Musical Comedy About Abortion a Sad Reflection on the Arts
But it’s struggling to find a name for the show. “Fetus Chorus” turned out to be a bit too much.
At the height of the Greek Comedy of the ancient world, Aristophanes’ plays were marked by coruscating political satire, rife with sexual and scatological innuendo. Unlike the tragedy, in which the protagonist was “a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity” (Aristotle), the protagonists of comedies would rank below the social rank of the audience, making them suitable for its condescension and mockery.
The violence and chaos of the play reflected the chaotic worldview and cyclical process of history of the Greeks. Its tendency to lambaste the political figures of the day also reflected the tenuous grasp on power of political rulers. Politics was marked by revolution and violence, and tyrants seeking to resist their inevitable downfall.
Christianity altered not just the understanding of history from a fatalistic, purposeless march towards death that could only be alleviated by fame, and the purpose of politics, it also transformed the art of the period.
This is evident in what happened to the genre of comedy.
It is a commonplace to hear mockery about Puritan prudery surrounding the theatre and the arts in general. As with almost every contemporary assessment of the past, a narrow selection of evidence is used to paint the past with broadbrush strokes. In this case, it is truly a horrible distortion.
Medieval and Renaissance comedy was marked by the happy endings that are conventions of our comedy. Shakespeare is the best known representative of this sense of comedy.
Shakespeare’s comedies invariably conclude with a marriage, resolving the conflict with which his plays begin, transforming discord into harmony. Along with the marriage, there is a move from the threat of revolution to political concord, from personal confusion and insanity to sane tranquility, from ignorance to understanding, from legalism (or lawlessness) to liberty, from unhappiness to satisfaction, from separation to union, and from barrenness to fertility.
All the expressions of diversity and discord find resolution in the marriage itself.
These are all reflections of a Christian eschatology and philosophy of history, in which the relationship between Christ and his church is seen as that of a bridegroom to a bride.
The distortions with which this contemporary comedy in Philadelphia centres around the killing of a preborn child would shame the great Aristophanes.
It is however a direct expression of the vapid politicization of an artistic community that has lost the sense of high purpose given to comedy by Shakespeare and his age. It is hard not to see the reversal of every problem resolved in Shakespeare’s great comedies.
And that’s no laughing matter.
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