Friday, 17 February 2006

The Comic Play of History

In the comic play of history, the people cry out for liberty, and revel when they are set free from the authority that set them to their virtues and duties, whereupon they call out for security from the vices and rights of others. Enter stage left: the tyrant.
Under Louis Philippe, a parliamentary France, with people making all kinds of speeches about freedom; today, the consequences of that: an emperor who holds down dangerous elements with a firm hand and is therefore praised by the majority of the people as a saviour of the country.
(Johann Jacob Bachofen, Letter to Meyer-Ochsner, 29th August 1864, in Gesmmelte Werke, ed. Karl Meuli (Basel: Schwabe, 1943-1967), vol 10, p. 80; quoted by Lionel Gossman, Basel in the Age of Burckhardt, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 129-130.)
The tyrant is best served first by a time of misrule and social license, against the chaos of which he might appear to the people as the best remedy.


The Pedant-General said...

The "Comic" Play of history?

This sounds more like a tragedy to me....

Deogolwulf said...


The Pedant-General said...

I once performed in a rather smashing double-bill at school.

The first was "The Tragedy of Chrononhotonthologos", which features, as its opening line, the two longest names in English Literature:

"Aldiborontiphoscophornio: where left thou Chrononhotonthologos?"

The name of the second I cannot recall, but I do know that it was billed as a "tragi-comi-pastoral-farce".

I hate to quote Marx, but "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce...."

Anonymous said...

"The name of the second I cannot recall, but I do know that it was billed as a "tragi-comi-pastoral-farce".

That would be John Gay's "The What D'ye Call It". Both that and "Chrononhotonthologos" are available in "Burlesque Plays of the 18th Century" (OUP). Great fun, if you can find it.

Akaky said...

Chrononhotonthologos? You could break your jaw trying to say that one. Did the play end after whoever was assigned to say that whopper finally managed to get it out?

The Pedant-General said...


With a name like that, one would have expected you to have at least a modicum of classical greek.

Break it up into small parts:
- Chronon
- hoton
- thologos
Then reassemble.

Ta da!


Aha. Do you have a link to the script?