What are the most effective aspects of Aristophanes' comic technique in :
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What are the most effective aspects of Aristophanes' comic technique in : Aristophanes' play "Qesmoforiazogsai" ("The Poet and the Women") is an excellent comedy. Standing the test of time and the often diminishing process of translation into English it remains amusing today just as it doubtlessly was to its original Athenian audience. It is a well-controlled comedy with a fluent plot, striking dialogue and intelligent characterisation. But above all it passes the fundamental test of its genre in that it is funny. Aristophanes employs a rich and diverse array of comic techniques and devices to prevent the play from ever going stale; some are satirical; some are obscene; some are visual, for it is important to remember that "The Poet and the Women" is a play and hence meant for performance to a live audience. "The Poet and the Women", to use a modern term, is essentially a situation comedy. Much of the humour comes from the incredible and bizarre situations into which the protagonists are delivered. Creating an amusing situation, out of which comes the other humour, provides the backbone for the comedy. It is essential that the most amusing events occur to the most humorous character and the Old Man's (1)
There are also role reversals in the opening scenes as the Old Man and Euripides meet Agathon's servant. The servant refers to the Old Man as an "ill bred provincial" and says that he must have been "a very rude little boy".(page102) There is irony in the fact that one in servitude should comment on the breeding of a citizen and it is probably for comic effect that the servant addresses Euripides' companion in such a derogatory way. The role reversals are therefore one of the comic techniques which Aristophanes uses most effectively in the play. The use of traditional stereotypes is a common comic technique in order to help the audience to relate to the comedy and Aristophanes also uses it to great effect. Euripides, the famous playwright, is portrayed as aloof, superior and intellectual: EURIPIDES: You can't talk about hearing things that you are going to see.......... .......Oh, I can teach you any number of things like that. (page100) The Old Man is the archetypal 'dirty old man': vulgar, impolite and always with something to say: SERVANT: .......he casteth it - OLD MAN: And stuffeth it up his fanny. (page102) The Scythian Guard is also a stereotype. The Scythians, who came from the region North of the Black Sea, were traditionally known for being wild, uncultured and tough.
Surprisingly the women then help him by throwing the Scythian off their trail. This amusing twist ends the play as it started, with a joke. Humour is a subjective concept and it is difficult to say which aspects of Aristophanes' comic technique are most effective in this play beyond saying that, owing to the wide diversity of humour, there is something for everybody to laugh at. In conclusion, however, whilst we can admire Aristophanes for his literary ability, for the characters he has created, for the comic situations he has portrayed, and for the acerbic parodies he has effected, the aspects of comedy which usually get the biggest laughs, and which in The Poet and the Women have best stood the test of time, are the lowest aspects, the grotesque, the obscene and the slapstick. These are the aspects which leave the strongest impression having read the play, and I imagine, with all the visual effects which I have mentioned, the impression would be equally strong after watching a performance of the play. That the main character, the Old Man, who is constantly in the action, is so dependant on these forms of comedy, underlines their importance as a comic technique. END NOTES 1. Due to some academic dispute as to whether Euripides' elderly relative should be called "Mnesilochus" I have referred to this character as "Old Man" throughout. 2.
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