HISTORY
ANCIENT GREECE
POLITICAL COMEDY
Donate please



Comedy originated from the processions and the rituals connected with fertility.
During these feastivals, jokes and obscene language would acquire a precise ritual meanings: derision and mockery among the members of community were not a mirth expression, but fixed behaviours to favour the fecundity of nature.

Comedy later acquired its theatrical form, and from 486 BC it would be played in Athens during public festivals, ( Lenean festival in February and Dionysian festival at the end of March).
The ancient comedy was a clear expression of Athenian democracy, as it dealt with current affairs which were showed in a comic of distorted version.
On stage there were not heroes (this would have happened in the following age), but real characters, caricatured politicians , private citizens derided because of their own vices, mocked poets and philosophers.
Comedy was also an instrument to control and influence public opinion.

An anonymous author wrote:
"Athenians do not allow to bring the people on the comic stage nor to speak ill of them, because they do not want to appear in a bad light. But they appreciate and ask for personal attacks against private citizens, being aware that he who gets mocked by comedians does not belong to the people nor to the mass, but he is rich or noble or an influent citizen.

Aristophanes, the main exponent of ancient comedy, in his debut on stage mocked Cleon, one of the strong men of democracy, so fiercely that he got sued.
Nevertheless, he kept on addressing his mockery against him.

In the comedy "The Cavaliers" he imagines two infamous characters competing for power, a tanner (Cleon) and a sausage seller, and he addressed his audience by saying:
"Because it is by such people that you want to be ruled".

The comedies Lysistrata and The Assemblywomen are even more paradoxical. The firs one describes a sort of sexual strike carried out by the women of Athens and Sparta to force their men to sign a peace treaty.
In the second one, instead, Athenian women decide, in front of male incapability, to carry out a coup to found a town where no family nor private ownership exist. So comedy reflected Athenian politics, despite distorting it, and the great events of the years of its largest expansion.



HISTORY ANCIENT GREECE