a genre of comedy developed in Greece in the Fifth Century B.C. that used cutthroat satire and caricature to ridicule public figures, politics, ideas, trends, and institutions. Not infrequently, the dialogue and the action sequences rely on vulgarity to get laughs.
The following exchange between two enemies in Lysistrata, a woman and an old man, demonstrates the coarseness of the humor in the play:
WOMAN: Suppose I let fly a good kick at you?
OLD MAN: I should see your thing then.
WOMAN: You would see that, for all my age, it is very well plucked.
In the Fourth Century, old comedy was succeeded by a lighter, less caustic form of comedy that centered on fictional characters drawn from everyday life rather than on public figures, politics, and so on. This genre was appropriately labeled new comedy.
Old comedy usually contained the following structural elements:
* Prologos: Prologue that begins the play with dialogue indicating the focus or theme of the play.
* Parodos (pronunciation: PAIR uh doss): (1) Song sung by the chorus when it enters; (2) the moment when the chorus enters.
* Episode(s): scene in which the dialogue involves one or two characters and the chorus.
* Agon (pronunciation: AG ohn): a debate between characters.
* Parabasis (puh RAB uh sis): an ode in which the chorus addresses the audience to express opinions of the author, including his views on politics, social trends, and other topics.
* Stasimon(s) (pronunciation: STASS uh monz): Scenes in which the chorus sings a song, uninterrupted by dialogue. Usually, other characters are not present.
* Exodos (EX uh doss): Exit scene; final part of the play. In the exodos in The Clouds, Strepsiades burns down the thinking shop.
A character type which relies heavily on cultural types or names for his or her personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes, but they are often more narrowly defined. In the Old Comedy of Greek drama, common stock characters included the alazon (the imposter or self-deceiving braggart), the bomolochos (the buffoon); and the eiron, the self-derogatory and understating character. Stock characters in Elizabethan drama include the heroine disguised as a handsome young man, the gullible country bumpkin, and the machievelle as a villain. Stock characters in medieval romances include the damsel in distress, the contemptuous dwarf, the chivalrous, handsome young knight, the wild man of the woods, and the senex amans (the ugly old man married to a younger girl). In modern detective fiction, the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold, the hard-drinking P.I., and the corrupt police-officer are stereotypical stock characters. Stock characters in western films might include the noble sheriff, the whorehouse madam, the town drunkard.