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a delightful scene parodying the sentimental realism of Euripides. The hero, Dicaeopolis, about to plead the enemy's cause at considerable risk to himself, comes to Euripides for the loan of a few rags, to excite the pity of the bench. The whole filthy wardrobe of the tragic heroes (mostly lame or diseased) is ransacked, and Dicaeopolis finally goes off satisfied, after having, as the tragedian pathetically complains, “ robbed him of his tragic art."

A later play, the Thesmophoriazusae, is more extensively concerned with literary matters. The plot is that the women of Athens, incensed at Euripides' persistent abuse of them, are intending to hatch a plot against him at their festival of Thesmophoria. Euripides, getting wind of this, unsuccessfully tries to persuade his effeminate fellow-poet Agathon to dress up as a woman and conduct his defence at the festival. This gives Aristophanes the opportunity for a scene satirising Agathon, his personal appearance, his poetry and his method of composition. Agathon refuses to lend his services, but Euripides' old cousin Mnesilochus is persuaded to undertake the task of impersonation, is detected by the women and bound to a plank, and after a series of scenes elaborately parodying several of Euripides' more sensational and melodramatic plays, finally escapes.

The whole of the second half of the Frogs, in Professor Gilbert Murray's brilliant translation, will be found quoted in this book. The plot of the play is in outline as follows. Euripides and Sophocles are recently dead. The tragic stage is now left deserted, and Dionysus, the patronal deity of the Athenian theatre, descends to the underworld, accompanied by his slave Xanthias, with the object of bringing back Euripides. When he arrives, after sundry adventures, he finds that a contest is about to take place between Euripides and Aeschylus for the possession of the throne of tragedy in Hades. Here our extract begins. Pluto

appoints Dionysus judge. The two poets conduct an elaborate attack on each other's works, first of all on ethical and political, subsequently on technical literary grounds. At the end of it all Dionysus does not know which to choose. As a final test, he invites the two to give their respective opinions on the political situation. On the strength of the answers Aeschylus is adjudged victor. But instead of the throne of tragedy, his reward is to return with Dionysus to the upper world, his parting injunction being that Euripides shall never be allowed, by any manner of chance, to occupy the throne.

Aristophanes' plays are valuable for the history of literary criticism, not only on account of the criticism which they contain, but also because of the light they throw on the general state of criticism in his day. In this respect two facts emerge.

In the first place, everybody was talking about literature. Strepsiades, the country bumpkin in the Clouds, is warned by his instructor Socrates that if he wishes to shine in polite society he must be able to hold his own in a discussion of metrical questions: and smart young men at dinner parties are apt to fire off their views on the relative merits of Aeschylus and Euripides in a pithy sentence or

In the second place, criticism was becoming more articulate and technical, and was evolving a jargon of its own, not always intelligible to the plain man, and a godsend to the humorist. Euripides in the Frogs, and his devoted admirer Dionysus, talk in this style, in sharp contrast to the old-fashioned Aeschylus. Expressions like “Generative poet,” “Sinews of tragedy,” “Obscure in his statement of the situation," seem to be typical of the new criticism, and to have afforded great delight to the audience; while any reference to a file, a plane or a lathe in connection with Euripides or Agathon (who apparently described the subtleties of composition in terms of the carpenter's shop)




was certain to bring down the house. These two poets were undoubtedly much interested in questions of technique. Euripides actually takes the questionable course of introducing literary criticism into his tragedies. In his Electra he goes out of his

way to pour scorn on the device by which Aeschylus effected the recognition of the hero by the heroine in a play on the same subject. And in his Phoenissae he has a hit at the long and undramatic description of the devices on the chieftains' shields in Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes. Of Agathon, whose works have perished, we naturally know less. But even among his scanty fragments there are two on the subjects of the relation between art and inspiration and of dramatic probability, which suggest a self-conscious and theoretical-minded artist. After Aristophanes we have again to fall back upon frag

But these are plentiful enough to show us that Attic comedy, though it ceased at the end of the fifth century to be political in tone, retained its interest in literature and music. Euripides is still much to the fore:

. and we now begin to find criticism of prose writers also, among others Demosthenes, who is described as “the devourer of catapults and spears, a fellow who hates literature, and never uttered an antithesis in his life: a man with Ares in his gaze”: rather an apt way of hitting off the contrast between Demosthenic intensity and Isocratean polish. Gradually, it is true, criticism disappears from comedy. That is however due, not to waning interest in the subject, but to the supersession of the old topical type of comedy by a new sentimental type on modern romantic lines, with love interest and elaborate plot.

Turning now to the philosophers, we may make Plato our starting-point, for with him Greek aesthetic theory really begins. It is true that long before him Xenophanes and Heraclitus had criticised Homer. But they did so


from a purely ethical standpoint. Neither Xenophanes, with his complaint that “Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods all that is a reproach and scandal among men,” nor the ingenious persons who attempted to save Homer's face by allegorising him, really concerned themselves with poetry as such. On the whole, the earlier Greek philosophers were too busy trying to solve the problem of matter, to have any time for other inquiries. And it was not until the Greeks began to study political science that they found themselves confronted with the questions: “What forms

“ of poetry and music should be allowed in the ideal state?” and “What are the true criteria for judging poetry and music ?”

Incidental references in Plato's works to artistic topics are numerous and important. But his most systematic treatment of the subject is contained in the Republic, of his middle period, and the Laws, the work of his old age. His whole attitude to art has been censured for its ethical bias. And it is true that he often seems to assume rather arbitrarily the identification of the beautiful with the good. Two facts, however, must be borne in mind. In the first place, both in the Republic and in the Laws, Plato is primarily concerned with politics, not with aesthetics. His business is to inquire whether certain forms of art are politically valuable, not whether they may be defended on other grounds. That they may be so defended, he himself occasionally hints: as, for example, in the famous passage in the Republic where he expels the poets from his ideal state, after anointing them with myrrh and crowning them with garlands. But why should they have myrrh and garlands unless, while condemned by a political standard they can be approved by another, and a different, test? In the second place, the Greeks aestheticised their morals so much that they could hardly be expected not to moralise their aesthetics. Using a language in which kalos ("beautiful”) also meant good, it was impossible for them not to confuse morals and aesthetics to some extent.

The discussion of literature in the Republic falls into two parts. The subject is first broached in the third book, where Plato is sketching the education of the guardians of his ideal state: it is resumed, in an altered form, in the tenth and last book. In the third book Plato limits the poet in point of matter and in point of style. The former limitation does not appear to be of great originality or importance. When Plato objects to certain stories in Homer as unedifying, he is only saying what Xenophanes has said long before. (We must remember, in passing, that Homer was to the Greeks of the classical period no mere poet, but a revered, almost sacred, teacher.) The second limitation is a more striking one. The poet is to speak, where possible, in propria persona, not through the mouths of his characters. In Plato's words, he must employ “simple narration rather than mimesis (impersonation). Thus not only drama but all speeches in epic are ruled out. The reason for this restriction is that impersonation can find no place in a city where everyone is to look after his own business and leave other people's alone.

When Plato returns to the subject in the tenth book, the treatment is on a different plane. Here we find raised, for the first time in extant Greek literature, fundamental questions in the metaphysic and psychology of art. The discussion starts with an expression of relief that the "mimetic poet” has been banished from the state. But mimesis has changed its meaning since we met it in the third book. It now signifies, not impersonation, but the copying of the actual world in art. And as, according to Plato's metaphysics, the actual world is a copy of the ideal, the world as depicted in art must be merely the copy of a copy.

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