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Between Ecstasy and TruthInterpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus$
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Stephen Halliwell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570560.001.0001

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Aristophanes’ Frogs and the Failure of Criticism

Aristophanes’ Frogs and the Failure of Criticism

(p.93) 3 Aristophanes’ Frogs and the Failure of Criticism
Between Ecstasy and Truth

Stephen Halliwell

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a new reading of the contest of tragedians in Aristophanes' Frogs. It rejects the current consensus which finds a teleological impetus, with endorsement of a ‘civic poetics’ of tragedy, in the design of the play. It argues instead that Frogs is best seen as a comic dramatization of the difficulty of establishing authoritative standards of poetic criticism. The contest is interpreted with special reference to Dionysus' trajectory of experience in the course of the play: starting out as a passionate lover of poetry, he is gradually reduced to radical instability of judgement by the clashing and partly incommensurable values of Aeschylus and Euripides. Stressing the failure of attempts to rationalize Dionysus' eventual choice of Aeschylus, and drawing out a number of peculiarities in the play's finale, the chapter finds in Frogs a brilliant exposé of some of the hardest problems of Greek poetics.

Keywords:   Aeschylus, civic poetics, comedy, Dionysus, Euripides, judgement, incommensurability, standards, tragedy

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