A choral interlude distinctive to Greek Old Comedy, the
parabasis treats a variety of literary and political topics that
critics have generally considered tangential to the themes of the
play in which it appears. Reading closely each of Aristophanes'
comedies, Thomas K. Hubbard here demonstrates that, far from being
a digression or a relic of long-forgotten rituals, the parabasis
provides a critical link between the identities of the poet,
chorus, and protagonist, and between the play and its audience.
The parabasis, according to Hubbard, offers an interesting
theoretical problem: the seeming intrusion of autobiographical
allusion and literary dogma into the poetic text. He argues that
the parabasis is not in fact intrusive, but presents the poet's
role and identity as a paradigm for the satirical concerns of the
play. After a review of ancient theories of the comic and their
modern counterparts, Hubbard examines the parabasis within the
framework of Greek traditions of poetic self-awareness and
He shows that the function of the parabasis is primarily
"intertextual," echoing not only other poets but also the comic
poet himself. Hubbard maintains that the parabases of Aristophanes'
plays, taken together, form an important autobiographical subtext,
which allows readers to trace the poet's career as he wished it to
be seen. The poet, in his various struggles with Athenian society,
is himself revealed to be a comic hero on a par with many of his
Analyzing Aristophanes' plays sequentially through the lens of
the parabasis, The Mask of Comedy gives us a new
perspective on the significance of his entire dramatic corpus. It
will be welcomed by classicists and by comparatists and literary
theorists interested in the development of comedy.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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