Comic technique and the fourth actor

Classical Quarterly 47 (01):77- (1997)
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A recent article on ‘The Number of Speaking Actors in Old Comedy’ by D. M. MacDowell has argued that to perform the plays of Aristophanes required the use of four, but never five, speaking actors.1 Systematically argued, MacDowell presents a cogent case against Henderson , who has suggested that at times five actors were permitted. MacDowell also presents some very sensible observations on the nature of any prescription which might limit the number of actors. The final paragraphs, however, express considerable discomfort at the earliest work in the extant corpus: 'Akharnians, however, remains problematic, since it has two scenes which may be thought to require five actors' . A tentative solution is offered by MacDowell, which is that 'these scenes were actually performed without a fifth actor, by making very quick changes in the scene with Amphitheos and the Envoy, and by using dolls for the Megarian's Daughters' . Unspeaking performers for the Megarian's Daughters are more likely than dolls, since they must follow orders for movement . Apart from this, I have no doubt that this is indeed how Akharnians was performed, and an examination of the specific comic techniques employed by Aristophanes in the two problematic scenes in Akharnians demonstrates not only the comic desirability of their use, but their applicability to other plays by Aristophanes



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References found in this work

The History of the Greek and Roman Theater.Francis R. Bliss - 1962 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 (4):445-446.
The number of speaking actors in Old Comedy.Douglas M. MacDowell - 1994 - Classical Quarterly 44 (02):325-.
The Distribution of Parts in Menander's Dyskolos.John G. Griffith - 1960 - Classical Quarterly 10 (1-2):113-.

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