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This taste for parodies was very prevalent with the Grecians, and is a species of humour which perhaps has been too rarely practised by the moderns: Cervantes has some passages of this nature in his parodies of the old chivalric romances; Fielding, in some parts of his “Tom Jones” and “Joseph Andrews,” in his burlesque poetical descriptions; and Swift, in his “Battle of Books,” and “Tale of a Tub;” but few writers have equalled the delicacy and felicity of Pope’s parodies in the “Rape of the Lock.” Such parodies give refinement to burlesque.

The ancients made a liberal use of it in their satirical comedy, and sometimes carried it on through an entire work, as in the Menippean satire, Seneca’s mock Eloge of Claudius, and Lucian in his Dialogues. There are parodies even in Plato; and an anecdotical one, recorded of this philosopher, shows them in their most simple state. Dissatisfied with his own poetical essays, he threw them into the flames; that is, the sage resolved to sacrifice his verses to the god of fire; and in repeating that line in Homer where Thetis addresses Vulcan to implore his aid, the application became a parody, although it required no other change than the insertion of the philosopher’s name instead of the goddess’s;–[3]

Vulcan, arise! ’tis Plato claims thy aid!

Boileau affords a happy instance of this simple parody. Corneille, in his Cid, makes one of his personages remark,

Pour grands que soient les rois ils sont ce que nous sommes,
Ils peuvent se tromper comme les autres hommes.

A slight alteration became a fine parody in Boileau’s Chapelain Decoiffe,

Pour grands que soient les rois ils sont ce que nous sommes,
Us fee trompent en vers comme les autres hommes.

We find in Athenaeus the name of the inventor of a species of parody which more immediately engages our notice–DRAMATIC PARODIES. It appears this inventor was a satirist, so that the lady-critic, whose opinion we had the honour of noticing, would be warranted by appealing to its origin to determine the nature of the thing. A dramatic parody, which produced the greatest effect, was “the Gigantomachia,” as appears by the only circumstance known of it. Never laughed the Athenians so heartily as at its representation, for the fatal news of the deplorable state to which the affairs of the republic were reduced in Sicily arrived at its first representation–and the Athenians continued laughing to the end! as the modern Athenians, the volatile Parisians, might in their national concern of an OPERA COMIQUE. It was the business of the dramatic parody to turn the solemn tragedy, which the audience had just seen exhibited, into a farcical comedy; the same actors who had appeared in magnificent dresses, now returned on the stage in grotesque habiliments, with odd postures and gestures, while the story, though the same, was incongruous and ludicrous. The Cyclops of Euripides is probably the only remaining specimen; for this may be considered as a parody on the ninth book of the Odyssey–the adventures of Ulysses in the cave of Polyphemus, where Silenus and a chorus of satyrs are farcically introduced, to contrast with the grave narrative of Homer, of the shifts and escape of the cunning man “from the one-eyed ogre.” The jokes are too coarse for the French taste of Brumoy, who, in his translation, goes on with a critical growl and foolish apology for Euripides having written a farce; Brumoy, like Pistol, is forced to eat his onion, but with a worse grace, swallowing and execrating to the end.

In dramatic composition, Aristophanes is perpetually hooking in parodies of Euripides, whom of all poets he hated, as well as of AEschylus, Sophocles, and other tragic bards. Since, at length, that Grecian wit has found a translator saturated with his genius, and an interpreter as philosophical, the subject of Grecian parody will probably be reflected in a clearer light from his researches.