The Death of Comedy

In a grand tour of comic theater over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century B.C Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett.

‘…the writing fizzes, the translations are uniformly wonderful and the deep foundations of learning on which the whole project is built are discreetly cupboarded away in a hundred or so pages of endnotes. It is, in more than one sense, a personal history, the record of a lifelong project of investigation into how the popular can be serious, the classicist an entertainer – and in both cases and more importantly still, vice versa.’ Nick Lowe, TLS Review: Nick Lowe

‘The Death of Comedy … reflects Segal’s deep understanding of live comedy as well as his total immersion in the comic literature written in the languages that he knows well: Greek, Latin, French, and English. His work … is very personal and deeply felt exploration of the comic spirit across several millennia … This is no ordinary criticism of comic literature, although it is the work of a scholar who has taken the trouble to do his homework with the utmost scrupulousness … [but] the rewarding infusion of real showbiz into the analysis of texts that have been subjected to repeated desktop interpretations over the centuries.’ G.W.Bowersock, New Republic

‘Its sweep of knowledge, learning unostentatiously presented, and its atmosphere of unsentimental engagement make the Death of Comedy broad and enlightening. Eminently readable, with flashes of wit and spice, it is the work of a distinguished scholar and creative writer.’ Eric Handley

‘Erich Segal’s introduction to ancient comedy in this book will both interest and delight many readers.’ Hugh Lloyd-Jones

‘Erich Segal’s discussion of Shakespeare’s comic genius is richly informed by his deep knowledge of the classical comedy which influenced Shakespeare. Segal’s brio is all but Shakesperian in its laughing intensity.’ Harold Bloom