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Ancient Greek Comedy

  • By: Michael Ewans
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The first known comedies were performed at the Festival of Dionysus in Athens in 487–486 BCE, perhaps as a cultural celebration and self-affirmation after the Athenian victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 BCE (the theatrical competitions at the festival had started with tragedy, probably in 501 BCE). Ancient Greek comedy is traditionally divided into three periods or styles; Old Comedy (487–486 to 404 BCE), Middle Comedy (403 BCE to ca. 321 BCE), and New Comedy (from 321 BCE, reaching its peak in the mid-3rd century BCE). Nine complete old comedies and two middle comedies by one playwright, Aristophanes, survive; and one complete new comedy, and substantial fragments of seven more, survive—all of them written by Menander. In addition, there are fragments of lost ...

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