical Athens', JHS 111 (1991) 48–70
Halliwell, S. 'Attic Comedy, Frank Speech, and Democracy', in D. Boedeker and K. Raaflaub (eds.) Democracy, Empire and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge, MA 1998) 255–73
Ruffell, I. Politics & Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy 
Foley, H. P. ‘Tragedy and Politics in Aristophanes' Acharnians', JHS 108 (1988) 32–47, reprinted in Segal (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aristophanes
Gomme, A. W. 'Aristophanes and Politics', Clasical Review 52 (1938) 97–109
Carey, C. 'The Purpose of Aristophanes' Acharnians', Rheinisches Museum 136.3/4 (1993) 245–63


4. Assess the role of persuasion in Aristophanic comedy.

Halliwell, S. 'Attic Comedy, Frank Speech, and Democracy', in D. Boedeker and K. Raaflaub (eds.) Democracy, Empire and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge, MA 1998) 255–73
Scholtz, A. 'Friends, lovers, flatterers; Demophilic courtship in Aristophanes' Knights', Transactions of the American Philological Association 134 (2004) 263–93
Wilson, P. 'Nikê's Cosmetics: Dramatic Victory, the End of Comedy, and Beyond', in C. Kraus, S. Goldhill, H. P. Foley, and J. Elsner (eds.), Visualizing the Tragic (Oxford 2007) 257–87
Foley, H. P. 'Tragedy and Politics in Aristophanes' Acharnians', JHS 108 (1988) 32–47, reprinted in Segal (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aristophanes
McGlew, J. F. '"Everybody Wants to Make a Speech": Cleon and Aristophanes on Politics and Fantasy', Arethusa 29 (1996) 339–62
Fisher, N. R. E. 'Symposiasts, Fish-eaters and Flatterers: Social Mobility and Moral Concerns in Old Comedy' in J. Harvey and D. Wilkins (eds.) The Rivals of Aristophanes (London 2000) 355–98



Assessed Essay 2: To be handed in by 12 noon, Tuesday 24th February 2015

Write an essay of approximately 2500 words on ONE of the following topics:

1. Discuss Aristophanes' presentation of women in Lysistrata and Thesmophoriazusae.

Robson, J. Aristophanes: an introduction (London 2009)
Pelling, C. B. R. Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London 2000)
Ruffell, I. Politics & Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy
Foley, H. P. 'The "female intruder" reconsidered: women in Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae', Classical Philology 77 (1982) 1–21
Hall, E. 'Female figures and metapoetry in Old Comedy', in Harvey and Wilkins (eds.) The Rivals of Aristophanes, 407–18
Faraone, C. 'Salvation and female heroics in the parodos of Aristophanes' Lysistrata', JHS 117 (1997) 38–59


2. Assess the contribution of Aristophanes to ancient literary criticism.

In addition to the many of the principal items of bibliography listed, see also in particular:
Wright, M. The Comedian as Critic : Greek Old Comedy and Poetics (London 2012)
Ford, A. The Origins of Criticism (Princeton 2002) – use index


3. Why is there so much Tragedy in Old Comedy?

Taplin, O. P. 'Tragedy and trugedy', CQ 33 (1983) 331–3
Taplin, O. P. 'Fifth-Century Tragedy and Comedy, a Synkrisis', JHS 106 (1986) 163–74, reprinted in Segal, Oxford Readings in Aristophanes
Silk, M. S. Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy
Silk, M. S. 'Aristophanic Paratragedy', in A. Sommerstein, S. Halliwell et al. (eds.), Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis (Bari 1993) 477–504
Zeitlin, F. I. 'Travesties of Gender and Genre in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazousae', in Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Greek Literature (Chicago 1996) 375–416
Pucci, P. 'Euripides and Aristophanes: What does Tragedy Teach?', in C. Kraus, S. Goldhil, H. P. Foley, and J. Elsner (eds.) Visualizing the Tragic: Drama, Myth, and Ritual in Greek Art and Literature (Oxford 2007), 105–26 TWO COPIES AVAILABLE FOR SHORT LOAN FROM DEPARTMENTAL OFFICE
Foley, H. P. 'Tragedy and Politics in Aristophanes' Acharnians', JHS 108 (1988) 32–47, reprinted in Segal (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aristophanes


4. 'Aristophanes is never serious about making peace with Sparta.' Discuss, with reference to TWO of the following: Acharnians; Peace; Lysistrata.

Pelling, C. B. R. Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London 2000)
Silk, M. S. Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy – as usual, consult on 'serious'
Ruffell, I. Politics & Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy – use index for key plays, passages, and discussions
McDowell, D. Aristophanes and Athens, ch. 4.
De Ste. Croix, G. E. M. The Origins of the Peloponnesian War 225ff., with Cawkwell, G., Classical Review 25 (1975) 258–61