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COMEDY 100.00%
Roman. Like the Greeks, the Italian people had their popular dramatic pieces; the versus Fescennini, for instance, which were at first associated with the mimic drama, first introduced in 390 B.C. from Etruria in consequence of a plague, to appease the wrath of heaven (see FESCENNINI VERSUS). From this combination sprang the satura, a performance consisting of flute-playing, mimic dance, songs, and dialogue. The Atellana (q.v.) was a second species of popular Italian comedy, distinguished from others by having certain fixed or stock characters. The creator of the regular Italian comedy and tragedy was a Greek named Livius Andronicus, about 240 B.C. Like the Italian tragedy, the Italian comedy was, in form and contents, an imitation, executed with more or less freedom, of the Greek. It was the New Greek Comedy which the Romans took as their model. This comedy, which represents scenes from Greek life, was called palliata, after the Greek pallium, or cloak. The dramatic satura, and the Atellana, which afterwards supplanted the satura as a concluding farce, continued to exist side by side. The Latin comedy was brought to perfection by Plautus and Terence, the only Roman dramatists from whose hands we still possess complete plays. We should also mention Naevius and Ennius (both of whom wrote tragedies as well as comedies) Caecilius, and Turpilius, with whom, towards the end of the 3nd century B.C., this style of composition died out. About the middle of the 2nd century B.C. a new kind of comedy, the togata, (from toga) made its appearance. The form of it was still Greek, but the life and the characters Italian. The togata was represented by Titinius, Atta, and Afranius, who was accounted the master in this kind of writing. At the beginning of the 1st century B.C. the Atellana assumed an artistic form in the hands of Pomponius and Novius; and some fifty years later the mimus, also an old form of popular farce, was similarly handled by Laberius and Publilius Syrus. The mimus drove all the other varieties of comedy from the field, and held its ground until late in the imperial period. The Roman comedy, like its model, the New Comedy of the Greeks, had no chorus, the intervals being filled up by performances on the flute. The play consisted, like the Roman tragedy, partly of passages of spoken dialogue in iambic trimeters, partly of musical scenes called cantica. (See CANTICUM)
 
