November 11, 2004

Old Comedy and Satyr Plays

1. Which of the following vase paintings appear to depict scenes from Old Comedy, and which from Satyr play

The Cheiron Vase; Comedy(Look at the slapstick)

The Choregos Vase; Comedy(Look at the big bums)

Vase 96AB113 ; Comedy

Vase 96AE112; Comedy

The Pronomos Vase; Satyr

The Aulos-playing Satyr Vase ; Satyr

The Wurzburg Orestes; Satyr

The Tarentine Vase; Satyr

2. Drawing on the evidence provided by these vase paintings, the plays you have read, and other appropriate online sources:

i. what would seem to be the main characteristics of Old Comic masks, costumes and stages?

The main chracteristics in the old comic masks is that they exagerate the lines of the face and bone stucture that present a comical personality;

For example in Vase 96AB113

You can see large stuck-out jaws, large wide eyes, large noses ; moreover the costume is made-up of body suits which emphasis the bum and the phalus.Moreover the stage seems quite small and persoanal.

ii. what appear to be the main characteristics of Satyr play masks, costumes and actors?

This vase painting shoes a satyr play which stands in contrast to that of the comedy ; here we see masks that are much morel ralistic and not neerly so exagerated. Moreover you see a number of references to Dionysus, including the feathered body suits, the pan-like instruments, the lion-skin and the mask of Dionysus himself.

3. Read the analytical descriptions for the Pronomos Vase and the Choregos Vase. Using the web-searching and site-evaluation skills that you have developed, find information about, and devise an analytical description that might accompany one of the other vases.

In this vase we see what appears to be a depiction of a comedy ; this is due to the exagerated masks and obvious genitalia . The comedies used these exagerations coupled with crude humour but they also symbolise life, regeneration and fertility. However there is also the hal human/ half beast satyr feeling to the two characters. This is supported by the playing of musical instruments and the styalised movement. Moreover the chracter on the right has a tale and his genitals although visible are not as overt as one might expect in a comedy as are neither those of the character on the left. Furthuremore the use of the winged angel seems to conjour a sense of victory and strength which would not be so relevent to comedy which would subvert these issues.

Simply this vase painting is quite confusing but if I had to argue one way or the other I would say that it depicted a satyr scene!

4. With reference to the extract from Csapo and Slater on Comic Vases, how reliable are these vase paintings as evidence for 5th-century B.C.E. staging of Old Comedy and Satyr plays in Athens?

I would say that this extract is mainly arguing that comic vases are not particulary reliable as evidence for actual plays ; there is reference to the way in which costume and mask designs can be seen and understood in the vased but these are in no way definitive . When an artist makes and impression of something it will always be somewhat unique and alien to the subject. This can be quite dangerouse in terms of what we are looking for . If the artist decided to tone downa mask that was meant to be comical we as historian may see it as tragic or from a satyr.

Also many masks have aged and no longer show exactly the scene in context.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Jay B

    Quick question.

    Where can I find mention of facial hair being of religious significance to Pagans?

    14 Dec 2005, 18:29

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