chapter  9
25 Pages

Tragedy and ideology

Taplin (1986) explores the way in which tragedy and comedy tend to define themselves against one another. Tragedy is and does what comedy is not and does not do. That is particularly so when metatheatre is in point, the degree to which drama refers to audience, theatre, stage-mechanics, costume, or even to other theatrical artefacts by parody: we saw a good deal of that in Acharnians.1 One of Taplin’s other main areas concerns ‘political’ allusiveness. Tragedy is often in a deep sense ‘political’, exploring issues which are important to the citizen as citizen. But comedy is topical in a cruder sense: it includes characters bearing everyday names and refers to real figures or real types of figure-Socrates, Euripides, the Inspector, or the typical ‘Xanthias’; it handles contemporary issues such as the war and demagogic politicians; and it does all this either directly or in ways which require a minimum of decoding (the Cleon-like Paphlagonian in Knights; ‘Labes’ and ‘Kuon’ in Wasps). Tragedy explores issues in a more timeless register: the nature of democracy rather than the deficiencies of Cleon; the sufferings of war (Hecuba and Trojan Women) rather than issues of Megara, Pericles, and what Simaetha’s hookers did or did not do.