Overview

FOREWORD

_Lysistrata_ is the greatest work by Aristophanes. This blank and rash
statement is made that it may be rejected. But first let it be
understood that I do not...
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LYSISTRATA

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Overview

FOREWORD

_Lysistrata_ is the greatest work by Aristophanes. This blank and rash
statement is made that it may be rejected. But first let it be
understood that I do not mean it is a better written work than the
_Birds_ or the _Frogs_, or that (to descend to the scale of values that
will be naturally imputed to me) it has any more appeal to the
collectors of "curious literature" than the _Ecclesiazusae_ or the
_Thesmophoriazusae_. On the mere grounds of taste I can see an at least
equally good case made out for the _Birds_. That brightly plumaged
fantasy has an aerial wit and colour all its own. But there are certain
works in which a man finds himself at an angle of vision where there is
an especially felicitous union of the aesthetic and emotional elements
which constitute the basic qualities of his uniqueness. We recognize
these works as being welded into a strange unity, as having a
homogeneous texture of ecstasy over them that surpasses any aesthetic
surface of harmonic colour, though that harmony also is understood by
the deeper welling of imagery from the core of creative exaltation. And
I think that this occurs in _Lysistrata_. The intellectual and spiritual
tendrils of the poem are more truly interwoven, the operation of their
centres more nearly unified; and so the work goes deeper into life. It
is his greatest play because of this, because it holds an intimate
perfume of femininity and gives the finest sense of the charm of a
cluster of girls, the sweet sense of their chatter, and the contact of
their bodies, that is to be found before Shakespeare, because that
mocking gaiety we call Aristophanies reaches here its most positive
acclamation of life, vitalizing sex with a deep delight, a rare
happiness of the spirit.

Indeed it is precisely for these reasons that it is _not_ considered
Aristophanes' greatest play.

To take a case which is sufficiently near to the point in question, to
make clear what I mean: the supremacy of _Antony and Cleopatra_ in the
Shakespearean aesthetic is yet jealously disputed, and it seems silly to
the academic to put it up against a work like _Hamlet_. But it is the
comparatively more obvious achievement of _Hamlet_, its surface
intellectuality, which made it the favourite of actors and critics. It
is much more difficult to realize the complex and delicately passionate
edge of the former play's rhythm, its tides of hugely wandering emotion,
the restless, proud, gay, and agonized reaction from life, of the blood,
of the mind, of the heart, which is its unity, than to follow the
relatively straightforward definition of Hamlet's nerves. Not that
anything derogatory to _Hamlet_ or the _Birds_ is intended; but the
value of such works is not enhanced by forcing them into contrast with
other works which cover deeper and wider nexus of aesthetic and
spiritual material. It is the very subtlety of the vitality of such
works as _Antony and Cleopatra_ and _Lysistrata_ that makes it so easy
to undervalue them, to see only a phallic play and political pamphlet in
one, only a chronicle play in a grandiose method in the other. For we
have to be in a highly sensitized condition before we can get to that
subtle point where life and the image mix, and so really perceive the
work at all; whereas we can command the response to a lesser work which
does not call so finely on the full breadth and depth of our spiritual
resources.

I amuse myself at times with the fancy that Homer, Sappho, and
Aristophanes are the inviolable Trinity of poetry, even to the extent of
being reducible to One. For the fiery and lucid directness of Sappho, if
her note of personal lyricism is abstracted, is seen to be an element of
Homer, as is the profoundly balanced humour of Aristophanes, at once
tenderly human and cruelly hard, as of a god to whom all sympathies and
tolerances are known, but who is invulnerable somewhere, who sees from a
point in space where the pressure of earth's fear and pain, and so its
pity, is lifted. It is here that the Shakespearean and Homeric worlds
impinge and merge, not to be separated by any academic classifications.
They meet in this sensitivity equally involved and aloof, sympathetic
and arrogant, suffering and joyous; and in this relation we see
Aristophanes as the forerunner of Shakespeare, his only one. We see also
that the whole present aesthetic of earth is based in Homer. We live and
grow in the world of consciousness bequeathed to us by him; and if we
grow beyond it through deeper Shakespearean ardours, it is because those
beyond are rooted in the broad basis of the Homeric imagination.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012444905
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 5/17/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 49 KB

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2014

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

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