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Quaestiones Convivales: Plutarch’s Sense of Humour as Evidence of his Platonism

Anastasios Nikolaidis
From the journal Philologus

Abstract

Given Plutarch’s fragmentary piece on Aristophanes and Menander (Mor. 853A–854D), a piece of Table Talk on almost the same topic (Mor. 711A–713F) and various attacks on comic poets scattered through the Lives, one might believe that Plutarch is a staid, conservative and humourless author. But several other instances in his writings reveal a playful, facetious, witty and humorous Plutarch. This paper will focus on the Quaestiones Convivales, which bear ample witness to this aspect of Plutarch’s personality and authorial technique. It will examine the ways in which he introduces and describes the various interlocutors, discuss certain comments (or arguments) with which he tries to ridicule his philosophical opponents, notably the Stoics and the Epicureans, try to distinguish the various manifestations of Plutarch’s humour (spontaneous reaction, literary device, pleasantry, witticism, irony) and finally suggest that Plutarch’s stance and attitude towards playfulness, comic situations and laughter may ultimately be affected, at least in part, by his allegiance to Plato.

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Published Online: 2018-02-14
Published in Print: 2019-05-29

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