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The Birth of Comedy: Track 1

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Take the topical satire of Have I Got News For You and mix thoroughly with the adolescent humour of The Inbetweeners, add in a healthy dose of Monty Python-esque absurdity and finish off with lashings of songs and dances. Then serve it all up to a baying crowd in an atmosphere more like a football match than a theatre stage. Welcome to the world of Aristophanes, ‘the father of comedy’. The rise of democracy in ancient Greece produced one of the greatest ever flowerings of culture and gave birth to history, philosophy, science … and fart gags. Theatre first appeared in Athens 2,500 years ago to educate and entertain the growing audience of citizens. However Greek theatre wasn’t a quiet entertainment but a rowdy, competitive sport involving teams of performers battling each other for prizes.

By: The OpenLearn Team (The Open University)

  • Duration 1 hour 9 minutes
  • Updated Thursday 15th August 2013

Track 1: Creating a Spectacle: Theatre in Ancient Athens

Why was theatre-going so important to the Athenians? James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, looks at the birth of comedy and the rise of democracy and wonders why we never hear of Spartan stand up.



Tracks in this podcast:

Track Title Description
1 Creating a Spectacle: Theatre in Ancient Athens Why was theatre-going so important to the Athenians? James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, looks at the birth of comedy and the rise of democracy and wonders why we never hear of Spartan stand up. Play now Creating a Spectacle: Theatre in Ancient Athens
2 Making Athens Laugh: The Ancient Sense of Humour Slapstick, satire or stereotypes, just what made the Greeks laugh? In this episode James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, examines the elements of successful Greek comedy. Play now Making Athens Laugh: The Ancient Sense of Humour
3 Sex, Swearing and Satire in Aristophanes’ Comedy Obscenity was a powerful tool in the hands of Greek playwrights. James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, asks how Aristophanes pulled it off. Play now Sex, Swearing and Satire in Aristophanes’ Comedy
4 Aristophanes’ Athens What do Aristophanes’ plays tell us about life in ancient Athens? James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, and his guests discuss the use of literary sources. Play now Aristophanes’ Athens
5 Performing Aristophanes What are the challenges in performing Aristophanes for a modern audience? James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, and his guests discuss the problems of making classics relevant today. Play now Performing Aristophanes
6 Aristophanes’ Women How well do the women in Aristophanes’ plays reflect the lives of real women in ancient Athens? James Robson, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, and his guests discuss what we can learn from the gaps in the evidence. Play now Aristophanes’ Women
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