But at the same time he felt that they had lost all sincere consistency, all interior heroism: and therefore he continually exerted the goad of criticism around them; he discussed them on purpose, or instinctively deformed them, lowered them, humiliated them: he reduced facts and mythical characters to the proportions of ordinary bourgeois life. In Euripides, therefore, the heroic world, which from Homer had gradually diminished but in Aeschylus had summed up a gigantic dimension, falls apart. It collapses in poetry, because it in fact collapsed in the practice of life, in those moments when society, demagogic and turbulent, lost the measure of ancient dignity and ancient value in plebeian excesses. The Euripidean tragedies, leaning towards a common type of bourgeois drama, are, after those of Aeschylus and Sophocles, a further step on the path of pragmatic, dialogical, discursive development (in fact the choral songs, although beautiful, are almost completely detached from the action, to the point of appearing as simple interludes). So these tragedies are translated into a representation that is increasingly rich in interweaving and more in keeping with reality; and not only do they get closer to the tone of the common conversation, but they often welcome glimpses of rhetorical and philosophical discussions, which spoil the harmonious fusion of the work of art. This does not prevent Euripides from reaching the heights of the most sincere poetry; because he is a great poet and essentially tragic: inasmuch as he finds tragicity, even more alive and heartbreaking, in that comic mixture of ordinary life, in that humanity of his, degraded and battered, who is no longer capable of greatness, but is much more capable of sinning and suffering. Moreover, more than anyone else, he introduces the tragedy of his own spirit into his plays: therefore he is the most subjective of the three tragic ones and, in general, of all Greek poets. So it is also the most modern. In fact, for his subjectivism, for his anti-heroic and elegiac way of feeling, he inaugurated and anticipated the times; and it was not for nothing that it was especially appreciated and tasted after death, in the following century. he inaugurated and anticipated the times; and it was not for nothing that it was especially appreciated and tasted after death, in the following century. he inaugurated and anticipated the times; and it was not for nothing that it was especially appreciated and tasted after death, in the following century.
In Euripides a new society and a new spiritual environment were affirmed: the world of human littleness, the critical, reflective, demolishing spirit, etc. All this provoked contrast with the ancient heroic world, which was still alive in the memories and imaginations of many. Well, this contrast – in which we recognize the fundamental note of Athenian history in the second half of the century. It goes. C. -, if he gave Euripides occasion for suffering and tears, on the other hand he had to find his most proper expression in the forms of irony and satire, that is, in comedy. In fact, it became the characteristic object of the ancient Attic comedy: which had already given good proofs in the period of Pericles, when Crathes and Cratinus flourished; but had its highest representatives during the Peloponnesian War.
Of Cratete, Cratino, and Eupoli himself, as well as several other minor playwrights, only fragments remain. On the other hand, of Aristophanes, who reached the highest peaks of genius, we have eleven entire plays (among about forty composed by him), which are distributed fairly well throughout the course of his life. They are generally of a political topic: that is, they draw inspiration from the facts, passions, ideas, problems of all kinds (including moral, religious, literary, etc.) that interested the Athenian polis in the various phases of the Peloponnesian war and then in the first decades following the defeat. The animating motif is the contrast between the old and the new. Aristophanes naturally takes the side of the ancient: conservative in politics, therefore averse to demagogues; and conservative also in all those other aspects that are connected with the concept of the polis, in morality, in religion, etc., therefore contrary to rhetoricians, sophists, all innovators, of poetry, music, education, etc., Euripides, Melanippides, Phrynides, Socrates, etc. This attitude of his, as a conservative and systematic opponent, he derives in a certain sense from the use: since the comedy was born from the beginning to exercise freedom of speech and contradiction, to make the caricature, the parody, the satire, and therefore had to attack those who were in government, the dominant ideas and things. But he also drew it from his own since comedy was born from the beginning to exercise freedom of speech and contradiction, to make caricature, parody, satire, and therefore had to attack those who were in government, ideas and dominant things. But he also drew it from his own forma mentis, from his moral and intellectual structure, from the forces of his persuasion. The lightness, the superficiality, the aesthetic indifference of those who laugh just for the sake of laughing and making people laugh were not in the nature of Aristophanes nor in the nature of the times.
Ancient comedy, flourishing in the most stormy and tragic period in the history of Athens, also has something tragic about it; with the grimaces of laughter, with the jokes and with the satirical antics it reflects the pains of the crisis: it is the work of passion, of spiritual ferment, of faith. In any case, the greatness of Aristophanes, his genius, consists in the art whereby the historical, political, patriotic elements, which are by their nature contingent, are transformed by him into eternal expressions of universal value. Around those elements he creates a mythical, imaginative, fabulous atmosphere, which makes them shine with immense light, transforming them into extraordinary, unexpected, unforgettable comic figures. You live in a world of absolute sublimity: the sublimity of the comic, of course. It is the miracle of the creative imagination. Indeed, it is important to note how fantasy asserted itself, with all its power, in Aristophanes. It, which was then diminishing, overwhelmed by reflection, in the forms of tragedy, was resurrected by virtue of the contrast in the ancient Comedy, especially Aristophanean. But for a short time now: since, once the fervor of the struggle has ceased, even the last compositions of Aristophanes change character: they descend from their height, they move towards the type of what will be called New Comedy. The spirit becomes reflective, thoughtful, abstract; refuses sublime flights; it emerges from the envelope of myths aiming at the study of reality; it turns towards science and therefore towards prose, which will predominate in the 9th century.