Action, Song, and Poetry: Musical and Poetical Meta-performance in Aristophanes and Ben Jonson


Alessandro Grilli
University of Pisa
Francesco Morosi
University of Pisa


Early Modern English Comedy, Ben Jonson, Aristophanes, metatheatre, meta-performance, classical tradition


This study aims to provide a comparative analysis of the dynamics of musical and poetical meta-performance as they emerge both from the surviving corpus of ancient Attic comedy (which adds up, for our purposes, to Aristophanes’ eleven extant plays) and from Ben Jonson’s comedies. As a matter of fact, both corpora show a huge presence of meta-performative elements, that is, of moments in which musical and/or poetical performance is explicitly thematized or enacted in the drama. Those moments are hardly ever fortuitous, or not significant. On the contrary, they play each time a vital role in the development of the plot, in the portrait of characters, or in the definition of the ideology of the play.
By means of a comparative analysis between the two authors, the book aims at providing a taxonomy of meta-performance in Aristophanes and Ben Jonson, with particular attention to its role in the definition of the characters' poetic ability. Such comparison will show that, despite using similar comic and performative strategies, the two authors draw a completely different ideology around the crucial themes of culture and titularity.



January 30, 2023

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