This book opens up a neglected chapter in the reception of Athenian drama, especially comedy; and it gives stage-centre to a particularly attractive and entertaining series of vase-paintings, which have been generally regarded as marginal curiosities. These are the so-called `phlyax vases', nearly all painted in the Greek cities of South Italy in the period 400 t0 360 BC. Up till now, they have been taken to reflect some kind of local folk-theatre, but Oliver
Taplin, prompted especially by three that have only been published in the last twelve years, argues that most, if not all, reflect Athenian comedy of the sort represented by Aristophanes. This bold thesis opens up questions of the relation of tragedy as well as comedy to
vase-painting, the cultural climate of the Greek cities in Italy, and the extent to which Athenians were aware of drama as a potential `export'. It also enriches appreciation of many key aspects of Aristophanic comedy: its metatheatre and self-reference, its use of stage-action and stage-props, its unabashed indecency, and its polarised relationship, even rivalry, with tragedy. The book has assembled thirty-six photographs of vase-paintings. Many are printed here for the first time outside
specialist publications that are not readily accessible.
`Oliver Taplin's imaginative approach to Greek drama amy change our perpsective on the fate of both classical tragedy and - more surprisingly - Old Comedy ... His discussions of the "Choregoi" display scholarship as well as clever detective work ... This incisive study will raise both cheers and hackles. But it will not be ignored.'
Times Literary Supplement
'Oliver Taplin is the doyen of Greek theatre studies ... The appearance of a third book on Greek drama must be an important event. Comic Angels is modest in its scale and ambitions, but the achievement is significant. The core of the book is entirely convincing ... It is a mark of the book's concrete achievement that it opens up so many potential areas of investigation. The 48 black and white plates are a valuable resource.'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'the book is well written and interesting; the pictures are well chosen, situated conveniently in the text, and easy to consult as one reads ... altogether this is a book that students will find easy reading ... anyone who is interested in the history of drama must feel grateful to Taplin for bringing his thesis to public attention in such an interesting format and with sufficient illustration that even those not normally interested in vase painting will
feel the attraction of these fascinating vases'
William J. Slater, McMaster University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 4.4 (1993)
'very worthwhile study ... the book has some superb, well-chosen illustrations which demonstrate to good effect all of the feaures we have come to associate with comic characters ... This is an interesting and thought-provoking study, whih will encourage us to reappraise some long-held assumptions about the role of comedy beyond mainland Greece.'
Richard Harrison, The Greek Gazette, November 1993