Phlyax play  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A Phlyax play, also phlyakes, or hilarotragedy) was a burlesque dramatic form that developed in the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in the 4th century BCE. Its name derives from the Phlyakes or “Gossip Players” in Dorian Greek. From the surviving titles of the plays they appear to have been a form of mythological burlesque, which mixed figures from the Greek pantheon with the stock characters and situations of Attic New Comedy. There are only five authors associated with the genre: Rhinthon and Sciras of Taranto, Blaesus of Capri, Sopater of Paphos and Heraklides. No complete play survives, only a few fragments and titles bear witness to the genre, however a substantial body of South Italian vases are believed to represent comic performances of the phlyakes, and from these much speculation on Greek stagecraft and dramatic form has flowed. Nossis of Locri’s epitaph of Rhinthon is our closest contemporary explanation of the genre, she writes: “Pass by with a loud laugh and a kindly word/For me: Rhinthon of Syracuse am I,/The Muses’ little nightingale; and yet/For tragic farce I plucked an ivy wreath”.

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