Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

John Franklin


The development of comedy in the Classical period in Athens provided an outlet for political and social commentary. For something to be categorized as humorous, it must be based upon relevant societal dynamics. In Attic Comedy, characters either embrace obscenity and taboos or accuse one another of doing so. I propose that the exposure of obscenity present in Attic comedy in the Classical period in Athens functioned as a means of shaming audience members and promoting conformity to norms of masculinity while also providing humor. Through an examination of oratory, I will show that norms of masculinity which make jokes in comedy humorous also shapes persuasion in oratory. Unlike comedy, in oratory there are legal consequences. As I will show throughout this essay, the humor in Attic Comedy is derived from a positive and rewarding interaction with the culture and society at large through the mockery of individuals as non-masculine men. Lastly, I will explore briefly how writers of medical texts used gendered language to interpret bodies. The observations of bodies in medical texts lead to specific conclusions about the character of the individuals and groups of people observed. The conclusions drawn from those observations by medical writers show that cultural beliefs were prevalent across all literary genres and were employed in a variety of settings beyond that of comedy and oratory.