Tragedy at the comic competition

Matthew C Farmer, University of Pennsylvania


Mockery of tragedy is a striking and recurrent feature of the poetry of Aristophanes. Critics have sometimes denied that the other poets of Old Comedy were interested in tragedy; even among critics who uphold paratragedy as a feature of the genre generally, there has been no systematic examination of the presence of tragedy in the comic fragments. This dissertation expands our understanding of Aristophanic paratragedy by situating it in the context of Old Comic practice generally. In Chapter One, I provide a thorough survey and discussion of paratragedy in the Old Comic fragments; I make two central arguments: first, parody and mockery of tragedy were widespread among the comic poets of the late fifth and early fourth centuries BCE; and second, by treating the poets of tragedy to the same critical discourse as they did their rivals in comedy, the Old Comic poets created a literary rivalry with their contemporary tragedians. In the remainder of the dissertation I argue that Aristophanes wove this rivalry between tragedy and comedy into the plots of the plays Wasps (Chapter Two), Thesmophoriazusae (Chapter Three), Wealth, and Gerytades (Chapter Four). In each instance, I reveal metatheater and parody as crucial devices for Aristophanes' engagement with tragedy and other genres of poetry. Aristophanes and the other poets of Old Comedy create a rivalry with tragedy as a rhetorical strategy to enable them to promote their poetry and to fashion their poetic selves.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Classical Studies|Theater History

Recommended Citation

Farmer, Matthew C, "Tragedy at the comic competition" (2013). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3565051.