COMEDY 100.00%
Greek. The Greek comedy, like the Greek tragedy and satyric drama, had its origin in the festivals of Dionysus. As its name, komodia, or the song of the komos, implies, it arose from the unrestrained singing and jesting common in the komos, or merry procession of Dionysus. According to the tradition, it was the Doric inhabitants of Megara, well known for their love of fun, who first worked up these jokes into a kind of farce. The inhabitants of Megara accordingly boasted that they were the founders of Greek comedy. From Megara, it was supposed, the popular farce found its way to the other Dorian communities, and one Susarion was said to have transplanted it to the Attic deme of Icaria about 580 B.C. No further information is in existence as to the nature of the Megarian or Dorian popular comedy. The local Doric farce was developed into literary form in Sicily by Epicharmus of Cos (about 540-450 B.C.). This writer gave a comic treatment not only to mythology, but to subjects taken from real life. The contemporary of Epicharmus, Phormus or Phormis, and his pupil Dinolochus, may also be named as representatives of the Dorian comedy. The beginnings of the Attic comedy, like those of the Attic tragedy, are associated with the deme of Icaria, known to have been the chief seat of the worship of Dionysus in Attica. Not only Thespis, the father of tragedy, but also Chionides and Magnes (about 550 B.C.), who, if the story may be trusted, first gave a more artistic form to the Megarian comedy introduced by Susarion, were natives of Icaria. Comedy did not become, in the proper sense, a part of literature until it had found welcome and consideration at Athens in the time of the Persian wars; until its form had been moulded on the finished outlines of tragedy; and until, finally, it had received from the State the same recognition as tragedy. The Old Comedy, as it was called, had its origin in personal abuse. It was Crates who first gave it its peculiar political character, and his younger contemporary Cratinus who turned it mainly or exclusively in this direction. The masters of the Old Comedy are usually hold to be Cratimis and his younger contemporaries, Eupolis and Aristophanes. It attained its youth in the time of Pericles and the Peloponnesian war; the period when the Athenian democracy had reached its highest development. These three masters had many rivals, who fell, however, on the whole beneath their level, among others Pherecrates, Hermippus, Telclides, Phrynichus, Ameipsias, Plato and Theopompus. A good idea of the characteristics of the Old Comedy may be formed from the eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes.* The Greek tragedy has a meaning for all time; but the Old Comedy, the most brilliant and striking production of all Athenian literature, has its roots in Athenian life, and addressed the Athenian public only. Dealing from the very first with the grotesque and absurd side of things, it was the scourge of all vice, folly, and weakness. The social life of Athens, so restless, and yet so open, offered an inexhaustible store of material; and the comedian was always sure of a witty, laughter-loving public, on whom no allusion was lost. The first aim of the Athenian comedy was, no doubt, to make men laugh, but this was not all. Beneath it there lay a serious and patriotic motive. The poet,who was secured by the license of the stage, wished to bring to light and turn to ridicule the abuses and degeneracy of his time. The Attic comedians are all admirers of the good old times, and, accordingly, the declared enemies of the social innovations which were beginning to make their way, the signs in many cases, no doubt, of approaching decline. It was not, however, the actual phenomena of life which were sketched in the Old Comedy. The latter is really a grotesque and fantastic caricature; the colours are laid on thick, and propriety, as we moderns understand it, is thrown to the winds. These plays abound in coarseness and obscenity of the broadest kind, the natural survival of the rude license allowed at the Dionysiac festival. The choice and treatment of the subjects show the same tendency to the grotesque and fantastic. Fancy and caprice revel at their will, unchecked by any regard either for the laws of poetical probability or for adequacy of occasion. The action is generally quite simple, sketched out in a few broad strokes, and carried out in a motley series of loosely connected scenes. The language is always choice and fine, never leaving the forms of the purest Atticism. The metres admit a greater freedom and movement than those of the tragedy. A comedy, like a tragedy, consisted of the dramatic dialogue, written mostly in iambic sendrii and the lyrical chorus. The division of the dialogue into prologos, epeisodion, and exodos, and of the chorus into parodos and stasima, are the same as in tragedy (see TRAGEDY). But, while the tragic chorus consisted of fifteen singers, there were twenty-four in the comic. A peculiarity of the comic chorus is the parabasis, a series of lines entirely unconnected with the plot, in which the poet, through thE mouth of the chorus, addresses the public directly about his own concerns, or upon burning questions of the day (see PARABASIS). Like the tragedies, the comedies were performed at the great festivals of Dionysus, the Dionysia and Lenaea. On each occasion five poets competed for the prize, each with one play. For a short time, but a short time only, a limitation had been put upon the absolute freedom with which the poets of the Old Comedy lashed the shortcomings of the government and its chief men. The downfall of the democracy, however, deprived them of this liberty. The disastrous issue of the Peloponnesian war had, moreover, ruined the Athenian finances, and made it necessary to give up the expensive chorus, and with it the parabasis. Thus deprived of the means of existence, the Old Comedy was doomed to extinction. In its place came what was called the Middle Comedy, from about 400-338 B.C. This was a modification of the Old Comedy, with a character corresponding to the altered circumstance of the time. The Middle Comedy was in no sense political; it avoided all open attack on individuals, and confined itself to treating the typical faults and weaknesses of mankind. Its main line was burlesque and parody, of which the objects were the tragedies and the mythology in general. It was also severe upon the lives of the philosophers. It dealt in typical characters, such as bullies, parasites, and courtesans. The writers of the Middle Comedy were very prolific than eight hundred of their Play having survived as late as the 2nd century A.D. The most celebrated of them were Antiphanes of Athens and Alexis of Thurii; next to these came Eubulus, and Anaxandridas of Rhodes. A new departure is signalized by the dramas of what is called the New Comedy. In these, as in the modern society drama, life was represented in its minutest details. The New Comedy offered a play regularly constructed like that of tragedy, characterized by fine humour, and but seldom touching on public life. The language was that of ordinary society, and the plot was worked out in a connected form from the beginning to the dénouement. The chief art of the poets of the New Comedy lay in the development of the plot and the faithful portraiture of character. The stock subjects are illicit love affairs; for honest women lived in retirement, and stories of honourable love, therefore, were practically excluded from the stage. The ordinary characters are young men in love, fathers of the good-natured or the scolding type, cunning slaves, panders, parasites, and bragging officers. Besides the dialogue proper, we find traces of parts written in lyric metres for the higher style of singing. These were, in all probability, like the dialogue, performed by the actors. The fate of the New resembles that of the Middle Comedy, only a few fragments of its numerous pieces having survived. Of some of them, however, we have Latin adaptations by Plautus and Terence. Its greatest master was Menander, besides whom should be mentioned Diphilus, Philemon, Philippides, Posidippus, and Apollodorus of Carystus. The New Comedy flourished from 330 B.C. till far into the 3rd century A.D. In about 300 B.C. the old Dorian farce was revived in a literary form in Southern Italy by Rhinthon, the creator of the Hildrotragoedia. The Hilarotragoedia was for the most part a parody of the tragic stories.
 
