Aristophanes best when fantasy made from ordinary Athenian life
Overall, yes, but depends on which play, Lysistrata much more fantastical..Each Athenian audience would have differed. Some moments are utterly fantastical, but that can be funny too.
Stagecraft: comic fantasy: Socrates flying in on mechane like a god, like tragedy…not fam in terms of reality, but in terms of gods they worship…
Lysistrata meanwhile lacks any major stage craft…
Situational: Lysistrata women taking over…
Aristophanes is at his best when creating comic fantasy out of ordinary Athenian life and what is normal to them. Aristophanes’ success can be defined as being humorous, and this is why it could be argued the statement is wrong because utterly fantastical moments are also funny to Athenians, even if it is not based on their usual experiences and ordinary life.
In terms of stagecraft and props, Clouds shows that Aristophanes is at his best when he uses utterly fantastical humour. In the play, Socrates enters like a god from tragedy, flying in from a mechane. This is funny, and Aristophanes is therefore successful, because this fantastical moment is a mockery of tragedy. After the Athenian audience had sat through three tragedies, they would have found this funny as finally there is release after the hard going dramas. So to an extent this comic fantasy may be based on the ordinary festival experiences of Athenians. However, here is no real relatability or ordinary nature in the actual action of the godlike Socrates swinging in. This is a comic fantasy on a ridiculous scale, because the entrance shatters any dramatic illusion, or order and normality on stage.
Meanwhile, Lysistrata uses props to set up the fantastical notion of women taking over the patriarchal Athenian world, which is based on what Athenian audiences would know. For example, in the agon, the women use buckets to extinguish the mens flames, representing their sexual drive. This is an example of fantasy as this dramatic moment where women are usurping men in society, in taking over the Acropolis is entirely absurd and fantastical, and so the mostly male Athenian audience would have found it funny. This shows that Aristophanes is successful in turning ordinary Athenian life on its head and into comic fantasy- but it isn’t necessary where he is at his best.
Aristophanes creates comic fantasy in his slanderous portrayal of Socrates in Clouds, which was meant to be based on the figure that all the Athenian audience knew. In the play, Aristophanes seems to muddle all new thinking including science and rhetoric as well as philosophy into this one character. This is fantasy because representations such as when Socrates teaches Strepsiades how to argue his way out of any argument to beat the debtors, are clearly wrong. Instead, the humour is created because Aristophanes is using Socrates as a figurehead that the audience can laugh at, where all new thinking, such as the growth of rhetoric and careerism can be showcased and criticised. Therefore, Aristophanes is quite successful in making the audience laugh, by using comic fantasy twisting Athenian’s ordinary perceptions of figures, but it still isn’t the only way he uses comic fantasy.
Another fantastical element can be found in the plot of Clouds. This plot is fantastical because Strepsiades, an old man, is going back to school. This comic fantasy is funny because it is based on the ordinary experiences of Athenians, which is that old men do not go back to school.
Aristophanes points to the comic fantasy of Lysistrata in the closing moments of the play. This is found in the objectification of Reconciliation, with the Spartan Herald dividing up the map of Greece, or her body, by her legs and her breasts. In this moment, there is comic fantasy that is linked to ordinary experiences- that of how men dominate society and may well view women as objects. Women were quite downtrodden as they could not vote or speak in the assemblies, for example.
It must be remembered that each play was at a different time of year, and therefore audience, and this meant each play differed in its success in the dramatic competition. Clouds finished last at the Great Dionysia, whilst Lysistrata won the Lenaia. These two competitions differed in the make up of the Athenian audience as the Lenaia would have been a purely Athenian affair due to impassable seas. This means that Aristophanes use of comic fantasy varies, because the audience at each festival also varies, meaning what they consider to be normal or ordinary varies.
Overall, Aristophanes is usually at his best when he makes comic fantasy out of ordinary situations. This is because by basing it on the ordinary, the Athenian audience can understand and relate to the humour, which makes it funnier and accessible. However, the pure fantastical elements that can also be found in the plays aren’t any less funny.