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The History of the Text of Aristophanes

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Chapter Summary

An interval of twenty-four centuries separates the scripts that Aristophanes wrote for the first performances of his comedies from the texts of those comedies as they appear. This chapter attempts to trace the chain of transmission that leads from the former to the latter. The script of a dramatic performance is inherently unstable. Any text may be altered after its completion as a result of second thoughts by the author; but in a play text, the director, the performers, and the audience(s) have also to be considered. During the eighth century, when learning in the Byzantine Empire was at a low ebb, the preservation of classical poetry can have been assured only by the dull, unthinking conservatism of the schools. The first printed edition of Aristophanes was published by Aldus Manutius at Venice in 1498.

Keywords: Aldus Manutius; Aristophanes; Byzantine Empire



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