The Greeks often used theater productions as a way to celebrate their gods and point out the weaknesses of man. Greek theater usually featured plays categorized as tragedies, but some of the plays fell into the category of comedy. Each of the types of plays had their own purpose in Greek culture.
Though Greek comedy was not the same as the comedy in many modern television shows, its main purpose was the entertainment of viewers. Much of the dialogue in these Greek comedies consisted of characters throwing personal insults back and forth. In many cases, the characters are assumed to be drunk, mainly because these plays were an big part of the festival celebrating Dionysus, the god of wine. The purpose of the plays was to get the Greeks to look at life in a humorous manner.
Much like the comedians in modern times, the writers of Greek comedies often poked their jokes toward political figures. In a way, the Greek comedies were political propaganda to humiliate the political figures. Other political issues were also the basis for some of the comedy plays. One of the most controversial plays, according to Central Washington University, was "Lysistrata," written by Aristophanes. In this play, the author took a comedic view of the war in which Greece was involved by showing a group of women who were able to put an end to the war. This plot would be humiliating to the Greek government because war was a man's job.
Greek theater was not only for entertaining the residents of the country. Instead, theater, both comedy and tragedy, was part of the competitions during the festivals held to honor the various gods and goddesses. Unlike tragedy, however, the comedy plays were submitted as single plays, which left the writer one chance to impress the audience and judges. Tragedies were often trilogies. This also indicates that comedy did not play as big of a part in Greek history as tragedy.
Though the exact origins for Greek comedy are unknown, some experts attribute the beginnings of comedy to imitation. Those who wrote the plays would watch the way the Greek people interacted with each other. They would then dramatize these situations into a comedic performance that used exaggerated facial expressions and acting. The costumes used in the Greek comedies were also exaggerated to lend to the humor of the situation presented in the play, making them expensive productions.
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