©Damen, 2021

Classical Drama and Theatre

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In other words, perhaps it is the case that Theophrastus observed the nature of stage production in his day and, by surmising that real people wear something comparable to theatrical "masks" which he labeled "character," he extrapolated notions about human psychology, turning what was essentially a theatrical mode of expression into a philosophical and psychological inquiry into human nature. In the absence of hard data and good dates, we can only speculate as to which came first—the chicken or Dionysus-the-chicken?—but one thing is clear: the most natural arena for engendering a notion constitutes the most likely source, and with that it makes better sense that comical, personality-driven, proto-psychological philosophy arose out of post-classical comic theater, a world where stereotypical characters are intrinsic and abound. To put it another way, Theophrastus may have merely stated in a serious way what Aristophanes and his diadochoi had been saying for generations about human nature through the medium of comedy, but the message was taken seriously only when it came from a serious-sounding philosopher and not just some laughter-hungry comedians.

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