DINOLOCHUS 100.00%
See COMEDY.
 
SUSARION 89.08%
The originator of the Attic comedy. (See COMEDY, 1.)
 
PALLIATA 86.69%
A branch of Roman comedy. (See COMEDY, 2.)
 
MAGNES 83.06%
One of the first founders of Attic Comedy. (See COMEDY.)
 
PHORMIS 78.89%
A Greek poet, writer of Dorian comedy. (See COMEDY.)
 
TOGATA 49.05%
[The general term for a play with an Italian plot and surroundings, including proetextatoe (tragedies) and tabernarioe (comedies). See Diomedes, p. 489, Keil, who makes it clear that the term togata is not confined to comedy, and that Horace, De Arte Poetica 288, is wrong in distinguishing togata from proetexta, as comedy from tragedy.] (See COMEDY, 2, andPRAeTEXTA.) [H.N.]
 
ANAXANDRIDES 45.24%
A Greek poet of the Middle Comedy, a Rhodian, flourished in 376 B.C. He is stated to have been the first who made love affairs the subject of comedy. His plays were characterized by brightness and humour, but only fragments of them are preserved.
 
THEOPOMPUS 43.40%
A Greek poet of the Old Comedy, a younger contemporary of Aristophanes; he is known to have been engaged in composition as late as about 370 B.C. Only fragments remain of his twenty-four dramas, which prepared the way for the transition to the Middle Comedy.
 
ATTA 37.27%
A Roman dramatic poet, author of togatoe (see COMEDY), who died B.C. 77, and was a contemporary of Afranius. He was celebrated for his power of drawing character, especially in conversational scenes in which women were introduced. Of his comedies only twelve titles remain, with a few insignificant fragments.
 
PHERECRATES 35.73%
After Cratinus, Eupolis, and Aristophanes, of whom he was an older contemporary, the most eminent writer of the Old Attic comedy. He was famed among the ancients for his wealth of invention and for the purity of his Attic Greek. We have the titles of fifteen of his comedies, and a few fragments of his plays.
 
TITINIUS 35.48%
A Roman comic poet, the earliest representative of the fabula togata. (See COMEDY.) He flourished about 150 B.C. Owing to his skill in portraying character, he was ranked next to Terence. Of his comedies we only possess fifteem titles and three fragments of a popular character.
 
EPICHARMUS 32.40%
A Greek comedian, born in the island of Cos, about 540 B.C. When only a child of three months old he came with his father Helothales, a physician, to Megara in Sicily, where he died about 450 at the age of 90. Like his father, he is said to have been personally acquainted with Pythagoras, and whether this is so or no, his philosophical attainments were not inconsiderable. It was Epicharmus who gave to the Doric comedy of Sicily its literary form. Thirty-five of his plays, written in the Doric dialect, are known to us by their titles, and a few meagre fragments have survived. They differed from the Attic comedy in having no chorus. Their subjects were taken partly from the stories of gods and heroes, which they burlesqued and caricatured, and partly from life. The plots seem to have been simple and the action rapid. The philosophical leanings of Epicharmus are shown in numerous sayings of deep practical wisdom. Plato said that Epicharmus was the prince of comedy, as Homer was of tragedy, a striking testimony to the perfection of his compositions in their own line. In his mythical comedy he was imitated by Dinolochus of Syracuse,
 
CRATINUS 32.15%
was, with Eupolis and Aristophanes, a chief representative of the Old Comedy at Athens. He was born in 520 B.C., and died in 423, thus flourishing in the age of Pericles,, who was the special object of his attacks. He wrote twenty-one pieces, and gained the prize nine times. The last occasion on which he was victor was shortly before his death, and the defeated comedy was The Clouds of Aristophanes. Cratinus' play was the Pytine or "Wineflask," in which the poet courted the ridicule of the public by confessing himself a hard drinker. His wit was brilliant, but more caustic than humorous. He may be regarded as the founder of political comedy. Only the titles and a few fragments of his plays have survived
 
