COSTUME IN THE COMEDIES OF ARISTOPHANES

Classics for All Reviews

By Gwendolyn Compton-Eagle

CUP (2015) h/b 198 pp £65.00 (ISBN 0781107083790)

Aristophanes’ first productions made great use of visual effect. Slapstick performances, seriously inventive staging and occasionally fantastical costumes enhanced their comedic impact. Drawing on the evidence of texts, vase paintings and terracottas, C-E demonstrates how Aristophanes drew on earlier tradition to exploit to the utmost the dramatic possibilities of costume, ‘an underappreciated weapon in the comic poet’s arsenal’.

At the heart of her thesis is an exploration of the power dynamics of costume, which has a long literary pedigree. The control of costume in comedy, she argues, demonstrates a superiority just as potent as the control of armour in the Iliad. Thus, for example, Homeric stripping and humiliation of the bodies of fallen enemies parallels Aristophanic stripping and humiliation of unsympathetic characters (such as the informer in Wealth). No less powerful is the use of inappropriately feminine…

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