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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Comedies burlesquing traditional Greek mythical stories flourished in the Athenian theater especially between 400 and 340 BCE. Antecedents are found already in fifth-century drama (Cratinus’s Odysses, Aristophanes’s tragic parodies); the roots of the genre lie in popular tradition and folk religiosity. Comic poets developed a series of interrelated techniques in order to transform myth into comic spectacle. They regularly refashioned the mythical tales according to the model of their contemporary Athenian society (“Atticization”). The marvelous motifs of myths were rationalized or, if retained, were placed in a fully urbanized environment, producing ludicrous incongruity. The mythical material was assimilated to standard patterns of comic drama (stereotyped stage figures, comic love plots, happy endings, and festivities). The traditional mythical scenario was sometimes reversed for comic effect. All these procedures are examined in this chapter, with examples taken from comic fragments and South Italian vase paintings.

Keywords: mythological burlesque, comic fragments, South Italian vase paintings, Atticization, rationalization, marvelous motifs, comic reversal, love plots, stereotyped comic figures

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