Cover

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Half-Title, Title Page, Copyright, Quotation

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

This book explores the social usefulness of comedy and democracy, treating them as tools for solving public problems such as hunger, poverty, and war. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to thank Lora Zane for daring, Stephanie Shroyer for doing, John Monterosso for moneyballing, Michelle Herman for taking the crown, Ralph Savarese for moving the field, Elizabeth Hewitt for care, Sandra MacPherson for parrhesia, Jared Gardner for joy, Jim Phelan for the model, Edward Stuenkel for the toolkit, ...

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Introduction: Modern Democracies and Ancient Demokratia

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pp. 1-14

There is an old story that democracy begat comedy, and comedy in turn democracy. It was, the story runs, in the free atmosphere of Greek demokratia that comedy first took root, delighting audiences with its uncensored speech and quite literally becoming an institution, funded by the state. The comic playwrights, meanwhile, eagerly repaid the debt. ...

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1. The Ancient History of Comedy and Demokratia

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pp. 15-33

And so it was that, from the beginning, comedy and demokratia were linked. Both were populist, free speaking, and filled with plots to save the demos,2 and the ancient scholiasts opined that it was surely no coincidence that Old Comedy had withered when the Thirty Tyrants overthrew Athenian democracy. ...

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2. Fortune Favors the Impetuous

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pp. 34-52

Although Machiavelli dedicated himself to writing about power, he spent most of his life sorely deprived of it. After helping to organize the Florentine militia in his younger years, he was stripped of this responsibility by the Medici, tortured by hanging, and thrown into an exile where he was reduced to catching sparrows for food.1 ...

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3. The Virtù of Imitation

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pp. 53-72

In the wake of the Second World War, the defenders of democracy found a surprising new ally in Shakespeare’s Henry 5.1 For generations, the play had seemed just the opposite: a piece of nationalistic jingoism about a warrior- king who revenged 1066 with an invasion of France.2 ...

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4. The Pursuit of Indolence

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pp. 73-90

It was a truth self-evident to the signers of the Declaration of Independence that men were endowed with certain unalterable rights. And then Thomas Jefferson altered one of them.1 Originally, the Colonial Declaration of 1774 had set forth men’s rights as: “life, liberty, and property.”2 ...

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5. Quixotic Governance

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pp. 91-116

The first volume of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire appeared in 1776, and befitting its revolutionary birthday, it proved a favorite of the rebel colonists. Making its way into a third of America’s private libraries, it earned the praise of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Tom Paine.1 ...

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6. Amending Ourselves

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pp. 117-135

Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Dred Scott v. Sandford that Americans of African descent were not protected by the Constitution, Frederick Douglass countered by dryly remarking that the justices had rather overstepped their jurisdiction: “Judge Taney can do many things, but he cannot perform impossibilities. ...

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7. Demokratia at Denshawai

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pp. 136-154

Over the past six chapters, I have suggested that the ancient democrats (and many of their early modern imitators) thought differently about popular rule than we do now. Or to be blunt, I have suggested that they thought less about it, focusing their attention more on immediate material problems and reactive short-term solutions. ...

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Conclusion: The Futures of Comic Democracy

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pp. 155-158

Since the late eighteenth century, democracy has been defended on the grounds that it is more just, more equal, and more free.1 But in this book, I have joined with a group of recent scholars who have come to believe what the ancients once felt: democracy is also more sensible.2 ...

Notes

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pp. 159-202

Index

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pp. 203-209