Comic Angels: And Other Approaches to Greek Drama Through Vase-paintings

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Clarendon Press, 1994 - Art - 129 pages
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This book opens up a neglected chapter in the reception of Athenian drama, especially comedy; and it gives stage-centre to a particularly attractive and entertaining series of vase-paintings, which have been generally regarded as marginal curiosities. These are the so-called `phlyax vases', nearly all painted in the Greek cities of South Italy in the period 400 t0 360 BC. Up till now, they have been taken to reflect some kind of local folk-theatre, but Oliver Taplin, prompted especially by three that have only been published in the last twelve years, argues that most, if not all, reflect Athenian comedy of the sort represented by Aristophanes. This bold thesis opens up questions of the relation of tragedy as well as comedy to vase-painting, the cultural climate of the Greek cities in Italy, and the extent to which Athenians were aware of drama as a potential `export'. It also enriches appreciation of many key aspects of Aristophanic comedy: its metatheatre and self-reference, its use of stage-action and stage-props, its unabashed indecency, and its polarised relationship, even rivalry, with tragedy. The book has assembled thirty-six photographs of vase-paintings. Many are printed here for the first time outside specialist publications that are not readily accessible.

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About the author (1994)

Oliver Taplin is at Magdalen College, Oxford.

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