What kinds of humour does Aristophanes use in his plays? To what extent would a modern audience find his plays funny?

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                                                                                              Tosin Abdullai.


    What kinds of humour does Aristophanes use in his plays? To what extent would a modern audience find his plays funny?                

  Points you may like to include:

  • Description, analysis and classification of the humour in the plays.                
  • Definition of a “modern audience”      

Comparison of the appeal of the plays you have read    


            In the course of the three plays we have studied, Aristophanes adopts various types of humour in reaching out to the audience in different ways. For instance satirical humour, sexual humour, visual humour, slapstick humour and various other types. These various kinds of humour are used to echo the themes, which are explored in these three plays. An example is the satirical humour in the Acharnians, which represents the exploitation in the city of Greece by the so-called foreign ambassadors. These various types of humour will appeal depending on their background generations. For instance, the same elements of a comedy that were found humorous by an average Athenian citizen would not be the same as a member of today’s modern audience. In reference to a “modern audience”, I mean the generation of today, who are presently alive in my country, Nigeria.  

            The first classification of humour in the plays are the satirical humour. Aristophanes adapts the use of this to portray the situation of Athens. It is from this form of humour, all the other classifications of humour are rooted. In other words, the satirical humour brings about all other forms of humour in the play, as it makes fun of the true situation of Athens. For example, in the Archanians, the ambassadors represent the ways in which Athens exploits other nations for their resources in the name of assistance. “You sent us, gentlemen, to the great king, with a salary of two drachmas a person per day, in the year when Euthymenes was archon. And may I say we had a very hard time of it”. This illustrates that Athens has located such representatives out of self-interest who have been away for eleven years, which means they have earned 8000 drachmas each, doing nothing but receiving presents and entertainment in various Kingdoms. This example portrays elements of the general themes of the play such as exploitation and greed. It is important that I note that a modern audience would have enjoyed such element of humour, as satirical humour is one of the great elements of comedy used in the world today.

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Another form of humour is sexual humour, which also plays an important role in Aristophanes’ dramas. Sexual humour is classified into two aspects- Heterosexual humour, which means jokes rooted in sexual acts between a man and a woman, for instance, “Say one of the slave girls leaves the door on the latch- you can bend her over. I mean bind her over. That’s the usual procedure, isn’t it?” and homosexual humour, meaning jokes rooted in sexual acts involving two people of the same sex; in this case, mostly two men. In Peace he says, “Another, another! From a boy ...

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