Cratinus and the art of comedy
Cratinus, whom postclassical antiquity canonised alongside Aristophanes and Eupolis as one of the triad of the greatest poets of fifth-century Comedy, represents a period of the genre for which our knowledge is very limited. This thesis offers a comprehensive overview for this author and his position in the genre of Greek Comedy. After an introductory section, it goes on to examine Cratinus' comic art from five different angles, in five chapters. The first chapter sheds light on Cratinus' comic persona as it emerges from his plays, and demonstrates its central role in Cratinus' intertextual dialogue with his rivals, especially Aristophanes. It shows that authorial intervention and authorial self-presentation was a much more extensive, complex and fundamental phenomenon in the genre of Old Comedy than a straightforward reading of the extant Aristophanic plays might suggest alone. The following two chapters examine Cratinus' exploration of and engagement with other dramatic genres. Chapter II demonstrates how one of Cratinus' comedies, Dionysalexandros, operated throughout by cross-generic play with satyric drama. By discussing material from extant and fragmentary comedy, as well as vase-painting inspired by dramatic productions, it goes on to show that comic poets and especially Cratinus were actively exploring the possibilities of cross-fertilisation between comedy and satyr play. Through examination of four of Cratinus' comedies, chapter III demonstrates that engagement with tragedy did not interest only Aristophanes, but was a major feature in Cratinus' comedy, too. This chapter also discusses the position that Aeschylus occupies in Cratinus and demonstrates, in particular, how fifth-century perceptions of Aeschylus' poetic style influenced Cratinus' own self-portrayal. Chapter IV looks at Cratinus' manner of composing his plots in several layers. In many of his comedies, mythical, topical and drama-derived plot elements intertwine freely, so that Cratinus' plots often develop along several strands. The demonstration of Cratinus' multi-layered style of composition entails challenging the modern classification of some of his mythical comedies as 'political allegories' and offering an alternative model of reading them, which coheres more with other aspects of the poet and the genre of Old Comedy. The last chapter of the thesis discusses certain dramaturgical and performative aspects of Cratinus' comedies, such as costume and disguise, theatrical properties and machinery and use of dramatic space. It also explores how Cratinus' use of imagery and personification was realised in performance and shaped the dramatic action. The thesis ends by offering a new edition of the papyrus summary of Dionysalexandros (POxy 663) based on argumentation and papyrological observations offered in several of its chapters.