Why is Aristophanes called “The Father of Comedy”? – Mark Robinson

At the annual Athenian
drama festival in 426 BC, a comic play called The Babylonians, written by a young poet
named Aristophanes, was awarded first prize. But the play’s depiction of Athens’
conduct during the Peloponnesian War was so controversial that afterwards, a politician named Kleon
took Aristophanes to court for “slandering the people of Athens
in the presence of foreigners.” Aristophanes struck back two years later
with a play called The Knights. In it, he openly mocked Kleon, ending with Kleon’s character working as
a lowly sausage seller outside the city gates. This style of satire was a consequence of the unrestricted democracy
of 5th century Athens and is now called “Old Comedy.” Aristophanes’ plays, the world’s earliest
surviving comic dramas, are stuffed full of parodies, songs,
sexual jokes, and surreal fantasy. They often use wild situations, like a hero flying to heaven
on a dung beetle, or a net cast over a house to keep
the owner’s father trapped inside, in order to subvert audience expectations. And they’ve shaped how comedy’s
been written and performed ever since. The word “comedy” comes from
the Ancient Greek “komos,” – revel, and “oide,” – singing, and it differed from its companion
art form, “tragedy” in many ways. Where ancient Athenian tragedies dealt
with the downfall of the high and mighty, their comedies usually ended happily. And where tragedy almost always
borrowed stories from legend, comedy addressed current events. Aristophanes’ comedies celebrated ordinary
people and attacked the powerful. His targets were arrogant politicians, war-mongering generals, and self-important intellectuals, exactly the people who sat in
the front row of the theatre, where everyone could see their reactions. As a result, they were referred to
as komoidoumenoi: “those made fun of in comedy.” Aristophanes’ vicious
and often obscene mockery held these leaders to account,
testing their commitment to the city. One issue, in particular,
inspired much of Aristophanes’ work: the Peloponnesian War
between Athens and Sparta. In Peace, written in 421 BC, a middle-aged Athenian frees
the embodiment of peace from a cave, where she’d been exiled
by profiteering politicians. Then, in the aftermath of a crushing
naval defeat for Athens in 411 BC, Aristophanes wrote “Lysistrata.” In this play, the women
of Athens grow sick of war and go on a sex strike
until their husbands make peace. Other plays use similarly fantastic
scenarios to skewer topical situations, such as in “Clouds,” where Aristophanes mocked
fashionable philosophical thinking. The hero Strepsiades enrolls in
Socrates’s new philosophical school, where he learns
how to prove that wrong is right and that a debt is not a debt. No matter how outlandish these plays get,
the heroes always prevail in the end. Aristophanes also became
the master of the parabasis, a comic technique where actors
address the audience directly, often praising the playwright
or making topical comments and jokes. For example, in “Birds,” the Chorus takes
the role of different birds and threatens the Athenian judges that
if their play doesn’t win first prize, they’ll defecate on them
as they walk around the city. Perhaps the judges
didn’t appreciate the joke, as the play came in second. By exploring new ideas and encouraging self-criticism
in Athenian society, Aristophanes not only
mocked his fellow citizens, but he shaped the nature of comedy itself. Hailed by some scholars
as the father of comedy, his fingerprints are visible
upon comic techniques everywhere, from slapstick to double acts to impersonations to political satire. Through the praise of free speech
and the celebration of ordinary heroes, his plays made his audience think
while they laughed. And his retort to Kleon in 425 BC
still resonates today: “I’m a comedian,
so I’ll speak about justice, no matter how hard
it sounds to your ears.”

100 thoughts on “Why is Aristophanes called “The Father of Comedy”? – Mark Robinson

  1. We want to share student Talks with the world. Get started and turn your big idea into the next big TED Talk: http://bit.ly/2MUY1KK! Because every student has an idea worth spreading.

  2. Now the irony is, that we do assignments on this guy which makes us groan in agony when in reality he wanted his works to bring humor to everyone.

  3. You forgot about how the comedy plays helped get information about the culinary practices of that time since Comedy had room for everyday life and mentions of food

  4. Comedy can be the perfect way of taking the powerful down a peg. But when so much of the comedic world speaks on behalf of the powerful that is a problem.

  5. The video is actually good for all of those who want to know about the origins of western culture, in this case, comedy: but you still had to add political bias portraying Trump as the "bad guy". We come to these videos to educate ourselves, so please, stop with the BS politics.

  6. I played AC Odyssey and thank god I watched this video about Aristophanes before I play the game.

    In the game, we set up a play to mock Kleon to remove the people’s support for him. During the quest, there’s dialogue of sausages, the play showing the actor Kleon getting beaten with a huge sausage. Finally the quest is called “The Knights.”

    Following the history in the game makes me so proud and how awesome Aristophanes to do this in 500 century BC!

    PS: also getting into philosophy debates with Socrates and swaying the people of Athens to reconsider their vote is awesome.

  7. I've only read Aristophanes's CLOUDS (translations/commentaries by Dover, Arrowsmith, Forman, Rogers, and West) and as a Philosophy Major I gotta say it is indeed well written. He also breaks the fourth wall cleverly, probably the first time fourth wall breaking has ever occurred in history.

  8. What if the reason his plays were considered comedy because the heroes always win in the end and they were funny because the audience knew it was outlandishly fake

  9. This is a great video and nice animation but why do the characters have pink circles on their elbows it’s kinda weird and an unnecessary detail

  10. Its interesting to see this video the day after i beat assassins creed odyssey witch actually had you helping the play “the knights” in story and kill kelon

  11. u know how sometimes you are just struck by something that makes you pause and appreciate how you identify with something on like a really profound level?
    thats how i feel about the guy at 1:07

  12. 2:10 oh come on couldent you use historical examples, im sick and tired of everything being political

  13. Comedy has always existed among humans, Aristophanes simply made it into plays which wasn't common.

  14. Check out the University of Oxford's new video on Aristophanes, comedy and politics! Tune in for memes, wheatfields, and A.I. comedians!

    Are memes as old as time itself?

  15. Me: Wow, this video is so informative!
    TedEd video: has Trump reference
    Me: Did you have to get political?

  16. Если хотите посмотреть это видео на русском:

  17. giving of those title father of medicine,history, comedy etc are inappropriate and bias, suspiciously those people lived in same place(greek world) and era

  18. Everyone knows comedy started in Africa. Too many lies saying hippocrates is the father of medicine…when in reality its father of European medicine which he said he learned from Africa. Same with plato,etc..

    Give credit where credit is due. But he was great for europe.

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