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Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy"Affect, Aesthetics, and the Canon"$
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Mario Telò

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226309699

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226309729.001.0001

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The Broken Net: Comic Failure and Its Consequences

The Broken Net: Comic Failure and Its Consequences

(p.88) 4 The Broken Net: Comic Failure and Its Consequences
Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy

Mario Telò

University of Chicago Press

This chapter shows an ominous side to the finale of Wasps: the false, quasi-tragic liberation of Cratinus’s mode, usually interpreted as genuinely comic. The chapter starts with the account of Philocleon’s disastrous performance at an aristocratic symposium and violent arrival onstage, exploring how his misuse of Aesop exposes Cratinus’s generic errancy. In the final scene, the dance contest between Philocleon and a mediocre tragedian’s sons suggests a paradoxical assimilation of Cratinean comedy to tragedy. Amid a complex of alignments involving Aristophanic comedy, Aesopic fable, iambos, and tragedy, the mad father Philocleon’s enthrallment to the ragged affect of Cratinean comedy (in opposition to the Aristophanic and Aesopic) demonstrates the failure of his son Bdelycleon’s—and Aristophanes’—rehabilitative efforts. Yet after the rejection of the therapeutic binding of the first Clouds, the unhappy ending awaiting the audience as well as Philocleon portends a grim future for the momentarily triumphant Cratinean mode—a literary-critical demotion in a contest of aesthetics. Productive of a discourse of generic affect, Aristophanes’ narrative of failure will make the father’s (and audience’s) rejection a mere setback on the path to a canonical embrace.

Keywords:   Aristophanes, Wasps, Clouds, Cratinus, finale, genre, iambos, Aesop, aesthetics, tragedy

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