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Aristotelian Comedy

By M. Heath


This paper examines the evidence for Aristotle's theory of comedy in the Poetics and other works. Since he defines comedy in terms of its 'inferior' characters, he cannot have objected in principle to ethical impropriety, obscenity and personal abuse in comedy; comedy cannot be judged by the ethical standards appropriate in everyday life. His account of the historical development of comedy is discussed, together with the application of the concept of poetic universality to comedy. It is argued that Aristotelian theory is consistent with Aristophanic practice.\ud \ud My aim in this paper is to reconsider a number of aspects of Aristotle’s thinking on comedy in the light of the acknowledged Aristotelian corpus. I shall have nothing to say about the Tractatus Coislinianus, an obscure and contentious little document which must (despite Janko’s energetic attempt to restore its credit) remain an inappropriate starting-point for discussion. There is still, I believe, something to be learnt from the extant works

Year: 1989
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