By Cedric H. Whitman
Mostly one is chary of claiming this sort of factor a few severe paintings, even though individual the writer; the extra one seems to be down the lengthy point of view of literary experiences, the extra one feels how a lot of what we're prone to consider because the shattering discovery of our personal iteration is de facto the typical perception of the a long time, in a different way phrased to slot the style. yet Professor Whitman bargains anything unattempted, as far as i do know, from antiquity to the current day, and that's an entire and systematic examine of Aristophanes, now not as a resource for overdue fifth-century historical past and antiquities, nor as a record within the heritage of drama, nor as a natural spring of Attic vocabulary and syntax, yet as a poet; a comic book poet.
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Extra resources for Aristophanes and the Comic Hero
This is not quite "selfishness," for that implies concerns too small and methods too direct; "selfmanship" connotes a world-encountering wholeness, complete with every kind of deviousness and audacious grasp. One of the most revealing commentaries on this kind of comic heroism is to be found in the deathless hero of the popular modern Greek shadow theater, a certain Karaghiozes, whose significance will be described in what is to follow. Here be it said only, in reply to possible objections to the use of a modern Greek cultural phenomenon as a key to anything ancient, that there is a growing tendency to recognize the continuity of Greek culture from its beginnings to the present, especially as regards popular psychology.
2 In the Acharntans the hero's ultimate exploit is to win a first in the Feast of Cups, the yearly drinking contest, which was a favorite feature of the Anthesteria; and as he staggers off to collect his prize, supported by two wenches, the chorus follows him with hallelujahs. In the Knights the Sausage Seller is victorious in a contest of vileness, and proves his supremacy by outstripping Cleon in the attractive accomplishments of vulgarity, demagoguery, and bribery. T h e Clouds is a difficult play, in view of the confusion arising between the earlier, lost version and the one which we have; however the earlier one ended, our version ends with the hero, in whatever mood of regeneration and repentance, explicitly rejecting the idea of due legal process and squaring accounts by an act of premeditated arson, performed with the good will of Hermes, god of rogues.
Large sprays of wit, satire, slapstick, lyric, whimsy, realism, obscenity, and sheer nonsense come tumbling out in bacchanalian abundance, and in the midst of the cheerful tumult, it is vain, not to say absurd, to try to catch the poet, unmask him, and make him say his moral catechism. The effort to do so always leads to the same maddening and irresistible figure who avers that he is the best influence in Greece, ι 4 CRITICISM AND OLD COMEDY constantly improving his fellow citizens by defending them from demagogues, sophists, and Euripides, and feeding them on the finest comic fare conceivable, in contrast to the vulgar and poverty-stricken offerings of his less fortunate rivals.