PLAUTUS 30.28%
The greatest of the Roman comic poets, born 254 B.C. at Sarsina in Umbria, of humble extraction. Having earned some money by finding employment at Rome among workmen engaged by persons who gave theatrical representations, he set up a business outside the city; but in this undertaking he lost his property. Returning to Rome, he fell into such poverty that he was obliged to take service with a miller, and earn wages by turning a handmill. It was here that he began to write comedies in verse, and in later times three pieces were still known, which he was said to have composed while thus employed. He continued actively writing to an extreme old age, and died in 184 B.C. His productivity must have been altogether extraordinary, even if a considerable portion of the 130 pieces which were known by the ancients under his name, were not really his work; for not only were the pieces of a certain Plautius reckoned as his, on account of the similarity of name, but numerous comedies by forgotten poets, who worked in his style, were generally ascribed to him as the most popular of poets. Not only was he a favourite with the public and long remained so (even in Cicero's time pieces by him were put upon the Stage) but he also early attracted the interest of scholars, to whom he offered a rich material for study in the departments of philology, criticism, and the history of literature. Special and peculiar attention was paid to him by Varro, who composed several works about him and established the claims of 21 comedies as undisputedly genuine. Of these "Varronian plays" we still possess 20 more or less complete, and of the last, the Vidularia , considerable fragments. These extant plays (in addition to which there are a number of fragments of lost plays), are the oldest complete monuments of Roman literature. They have not come down to us quite in their original form, but bear manifold traces of having undergone revision on the occasion of representations after the poet's death, especially in the latter half of the 2nd century B.C. This is particularly the case with the prologues, which are prefixed to most of the pieces. The plays have been handed down in the following order: Amphitruo, Asinaria (comedy of asses), Aulularia (comedy of a pot), Captivi (the prisoners), Curculio, Casina, Cistellaria (comedy of a chest), Epidicus, Bacchides, Mostellaria (comedy of ghosts), Menaechmi, Miles gloriosus (the braggart), Mercators (trader), Pseudolus, Paenulus(the Carthaginian), Persa(the Persian), Rudens (the cable), Stichus, Trinunmus (the three coins), Truculentus (the grumbler), Vidularia (Comedy of a trank) The titles refer sometimes to characters, sometimes to the action of the piece. If several of them are comparatively weak in plot and character-drawing, still not a few belong to the first rank. Such are the Aulularia, Menaechmi (the former the model of Moliere's Avare, the latter of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors), Captivi, Bacchides, Mostellaria Miles gloriosus, Pseudolus, Rudens, and Trinummus. The Amphitruo is remarkable as an instance of comic treatment of a mythical subject. The Miles is one of the oldest pieces; the Stichus was brought out in 200, the Pseudolus in 192, the Trinummus about 190; the Truculentus also dates from the extreme old age of the poet. Though Plautus followed Greek models, such as Philemon, Diphilus, and Menander, he did not simply translate his originals, but worked them up with great freedom and nationalised them by additions of his own. He is a master in the use of language, metre, and material, and possesses an inexhaustible and pungent, if often coarse, wit. That he understood how to handle serious and moral subjects is proved by the Captivi and Tinummus. He must be reckoned among the greatest geniuses of his nation.--The name of the Aulularia of Plautus was once erroneously given to a play with the alternative title of the Querolus, a wretched production of the 4th Century A.D.
 
AFRANIUS 28.24%
The chief master of the Fabfula Togata. (See COMEDY.) Flourished B.C. 100. In his pictures of Roman life be took Menander for his model, and with great success. Cicero calls him witty and a master of language. To judge by the number of the titles of his, comedies which have survived (more than forty, with scanty fragments), he was a prolific author; from them we gather that his subjects were mostly taken from family life, His plays kept possession of the stage longer than those of most comic poets, being still acted in Nero's time.
 
AMEIPSIAS 27.67%
A Greek poet of the old comedy, contemporary with Aristophanes, whom he twice overcame. Of his plays only slight fragments remain.
 
TELECLEIDES 25.76%
A Greek poet of the old comedy, and a violent opponent of Pericles [Plutarch, Per. 3, 16]. He is said to have written only six pieces, of which a few fragments are still extant.
 
CORDAX 24.37%
The licentious dance of the ancient Greek comedy. To perform it off the stage was regarded as a sign of intoxication or profligacy.
 
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