Parody is a term used since ancient Greece to denote the comic reworking of other serious, heroic, or epic works. This entry provides a historical perspective of the various definitions and uses of parody in the arts.

Derived from the noun for ode and prefix para (meaning “near to” and “opposite”), the word parodia was applied early on to mock-heroic epics such as the Batrachomyomachia or Battle of the Frogs and Mice, in which the eponymous creatures are given roles accorded human heroes in the Homeric epics. Such mock-heroic epics (see also Aristotle’s Poetics from the 4th century BCE on Hegemon of Thasos, a near contemporary of Aristophanes) have also been described as travesties, following Lalli’s Eneide travestita (Virgil’s Aeneid travestied) of circa 1634.

The word travesty ...

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