Flying to Heaven to demand an end to war, building Cloudcuckooland in the sky, descending to Hades to retrieve a dead tragedian - such were the cosmic missions on which Aristophanes, the father of comedy, sent his heroes of the classical Athenian stage. The wit, intellectual bravura, political clout and sheer imaginative power of Aristophanes' quest dramas have profoundly influenced humorous literature and satire, but this volume, which originated at an international conference held at the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University in 2004, is the first interdisciplinary study of their seminal contribution to the evolution of comic performance. Interdisciplinary essays by specialists in Classics, Theatre, and Modern Literatures trace the international performance history of Aristophanic comedy, and its implication in aesthetic and political controversies, from antiquity to the twenty-first century. The story encompasses Jonson's satire, Cromwell's Ireland, German classicism, British Imperial India, censorship scandals in France, Greece and South Africa, Brechtian experiments in East Berlin, and musical theatre from Gilbert and Sullivan to Stephen Sondheim.
Edith Hall is Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Co-Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama. Amanda Wrigley is Researcher at the Archive for the Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at the University of Oxford.
‘This volume, produced under the auspices of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, contains an all-encompassing performance history of three plays of Aristophanes' Old Comedy from their first performance to the present day. Aristophanic comedy, despite its highly politicized, sexual, and time-bound humour, is shown to be the touchstone of comedy, influential from the Renaissance onwards.’ — Regine May, Modern Language Review 103.3, July 2008, 807-08 (full text online)
‘This exceptionally handsome and well-produced volume... Its scope, as its title indicates, is very broad, and most of its readers are likely to be selective in the use they make of it. Roughly half of the essays discuss twentieth-century productions of Aristophanes’ plays and there is, inevitably, an emphasis upon the problems involved in translation in both the narrower (linguistic) and the broader (theatrical/cultural) senses of the term.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 45.3 (2009), 351-54
‘There are dozens of plates in this volume, and the visual record of the performances described can be of great interpretative value for the reader. There is a healthy range in the scale of these performances: university productions or small-scale professional (or semi-professional) shows stand alongside much better funded and larger scale endeavours. This is, I feel, essential.’ — C. W. Marshall, Phoenix LXIV.1-2, 2010, 172-75
Introduction: Aristophanic Laughter across the Centuries Edith Hall