Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy: Affect, Aesthetics, and the Canon.

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Author: Anna Peterson
Date: Spring-Summer 2019
From: Comparative Drama(Vol. 53, Issue 1-2)
Publisher: Comparative Drama
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,277 words

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Mario Telo. Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy: Affect, Aesthetics, and the Canon. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Pp. xiii + 237. $55.00.

The reception of Greek Comedy in antiquity is a thorny topic for literary historians. By the end of Aristophanes's career (380s BCE), the genre was undergoing significant changes and within half a century would look drastically different in terms of its focus, tone, and form than the plays of Aristophanes's early career. What is clear is that Aristophanes quickly became the figurehead of what came to be known as "Old Comedy," yet this was not an entirely obvious choice. If the only information that we had to go on was the number of victories in dramatic competitions, we might expect one of Aristophanes's main rivals, Cratinus or Eupolis, to emerge as the figurehead of Greek Old Comedy. Why Hellenistic and subsequent ancient scholars singled out Aristophanes as Old Comedy's star is an important question if we are ever to make sense of the genre's complicated reception by later authors, including Thomas More, Ben Jonson, and Moliere.

Mario Telo contends that the answer to this question can be found in the famous failure of Clouds in 423 BCE. Despite being arguably one of Aristophanes's most well-known plays today, the play came in third (last), losing to Cratinus's Pytine (Wine Flask) and Amepsias's Connus. This loss appears to have been particularly jarring for Aristophanes. In Wasps, performed in the following year, Aristophanes blames his audience for failing to recognize the service his comedy was doing for them, and he reiterates this charge in the surviving revised version of Clouds, which was composed most likely sometime between 419 and 417 BCE and was never staged. For Telo, Aristophanes's defense of the original Clouds in these two plays is a form of "proto-canonical discourse"--that is to say, Telo regards Aristophanes's desire to be afforded a place in the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A616448711