Philosophy and Comedy
Aristophanes, Logos, and Eros
Publication Year: 2008
Aristophanes' comedies have stood the test of time as some of the greatest comic literature ever produced. While there have been numerous commentaries on Aristophanes and his world, until now there has been no systematic philosophical treatment of his comedies. In Philosophy and Comedy, Bernard Freydberg illuminates the philosophical insights in Aristophanes' texts by presenting close readings of Clouds, Wasps, Assemblywomen, and Lysistrata, addressing their comic genius at the same time. Freydberg challenges notions that philosophy is best served by a tragic disposition and arrives at a new assessment of the philosophical importance of comedy.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
The first and abiding event in my philosophical development occurred when I lied to my mother at age sixteen. She was overprotective, forbidding me from playing varsity football and permitting me to play basketball only because she thought the game involved no contact. I was not allowed to take...
Introduction: On the Underlying Sense of Aristophanic Comedy
While the Aristophanes literature stands as a worthy testament to the comic poet’s greatness in many respects and to his significance in the classical world, there is no book to my knowledge that presents a systematic philosophical treatment of his comedies. It is my firm belief that Aristophanes stands with history’s finest inspired artists,...
Part 1. Logos and Human Limits
1. Clouds and the Measuring of Logos
Inspired comedies provoke laughter. However, the laughter such comedies provoke draws upon a seriousness that is absent from merely contrived comedies. The same distinction can be made between inspired tragedies and melodramas. The...
2. Wasps and the Limits of Logos
While the external similarities in plot between Clouds and Wasps seem unmistakable, close attention to the textual concerns in Wasps reveals a comedy that exposes quite different philosophical concerns. Obviously, we are confronted with a father-son conflict in which a wealthy son disapproves of his father’s life or activities. Further,...
Part 2. Erōs and Human Limits
3. Assemblywomen: Erōs and Human Law
The closest textual connection between the comedies of Aristophanes and the dialogues of Plato occurs in the connection between Assemblywomen and large sections of Republic book 5. Socrates himself has indicated that book 5 is comic in nature, doing so in an oblique but ultimately unmistakable manner....
4. Lysistrata: Erōs and Transcendence
In this chapter, I propose an interpretation of this most popular of Aristophanes’ comedies that moves in a different direction than is usual. The abundance and the virtuosity of sexual punning, innuendo, and actual imagery that permeates virtually every scene of the comedy provides contemporary audiences with straightforward access and enjoyment.With...
Conclusion: Ridicule and Measure
Throughout this book, the issue of measure arose again and again. Perhaps strangely, if a single theme could be said to characterize the huponoia or “underlying sense” of Aristophanic comedy, it is this one. Viewed through a philosophical lens, all four plays bear directly upon the proper measure for a human life. Aristophanes’ inspired...