New Comedy

Definition

Theater

  • The third and final division of ancient Greek comedy, datingfrom the end of the 4th century BC to the middle of the thirdcentury BC. New Comedies, which were less bawdy and satiricalthan the Old Comedy of Aristophanes, featured complex plotsrevolving around such problems as mistaken identity, unrequited love,and household disputes.

    The leading exponents of the form were the Sicilian, Philemon(c. 368 - c. 264 BC), who worked in bothAthens and Alexandria, and Menander (c. 341 - c.290 BC). Only fragments of Philemon's work survive, but onecomplete play by Menander, the Dyscolus, was discovered ona papyrus in Egypt in 1958. In the 2nd century BC playwrightsTerence and Plautus translated and adapted New Comedyfor the Roman stage, introducing audiences to a more subtle kind ofhumour than that found in the early Roman farces.

    Through the Roman playwrights, the Greek New Comedy has exerteda profound influence on the development of the later comedy ofmanners in Europe. Comic playwrights from Shakespeare and Molièreto Alan Ayckbourn have used similar themes, situations, and stories.

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