In Greek drama, the eiron (ειρων, self-deprecator)Head-Royce School (2006). [http://ns.headroyce.org/~denelow/Shakespeare/Twelfth%20Night/frye.html Northrop Frye on Comedy (from The Anatomy of Criticism)] ] was a comedic character who succeeded by bringing his braggart opponent, the alazon, down by making himself seem like less than he actually was. Together with the bomolochus, or buffoon, he formed one of the three stock characters of Greek Old Comedy.


The eiron developed in Greek Old Comedy, and can be found in many of Aristophanes' plays.
Aristotle names the eiron in his "Nicomachean Ethics", where he says

'η δ' επι το ελαττον ειρωνεια και ειρων (1108a12).Perseus Digital Library (2006). [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Aristot.+Nic.+Eth.+1108a+1 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics] ] (Emphasis added)

in the form of understatement, self-depreciation, and its possessor the self-depreciator (1108a12).Perseus Digital Library (2006). [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Aristot.+Nic.+Eth.+1108a+1 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics] ]

In this passage, Aristotle establishes the eiron as one of the main characters of comedy, along with the alazon.


The modern term irony is derived from the eiron of Greek theatre. Irony is the difference between the actual meaning of a something and the apparent meaning.Dictionary.com (2006). [http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=irony Irony] ] The eiron would frequently triumph over the alazon by making himself appear less than he actually was.

Dramatic appearance

One appearance of the eiron in an Aristophanes play is in "The Clouds". The character Strepsiades, an eiron, meets Socrates, an alazon. Strepsiades defeats the wise and learned Socrates in a debate by appearing foolish and reducing the debate from a highbrow theocratic issue to a scatological matter:

SOCRATES: These are the only gods there are. The rest are but figments.
STREPSIADES: Holy name of Earth! Olympian Zeus is a figment?
SOCRATES: Zeus? What Zeus? Nonsense. There is no Zeus.
Then who makes it rain? Answer me that.
SOCRATES: Why, the Clouds,
of course. What’s more, the proof is incontrovertible. For instance,
have you ever yet seen rain when you didn’t see a cloud?
But if your hypothesis were correct, Zeus could drizzle from an empty sky
while the clouds were on vacation.
STREPSIADES: By Apollo, you’re right. A pretty proof.
And to think I always used to believe the rain was just Zeus
pissing through a sieve.

As is clear, Socrates is not having the theological debate he had anticipated by the end of the conversation. Strepsiades reduces Socrates to an extremely lowbrow conversation by concealing his own intelligence.Classics Department, Queen's University (2006). [http://www.queensu.ca/classics/clst205/clst205lect4.htm Ancient Humor] ] Note that Socrates himself practiced the "Socratic irony", asking apparently naive questions from its students to make them reason the answers themselves (see also mayeutics).


:Abrams, M.H., ed. "A Glossary of Literary Terms." 6rd ed. Harcourt Brace College Publishers: Fort Worth, 1993

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mazaricos — Escudo …   Wikipedia Español

  • irony — irony1 /uy reuh nee, uy euhr /, n., pl. ironies. 1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, How nice! when I said I had to work all weekend. 2. Literature. a. a technique of… …   Universalium

  • irony — noun (plural nies) Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler Date: 1502 1. a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Dumnonii — Not to be confused with Damnonii. Dumnonii Geography Capital Isca Dumnoniorum …   Wikipedia

  • Irony — Ironic redirects here. For the song, see Ironic (song). For other uses, see irony (disambiguation). A Stop sign ironically defaced with a beseechment not to deface stop signs Irony (from the Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία eirōneía, meaning dissimulation… …   Wikipedia

  • Iron Man — This article is about the superhero. For other uses, see Iron Man (disambiguation). Iron Man Promotional art for The Invincible Iron Man vol. 5, #25 (second printing) (June 2010) by Salvador Larroca …   Wikipedia

  • Character (arts) — A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art (such as a novel, play, or film).[1] Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr (χαρακτήρ), the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration,[2]… …   Wikipedia

  • Secret Wars — This article is about the 1984 comic book series. For the 2004 series, see Secret War (comics). For other uses, see Secret Wars (disambiguation). Secret Wars Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1 (May 1984). Cover art by Mike Zeck …   Wikipedia

  • Stock character — A stock character is one which relies heavily on cultural types or names for his or her personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes, but they are often… …   Wikipedia

  • Iron Maiden — For other uses, see Iron maiden (disambiguation). Iron Maiden Iron Maiden performing in Paris (Bercy Arena) on 1 July 2008 Background information …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”