The Chorus only adds humour to Aristophanes’ plays, hence why Plautus did away with the chorus altogether for his comedy

The Chorus only adds humour to Aristophanes’ plays, hence why Plautus did away with the chorus altogether for his comedy

Serious messages, humour, visual spectacle, drama

Plautus does not use a chorus, because there are other ways of generating humour. For example, where a chorus in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was used to evoke humour verbally with the verbal abuse shared between old men and old women in the threats such as “I’ll rip your guts out with my teeth” or “rotting relic”, the interaction between Palaestrio and Sceledrus, or equally Menaechmus and the Doctor provide this type of humour. Palaestrio engages in banter and verbal abuse with Sceledrus, making a joke about not wanting to soil his hands by pulling Sceledrus’ dirty leg, and in return Sceledrus tells him to hang himself. The bluntness of this insultive, almost taboo-like topic creates humour out this velivetatio atmosphere, this ritual abuse that is quite similar to aischrologia for the Greeks. Furthermore, Menaechmus repeats the use of hang yourself to the doctor, after doctor asks him a question. Thus, the same verbal abuse that is provided by the chorus can also be found in Roman comedy, without the chorus.

Aristophanes’ serious messages are sometimes conveyed by the chorus, but not always, and thus it appears that the chorus is perhaps not always necessary for conveying such messages, as further demonstrated by Roman comedy. Whilst in Clouds, the Clouds themselves come forward in a parabasis to speak of ideas opposing Cleon and his re-election, as well as criticisng the like sof Eupolis for copying some of Aristophanes’ plays, in Lysistrata, the serious message is delivered by Lysistrata, namely due to a complete lack of a parabasis. This would traditionally be where a serious message was delivered, and thus it could be said that the chorus itself may not be vital for serious messages, but a multi purpose tool for humour and for visual spectacle and drama. In Roman Comedy, any real serious message is hard to explicitly interpret due to the nature of the plays in greek dress. However, an overall message of good winning over evil is able to be made, without the chorus. Although, it is arguable that Plautus doesn’t use the chorus because it is no longer traditional to do so, and also that his lack of serious messages overall is more owing to the fact that Roman’s had a larger amount of censorship, as those commissioners to elect the playwrights etc were state elected, and thus any dramatically serious and evocative messages would cost them their ability to write more plays.

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