DEMOS-TYNDAREUS (410 BC) – Written by Polyzelus.
The Tyndareus part of this political comedy’s title refers to the mythical figure who came back from the dead like Lazarus in Christian beliefs. The Demos part is the embodiment of “the people” and comes from the same root word that “democracy” does. In this satire Demos represents the Athenian people just like he did in Aristophanes’ The Knights and in other comedies. Think of a figure like Uncle Sam representing Americans or John Bull representing the British or a person on their knees with their hands raised in surrender representing the French (rimshot).
The title is referring to the resurrected democracy of Athens following the fall of the government imposed by the oligarchic coup of 411 BC – 410 BC. This restoration would later be followed by ANOTHER oligarchic coup six years later and another restoration of democracy, but of course none of this was known when Demos- Tyndareus was first performed. The scattered fragments reveal that the comedy dealt with an unknown figure orienting the resurrected Demos to the political climate of the newly- restored democracy. Continue reading
The satirical comedies written and performed during the glory years of the ancient Athenian Democracy still pack a punch after more than 2,400 years. Athens faced many of the same issues and dilemmas we Americans face. Part of the reason for that is the fact that our founding fathers were great students of ancient Greek democracy and modeled some of our own institutions on the Athenian model.
The comedies are also much more sophisticated than modern audiences expect, featuring political views, sexual material and metatheatrical humor that seems several centuries ahead of their time. Breaking the fourth wall is not a postmodern concept like some people have convinced themselves – it was a convention established in these ancient works of comedy.
Irreverence toward any and all subjects – including the gods they worshipped – was permitted by the Athenians in the “anything goes” arena of the Theatre of Dionysus, where the comedies competed with each other at festivals, chiefly the Dionysia and the Lenaea.
TRIPHALLES – By Aristophanes. This comedy was a mythological burlesque and featured the fantastic story of the title character, a man with three penises. Mythological burlesques could be comedies that parodied the story of a specific mythological figure or could simply lampoon the grandiose approach of mythic tales. This would be done by employing the storytelling technique of a sweeping epic to tell a less-than-majestic story. Picture a modern-day grand opera about the John Holmes or Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog has now covered 16 Attic Old Comedies, so readers have been treated to a nice assortment. Most recently I experimented with a new type of format for addressing in bulk those comedies which have survived in such fragmentary form they don’t merit a full-length review.
Instead of examining individual comedies in these posts, I will focus on those ancient Greek comedians whose entire corpus is very, very fragmentary, touching briefly on all of their known works. For background info on ancient Greek comedy plus my previous reviews click here: https://glitternight.com/ancient-greek-comedies/
POLYZELUS – Very little is known about this comic playwright except that his comedies came in first place an impressive four times at Lenaea festivals. His career spanned from approximately 410 BCE to 380 BCE and fragments from just five of his plays have come down to us out of an unknown total number of works.
Aside from the political satire Demos- Tyndareus his fragmentary comedies all fall under the subgenre of Attic Old Comedy known as mythological burlesques. And of those four mythological burlesques three are specifically birth comedies, in other words lampoons of the VERY odd circumstances that generally accompanied the conception and birth of the deities in Greek myths. Remember, this type of bawdy disrespect for the gods was tolerated only in the “anything goes” arena of the comedy performances.
I. DEMOS- TYNDAREUS (410 BCE) – The Tyndareus part of this political comedy’s title refers to the mythical figure who came back from the dead like Lazarus in Continue reading