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Title: Parabasis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ancient Greek comedy, The Wasps, The Frogs, Ancient Greek theatre, Theatre of ancient Greece
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In Greek comedy, the parabasis (plural parabases; Ancient Greek: παράβασις, plural: παραβάσεις) is a point in the play when all of the actors leave the stage and the chorus is left to address the audience directly. The chorus partially or completely abandons its dramatic role to talk to the audience on a topic completely irrelevant to the subject of the play.

For example, in the play The Wasps by Aristophanes the first parabasis is about Aristophanes' career as a playwright to date, while the second parabasis is shorter, and contains a string of in-jokes about local characters who would be well known to the ancient Athenian audience (e.g. the politician Cleon).

A parabasis usually consists of three songs (S) alternating with three speeches (s) in the order S-s-S-s-S-s. The first speech often ends with a passage which is to be rattled off very quickly (theoretically in one breath - called a πνῖγος - pnigos). The parabasis is exclusively a feature of Old Comedy, and after the parabasis was abandoned the role of the chorus declined.


  • Aristotle, Poetics.
  • Feder, Lillian, The Handbook of Classical Literature, (uniform title: Meridian Handbook of Classical Literature), New York : Da Capo Press, 1998. ISBN 0-306-80880-3. Cf. especially the articles on "Comedy", "The Clouds", pp.100-105.
  • Freund, Philip, The Birth of Theatre, London : Peter Owen, 2003. ISBN 0-7206-1170-9. Cf. Chapter 6, Greek Laughter
  • Gassner, John, and Quinn, Edward, [editors], The Reader's Encyclopedia of World Drama, New York, Crowell, 1969. Cf. article on "Comedy", p.140
  • Harsh, Philip Whaley, A Handbook of Classical Drama, Stanford University, Calif., Stanford university press; London, H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1944. Cf. Chapter V, Introduction to Old Comedy.
  • Harsh, Philip Whaley, The Position of the Parabasis in the Plays of Aristophanes, in Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 65, (1934), pp. 178-197, The Johns Hopkins University Press

External links

  • Early Greek Comedy - Mark Damen, Utah State University
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