MASTERS OF ANCIENT COMEDY by Lionel Casson

MASTERS OF ANCIENT COMEDY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This anthology is designed to represent the origins of comedy through three periods -- Greek Old Comedy (Aristophanes, whose topical satires were of literature, contemporary politics, and the championing of world peace -- plays designated for a sophisticated and cultured audience); Greek New Comedy (Menander, whose plays were of a far less blase humor and cut down in comical calibre to suit a war-beaten people who wanted not intellectual stimulation, but a light escape from the grim realities of the day; and Roman Comedy (Plautus, who took little from the Greek masters and produced a commercial comedy of vulgar and elementary slapstick for an undiscriminating and common-mass audience; and Terence, who translated and brilliantly adapted Greek comedy of a far higher intellectual level than that of Plautus). The compiler includes one play by Aristophanes, all of the extant works of Menander (one complete play and extracts of three others), two of Plautus, and two by Terence. With a brief history of these three literary movements, this anthology is distinguished by two factors. One -- it is the first to include an English translation of Menander's works (which have been discovered only relatively recently); and two -- the translator has taken the unprecedented liberty of popularizing the plays (rendering them more realistic, palatable, and entertaining for today's audience) not only through extremely free paraphrasing, and transposition of verse and prose, but through substituting American idioms and currency, and the like for the Greek manner of speech and drachma. It would seem that rather than to the classicist or the drama historian, this book is of primary interest to the modern-day audience which wants to be amused without taxing either knowledge or imagination, but desires the modified classical touch.

Publisher: Macmillan