Slipping one in: the introduction of obscene lexical items in Aristophanes

Robson, James (2014). Slipping one in: the introduction of obscene lexical items in Aristophanes. In: Olson, S. Douglas ed. Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 29–50.




This chapter examines the way in which Aristophanes introduces obscene words into his comedies both at the beginning of the plays and subsequently, following more heightened and/or more sober sequences. The Aristophanic norm is to introduce obscenity unsignalled, the 'obscenity out of nowhere' technique, often employed to signal abuse, crudeness, buffoonery and/or freedom from inhibitions. Alternatively, the poet sometimes employs the 'build-up' technique, in which double entendres and sexual allusions occur with increasing intensity before a climactic primary obscenity is finally introduced. Examples of both techniques are analysed, and some of the challenges that Aristophanic obscenity present and the relationship between obscenity and paratragedy are explored.

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