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Features of Greek Satyr Play as a Guide to Interpretation for Plato’s Republic

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

The paper borrows from recent work by classicists on satyr play and demonstrates significant parallels between Plato’s Republic and the structure, theme and stereotypical contents that characterize this newly studied genre of ancient Greek drama. Like satyr play, the Republic includes repeated passages where metatheatricality can reverse the meaning. The frequent occurrence of all the stereotypical elements of satyr play in Plato’s Republic also suggests to readers that they should be responding to Socrates’ narration as they would to a satyr play, again reversing meaning by communicating a set of literary expectations to Plato’s readers over the heads of Socrates’ interlocutors. As is frequently the case with satyr play, the political purpose of the drama is the critique of tyrannical government. The need for a systematically ironic interpretation of the dialogue is raised.


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