Laughter for the Gods: Ritual in Old Comedy

Auteur(s) : Chepel Elena

31,65 €

Ritual permeates Greek comedies of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. In Birds and Peace, the performance of sacrifice is central to the plot and its dramatic action; Women at the Thesmophoria is set during the celebration of a religious festival; while the story of Wealth relies on a successful incubation at the sanctuary of Asklepios. Other plays of Aristophanes, as well as fragments from other comic poets, also feature ritual processions, libations, hymns, and prayers. Why and how were these real-life practices of Greek religion represented in comedies? And what did it mean for the audience to laugh at them? This study is the first comprehensive analysis of the comic scenes in which characters perform rituals on stage. These theatrical representations of religious rites are examined not only with regard to their role in the fabric of particular plays, they are also analysed within the broader framework of the competition of dramatic poets at the Athenian festival of Dionysos.

The approach chosen allows for a new perspective to develop on the old discussion regarding the religious dimension of Greek theatre. It is argued that comic rituals (and the playwrights behind them) consciously claim to be authentic, and thus transform the performance of a comic play into a significant event which is relevant for the city and its religion.

    Collection : Kernos, Suppléments

  • Publication 2020
  • ISBN 978-2-87562-236-5
  • Num. dans la collection 35
  • Nombre de pages 240

Table of contents : Introduction ; Chapter 1 – Ritual within ritual ; Chapter 2 – How to do rituals with words : Comic hymns as Greek khoreia ; Hymns in the parabasis ; Double identity of khoros in parabatic odes ; Meta-chorality ; Prayers and the language of sacrifice ; Peace ; Wasps ; Birds ; Women at the Thesmophoria ; Prayers as ritual communication ; Shouts ; Terminology: The case of the ‘Pythian shout’ ; Shouts as ritual communication ; Oracles as ritual speech ; Transmission and authenticity ; Exegesis as ritual speech ; Some concluding observations ; Chapter 3 – Sacred space on stage : Sanctuaries around the theatre of Dionysos and comic ritual space ; Altars in the orchestra ; Ritualisation of space: Wasps and Frogs ; Sacrificial altars: Birds and Peace ; ‘Paratragic’ altars ; Imaginary sanctuaries ; Women at the Thesmophoria ; Lysistrata ; Dynamics of ritual space ; Chapter 4 – Comedy and the Athenian calendar : Festivals on stage ; Acharnians: the Dionysia ; Frogs: the Eleusinian Mysteries ; Women at the Thesmophoria ; Lysistrata: the Adonia? ; Ritual time embodied ; Ritual cycles: Calendar ; Clouds ; Seasons ; Concluding observations ; Chapter 5 – Performing comic sacrifice : Staging the sacrificial procedure ; Pre-kill phase in Acharnians and Birds ; Peace: Post-kill phase ? ; Comic interpretation of sacrifice ; Sacrifice as private initiative ; Reciprocity revisited ; Zeus and other gods ruined in extant plays ; Tragic sacrifice in comedy ; Final observations ; Epilogue ; Old Comedy as a source for Greek religion ; How to perform a ritual in comedy ; Bibliography ; Index.

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