Conflict and comedy. Insults, threats, and slapstick in the plays of Aristophanes

Donelan, J. F. (2019) Conflict and comedy. Insults, threats, and slapstick in the plays of Aristophanes. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines the form and function of insults, threats, and aggressive slapstick in the comedies of Aristophanes. It seeks to fill a gap in our understanding of Aristophanes’ dramatic technique by considering how conflict between characters serves as a vehicle for humour.

I begin with a discussion of three different approaches to mimetic conflict. The first considers Aristotle’s ideas on pity, the second looks at Bakhtin’s theory of grotesque realism, the third compares slapstick and visual gags from early silent cinema.

My own approach is based on an analysis of Aristophanic language and staging. The body of the thesis is divided into three chapters, one dedicated to each of the conflict elements under investigation (insults, threats, slapstick). Technical discussions are combined with broader analyses of how conflict is integrated into the narratives of Aristophanes’ plays and exploited for laughs. The chapter on insults includes a discussion of verbal abuse in situations of conflict, four case studies (Acharnians, Frogs, Peace, Clouds), and a glossary of Aristophanic insults. The chapter on threats looks at how these generate humour when they elicit unexpected reactions, or when characters make threats that are incommensurate with their situation. A formal analysis concludes the chapter, revealing differences between comic and tragic threat constructions. The chapter on slapstick considers Aristophanes’ parabatic comments regarding visual humour, the role of aggressive choruses, and instances of physical contact between individual characters. It transpires that lasting and significant harm is never the outcome of physical attacks in Aristophanes. Gratuitous slapstick is also generally avoided; attacks are, rather, integrated into the story or employed in conjunction with puns and other jokes.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sommerstein, A.H.
Thomas, O.R.H.
Keywords: Aristophanes, Greek Comedy, Slapstick, Threats, Insults
Subjects: P Language and literature > PA Classical philology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 56114
Depositing User: Donelan, Jasper
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2019 12:51
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 10:31

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