Aristotle on Comedy: Towards a Reconstruction of Poetics II

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Dante does not seem to have known either the comedies of Terence and Plautus or the tragedies of Seneca.

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The latter had recently been discovered and were being studied in Padua during Dante's time, notably by Albertino Mussato, who considered tragedy to be a genre of elevated subject matter, consisting of two subgenres: those dealing with disasters like Seneca's works and his own Ecerinis used iambic verse, and those dealing with triumphs, like the works of Virgil 70 — 19 b. Dante's own definitions of comedy and tragedy in De vulgari eloquentia are not connected to ideas of misery or felicity.

He agrees with Mussato in considering tragedy to use elevated subjects. It also uses the best syntax, verse forms, and diction. Comedy on the other hand is a style inferior to that of tragedy, using both middling and humble forms. He cites lyric poems, including some of his own, as examples of tragedy. In Inferno Dante's commentators did not know of the De vulgari eloquentia, and most of them, including Guido da Pisa and the author of the Epistle to Cangrande which purports to be by Dante himself , follow definitions similar to those of the Boethian commentators; thus they explain Dante's choice of title by the fact that the work begins in misery hell and ends in felicity heaven.

They hold that Terence's comedies follow the same pattern, and that Seneca's tragedies trace the reverse movement hardly true in either case. Some readers, like Dante's son Piero, followed the rubrical tradition that designated Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso as three comedies, and found an upbeat conclusion to all of them: each ends with a reference to the stars.

Chaucer, for his part, like Dante's commentators, was influenced by the Boethian tradition. He translated the Consolation and used glosses derived from the commentary of Nicholas Trivet ? But whereas Trivet repeated Conches's definition of tragedy and added to its iniquitous subject by repeating Isidore's statement about the crimes of the wicked kings, the gloss that Chaucer received and translated removed all such reference: "Tragedy is to say a dite [literary composition] of a prosperity for a time that endeth in wretchedness" pp.

He thus restored the concept to its Boethian context by removing the suggestion that all tragic falls are deserved and punitive. Chaucer wrote tragedies of this sort himself, on the model of the narratives of Giovanni Boccaccio 's — De casibus virorum illustrium Boccaccio himself did not consider these stories to be tragedies and later assigned them to the Monk in the Canterbury Tales. In the meantime, he wrote an extended tragedy, Troilus and Criseyde.

John Lydgate c. Thus Chaucerian tragedy was transmitted to the age of Shakespeare. Shakespeare — himself does not say what he means by comedy and tragedy, but one can deduce from his characters that comedy has the general meaning of a pleasant or mirthful play, and that tragedy more often refers to an event than to a play, and more often concerns the downfall of an innocent than a guilty person.

This is in contrast to formal discussions — like Sir Philip Sidney 's — Apology for Poetry — that tend to restrict the subject of tragedy to bad men coming to bad ends, thereby "making kings fear to be tyrants.

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But it was mainly cited on minor points, or distorted through assimilation to Horatian concerns. Aristotle's insistence on unity of action was made equal to the newly invented unities of time and space. Tragedy became an elite genre, in which only the best tragedies were thought worthy of the name of tragedy. In England this concept can be seen in Thomas Rymer's Short View of Tragedy , when he speaks of "the sacred name of tragedy.

Now there is no such thing as a bad or mediocre tragedy.

Aristotle on Comedy: Towards a Reconstruction of Poetics II

For Aristotle, on the contrary, everything that was called a tragedy or fitted general criteria was a tragedy, but some were better than others. There have been dozens of attempts to define tragedy, understood as supreme tragedy, radical tragedy, pure tragedy, and the like. Most of these understandings are intuitive and personal to the definers and are based on a favorite example of tragedy or a small cluster of favorite tragedies. To give a recent example, George Steiner defines tragedy as "the dramatic testing of a view of reality in which man is taken to be an unwelcome guest in the world"; and the plays that communicate "this metaphysic of desperation" are very few, "and would include The Seven against Thebes, King Oedipus, Antigone, the Hippolytus , and, supremely, the Bacchae " Foreword to The Death of Tragedy, Because of the elevated status of the idea of tragedy, actual tragedies have become a thing of the past, represented by the classical plays, Shakespeare and his contemporary English dramatists and, in France , Jean Racine and Pierre Corneille sometimes extending to Lope de Vega in Spain.

The only more recent work that is named a tragedy by its author and acknowledged to be a great work is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 's — Faust : A Tragedy , but it is not usually considered to be a great tragedy or even a tragedy at all. Whether Goethe himself meant to call Part 2 a tragedy is not clear; but it was published as such, posthumously, in Comedy, in contrast to tragedy, remained a general and amorphous genre, encompassing ineffective as well as effective examples.

No comic masterpieces have been singled out as supreme comedies though Shakespeare's plays are given high ranking , and plays that do not measure up to some classical standard have not in general been drummed out of the genre, though occasionally this sort of qualifying spirit can be seen when a dud is denigrated as "mere farce. In England in Shakespeare's time, when the action of a play was not amusing but simply avoided the usual final disasters of tragedy, it was given the name of "tragicomedy," which Sidney referred to as a mongrel form.

When Plautus invented the term to describe his Amphitruo, it was for a different reason: because it had the characters proper to tragedy kings and gods as well as those proper to comedy slaves, etc. The term was revived in Spain for yet another reason, by what might well be called a comedy of errors. When Fernando de Rojas c.

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During this time, comedy came to mean "any stage play," and the most celebrated adaptation of the Celestina was Lope de Vega 's — great tragedy, El Caballero de Olmedo, which appeared in Part 24 of Vega's Comedias In Italy in the sixteenth century, Dante's Comedy was given the title of The Divine Comedy , seemingly to make the point that it has nothing to do with any of the usual senses of comedy.

MONK, S. New York. What are the implications of this choice? What do these presentations accomplish?

Lessing Laocoon esp. Mitchell ed. On Narrative Chicago In what ways might ekphrasis offer useful insights on the way visual art might have been viewed or interpreted? A Laird Ut figura poesis in J. Elsner ed. Art and Text in Roman Culture Cambridge Morales and A Sharrock ed Intratextuality Oxford. To what extent did specific ancient texts influence Renaissance ideas about the visual arts?

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It is taken very seriously by the University and students who are caught can suffer penalties which are extremely detrimental to their career. Murray in Gransden, Murray, Winnifrith ed. Aspects of Epic P. Murray Journal of Hellenic Studies , G. Kennedy ed.

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Minor foxing to DJ. DJ spine sunned. Minor shelfwear. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Sveta Cecilija. Smotra za Crkvenu Glazbu s Glazbenim Prilogom. XIX , Sv. XX , Sv.

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XXI , Sv. XXII , Sv. XXIV , Sv. Glasilo Cecilijina Drustva u Zagrebu. Ruecken, Ecken, Kanten leicht berieben, kaum verletzt.