The Mask of Comedy: Aristophanes and the Intertextual Parabasis

Thomas K. Hubbard

300 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 0801425646


Language: English

Publish: 662716800000

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 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 self-citation. 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 protagonists. 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.

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