The 'Love Duet' In Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae

Classical Quarterly 38 (2):328-330 (1988)
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Over sixty years ago, Walter Headlam identified Ecclesiazusae 960–76 as a paraclausithyron, or song sung by an excluded lover from the street to his beloved within. In 1958, however, C. M. Bowra suggested that the whole of Eccl. 952–75 was actually the sole surviving example of a previously unrecognized genre of Greek lyric poetry, the informal love duet. The thesis has been widely accepted, and is adopted by Rossi, Henderson and Silk, as well as by the Oxford editor, Ussher, who rejects Headlam's identification explicitly. Only Zimmermann has failed to embrace Bowra's interpretation wholeheartedly, although he offers no detailed discussion of the passage. In fact, Eccl. 952–75 is not evidence for a lost lyric genre, but a sophisticated literary parody, carefully designed as an elaborate poetic comment on the larger action of the play in which it appears. Bowra's ‘love duet’ is a critical fantasy, whose fictional existence only serves to obscure the real purposes and humour of this Aristophanic love-song.



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