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23.1.Shaw

Comedy's official introduction to the Athenian City Dionysia in 486 BCE resulted in the decline of various modes of humorous performance (Rusten 2006; 2011). As comic poets incorporated elements from comedy's precursors, these pre-comic performances became obsolete. In this paper, I will argue that satyr drama suffered the same fate, but that the process was largely set in motion by Euripides' satyr-less "satyr play," the Alcestis. Throughout this production Euripides establishes satyr drama as comedic komos-song, a connection that inspired a significant artistic discussion of comic-satyr icrelations: comic poets began staging more comedies with satyr choruses and vase painters created a number of vases with satyrs named Komos. These interactions revealed that comedy could "do" anything that satyr drama did, and as a result satyr drama began to decline just as pre-comic performances had declined in the first quarter of the fifth century.

At the City Dionysia of 438, Euripides concluded his tetralogy not with a traditional satyr play, but with his satyr-less Alcestis, a production closer to tragedy than to satyr drama. Marshall (2000) has convincingly argued that the play was a response to the recent enactment of the Athenian law known as the "Decree of Morychides," which prohibited "making comedy" (μá½´κωμωÍ…δεá¿–ν). Although the intent of the decree was almost certainly to prevent personal abuse in the genre of komoidia, the wording (since it lacked the term á½€νομαστὶ) couldbe interpreted as outlawing κῶμος songs altogether: the verb κωμωÍ…δεá¿–ν is made up of two parts etymologically, κῶμος (revelry, merry-making) and á¾ δή/ á¼€οιδή (song) or á¼€είδειν (tosing). For Euripides, satyr drama was an integral part of the tragic experience, but with its chorus of Dionysian komastic satyrs, it was also a komos-song, a komoidia. Euripides ensures this reading by repeatedly using κῶμος and its related verbal forms throughout the Alcestis.

Slater (2005) has shown how jarring the experience of viewing a satyr-less satyr play must have been to the Athenian audience, and Storey (2005) has compellingly suggested that comic poets of the 430s were responding to this experience when they began to employ more satyr choruses in their comedies (cf. Callias' Satyroi,which was staged just one year after Euripides' Alcestis). The 430s also saw a spike in Attic artists producing high-classical vases with satyrs named Komos. The relative closeness of a) the Decree of Morychides, b) Euripides' satyr-less Alcestis, c) comedy's interest in satyrs, and d) an increase in satyr-komos vases indicates a flurry of interest in satyrs and the comic-satyric (or komos-satyric) relationship during this period. Comedy and satyr drama were generically connected, and comic poets showed that it could even "be" satyr drama. In this way, comedy consumed satyr play just as it had consumed its precursors. The two genres continued to become less differentiated until finally, during the fourth century, satyr drama was removed from the competition and relegated to an opening act.

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