Ancient Greek comedy
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Ancient Greek comedy was one of the final three principal dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece (the others being tragedy and the satyr play). Athenian comedy is conventionally divided into three periods, ''Old Comedy'', ''Middle Comedy'', and ''New Comedy''. Old Comedy survives today largely in the form of the eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes, while Middle Comedy is largely lost, i.e. preserved only in relatively short fragments by authors such as Athenaeus of Naucratis. New Comedy is known primarily from the substantial papyrus fragments of Menander.
The philosopher Aristotle wrote in his ''Poetics'' (c. 335 BC) that comedy is a representation of laughable people and involves some kind of blunder or ugliness which does not cause pain or disaster.〔Aristotle, ''Poetics'', (line 1449a ): "Comedy, as we have said, is a representation of inferior people, not indeed in the full sense of the word bad, but the laughable is a species of the base or ugly. It consists in some blunder or ugliness that does not cause pain or disaster, an obvious example being the comic mask which is ugly and distorted but not painful."〕 C. A. Trypanis wrote that comedy is the last of the great species of poetry Greece gave to the world.〔Cf. Trypanis, ''Greek Poetry from Homer to Seferis'', Chapter 4, p. 201〕
The Alexandrine grammarians, and most likely Aristophanes of Byzantium in particular, seem to have been the first to divide Greek comedy into what became the canonical three periods:〔Mastromarco (1994) p. 12〕 Old Comedy (ἀρχαία ''archaia''), Middle Comedy (μέση ''mese'') and New Comedy (νέα ''nea''). These divisions appear to be largely arbitrary, and ancient comedy almost certainly developed constantly over the years.〔
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