Preparation for Mon. Mar. 20
The contest between Aeschylus and Euripides: From their introduction on p. 535, the two playwrights dominate the second half of the play. What about Aeschylus and Euripides does Aristophanes choose to parody? Consider his assessment of each from both an aesthetic and a moral point of view. Are his digs fair? Why is Sophocles left out of the running? Who wins, and why?
*In today’s class, we are going to recreate the contest between Aeschylus and Euripides. Greek society was highly competitive, and we are going to take the competitive energies of March Madness and duke it out on the debating floor. Students with last names A-L are championing Aeschylus, those with last names M-Z are playing for Euripides. Your written assignment is to complete the worksheet, pulling from the text relevant ammunition for your case (specific quotations score big). No need to type out your notes, unless you prefer to do so - simply print out the worksheet, then fill it out. Your notes will help you in the debate. Questions 4 & 5 may or may not help your case, depending on which side you’re on, but fill them out whichever side you’re on - they’ll help you understand the play and help you prepare for the opposition’s attacks.
Preparation for Wed. Mar. 22
1. Read Aristophanes’ Birds (the whole play, i.e. Arrowsmith pp. 185-313). An asterisk in the text indicates that there is an accompanying note in the back (pp. 315-333). There is also a glossary of names at the back of the book (pp. 599-619). Also read the introduction to the play on pp. 173-182, taking especial note of the details of the date and circumstances of performance outlined on pp. 178-179.
2. As you read through the play, make a list of the different kinds of humor that drive this comedy. Please bring a written list to class, along with specific examples.
3. Pisthetairos and Euelpides leave Athens to get away from it all and set up a utopia, far away from it all. Do they succeed? In other words, does the play successfully escape from everyday concerns? Why, or why not?
Preparation for Fri. Mar. 24
1. Aristophanes’ Birds is a comedy,
but, like all Greek drama, it is also didactic in nature. What are some of the serious issues treated
by the play?
2. Read the extract from Hesiod’s Theogony (a poem composed earlier in the 5th century describing the beginnings of the universe – its title means ‘the birth of the gods’) handed out in Wednesday’s class. Then read the ode sung by the chorus of birds on pp. 238-241. What is the aim of the chorus in reinventing the creation story? What is the effect of their version?
*3. Aristophanes’ plays, like Saturday Night Live, or the Late Show with David Letterman, are full of contemporary jokes. Two thousand five hundred years later, they are no longer au fait. Choose one short scene or a section of a longer scene and rewrite it to make it funny for a 2006 Minnesota audience. If you want an idea of what I mean, you can dip into an adaptation I wrote for a mythology class I was teaching at University of North Carolina in 1999. This was just at the time when Kenneth Star was prosecuting Bill Clinton; also during the NCAA championship, which is a big thing at UNC. I was particularly interested in the situation comedy and the punning in which Aristophanes delights. But jokes about lesser spotted Blue-Devils don’t really play in Minnesota. Norman Schwarzkopf, Lorena Bobbit and even Bill Clinton are now passé, so bring us into the present. I encourage you to work on this project in pairs or in small groups. You can turn in one script for your whole group - just list the names of all the script-writers at the top.