L'École Marchutz

Resident Fellow Lynda Myers' Lecture on Aristophanes

UncategorizedMarchutz Fellow

Last week, Marchutz School Resident Fellow and St. John's College professor Lynda Myers, presented a lecture on Aristophanic comedy to IAU students and staff.

She introduced the topic by discussing the nature of Aristophanes' plays. In 5th century Athens, theater was a celebration of Dionysus, the god of fertility, and  every performance was a ritual in his honor.

She explained the different types of performers found in these plays, such as the satyrs and the choruses of male performers, and used images to illustrate how they might appear and the symbolism of their costumes.

One especially poignant notion I gleaned from Professor Myers' talk had to do with the element of political satire and the role it played in Athenian culture.  Early in her talk she described Attic old comedy as an opportunity "to see and laugh...chastise and advise...Athens with all of its strengths and weaknesses." Towards the end of her lecture she made a comparison which illuminated an important difference between the political satire we have today and that of 5th century Athenian comedy. The point she made was that while that watching the Daily Show, for example, one may laugh due to the way a certain issue might be mocked. However, it is unfulfilling in that, afterwards, there still remains a pang of frustration with the issue. Because Attic old comedy was integrated into society as a religious celebration in honor of Dionysus it allowed for a more cathartic experience. Political satire's incorporated role made it easier for Athenians to process the balance of good and bad in their society.

-Nick Velleman, Alumni Fellow