Sunday, November 20, 2016


Old Comedy dates from the establishment of democracy by Pericles, about 450 B.C.E.

Aristophanes and other comic dramatists satirized Greek culture, human behavior, and popular or political figures of the day. Satire's purpose was to make a better society through ridicule and laughter.

Comedy borrows much of tragedy's components: such as choral dances, masked actors, metre and music, scenery and stage mechanism, among the structure of tragedies: prologue, parados, episodes, exodus, stichomythia or debate, etc.

Instead of tragedy, comedy focuses on a "happy idea" whereupon a bad character or idea is exposed, ridiculed, and overcome. Good people rise to a happy ending, with conflicts resolved--and no one dies (usually). In The Frogs Aeschylus and Euripides have already died when the play begins.

Coming from phallic songs, Old Comedy often focuses on sexual or marital issues.

As you watch/read the play please look for and jot down in your notes examples of: Phallic or Yonic Symbols.

For HOMEWORK: Please complete the play. Answer 6 questions from each category (choose 1 question for each Aristotelean category: plot, character, theme/idea, language/diction, music, spectacle.

PLOT (choose 1 to answer):
  • 1. Test the three unities of time, place, and action against the play Lysistrata. Did Aristophanes follow these rules? 
  • 2. Contemporary movies tend to be episodic and rarely follow the three unities. The intricate plots and subplots jump around in time and location. The plots and settings are more sensational. Since movies usually have extremely large budgets, reusable sets are not common. However, many classic black-and-white movies followed the unities closely. List one movie that follows the three unities. Write a three-line plot summary of this film explaining how it meets the criteria of following the unities. 
  • 3. How realistic is the plot of Lysistrata? Would Lysistrata’s strategy for ending the war work today or in recent wars? Discuss the 1960s-70s slogan, from the Viet Nam era, “Make love not war.” How have times/perspectives changed about war since the 60's/70's?
CHARACTER (choose 1 to answer):
  • 1. How do you as the audience view the character of Lysistrata? What figure(s) in mythology, tragedy, or literature does she most resemble? Would an ancient Greek audience respond to her differently than today’s audiences? 
  • 2. How are the “foreigner” characters depicted in this play? Discuss how Lysistrata and the Athenian women respond to their initial observations of the women from other lands as they arrive at the top of the play. Discuss differences in language, dialect, and slang. 
  • 3. Why do you think Aristophanes chose to have two choruses? Why older men and women? How does this choice add to the comedy? 
  • 4. How are the male characters depicted differently than the female characters in language, actions, and physical appearance? 
THEME (choose 1 to answer):
  • How universal is (are) the play’s theme(s)? Discuss some of these themes. Do these apply today? How do you feel about these issues in your life? Would you be willing to take desperate measures to speak up against, change, or fight for these themes?
LANGUAGE (choose 1 to answer):
  • 1. How are analogies and metaphors used throughout the play to further plot, character, and theme? Copy your favorite analogies and metaphors in your notes and write a paragraph about how they develop and move the play. 
  • 2. How many puns can be found on one word or image? Locate puns on words and images used in the play. Record some in your notes. Explain how puns and plays on language help to create the humor or tone in the play. 
  • 3. How is language used to portray differences in character, intelligence, place of origin, rank, and gender in the play? List examples and explain their effect. 
  • 4. How does the rhythm of the language differ between the choral odes and the dialogue in the play? Find scenes where stichomythia, short one-liners exchanged between characters, is used to enhance the rhythmic exchange of dialogue and explain its effect on the reader/viewer.
MUSIC (choose 1 to answer):
  • 1. Imagine the choral odes sung by the men’s and women’s choruses. How might singing and dancing these odes add to the comedy of the play? 
  • 2. Why do you suppose Aristotle placed music so low on the priorities of dramatic elements when so much of the play is based in music, dance, and internal rhythm? 
SPECTACLE (choose 1 to answer):
  • 1. Play a director. Keeping in mind the ancient Greek stage, how might the play be staged? Where would the main characters enter? Where would the two choruses enter and per form? How would the gate to the Akropolis be positioned, and how would the men storm the gate? Examine some of the important scenes in the play and consider how these scenes would be staged on a typical Greek Theater stage
  • 2. Considering ancient theater traditions, what special effects might be used in this play? Which scenes would use spectacle. Consider building structures, masks, sound effects, costumes, props, and the passing of time.
Complete your answers by supporting your answers with textual evidence. Homework is due Nov. 28.

Extra Credit: Watch Chi-Raq (2015) by Spike Lee and compare/contrast the contemporary film with the play Lysistrata. As question #7 of your homework, complete your comparison between Spike Lee's film and Lysistrata.

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