2. Early Life
- He lived from 446 B.C.- 386 B.C. in Athens
as the son of Philippus- a landowner in Aegina.
- Of all the writers of “Old Comedy,” only his
- Other comics such as Magnes, Cratinus, and
Crates works were lost.
- He was the greatest comic writer of his day
and age in 5th century B.C.
- Not much is known about his life, however it
is known he came from a wealthy family and
received an excellent education.
- Only eleven of his forty-three plays have
survived till today.
3. His Age of Comedy
- When he began writing his comedies democracy was crumbling in Greece.
- People were tired on the Peloponnesian War and were grieving the loss of
- This would set Aristophanes’ tone for his comedies throughout his life as those of
apprehension and grief.
- His ﬁrst two comedies, The Banqueters and The Babylonians have been lost.
- These plays were criticising war proﬁteers, more speciﬁcally Cleon, the succesor
- First surviving play was called The Acharnians, written during the sixth year of the
war and was the world’s ﬁrst anti-war comedy.
- It was inspired by the suffering people of Attica surrounding Athens that was
exposed to war.
- The plot was based on a farmer, Dicaeopolis, who was tired of war, and sets out to
make a secret peace with the Spartans.
- His fellow citizens called him a traitor, and he was forced to plead for his life.
- In his plays, Aristophanes uses the effect of iambic hexameter.
- By using this he achieves an effect resembling natural speech.
- His realistic use of metre makes it ideal for both dialogue and soliloquy, for
example, before the arrival of the chorus when the audience is introduced to the
main issues in the plot.
- The Acharnians opens with these three lines by the hero Dicaeopolis:
How many are the things that vex my heart!
Pleasures are few, so very few - just four -
But stressful things are manysandthousandsandheaps!
- This is a device that he freuqently uses, arranging the syntax so that the ﬁnal word
in a line comes as a comic climax.
- The ﬁnal word is an example of another device uses called invented compound
5. His Attacks On Cleon
- Cleon possibly took legal action against Aristophanes after his third comedy was
written saying it was slander against the polis.
- However, in his comedy, Aristophanes distinguishes between the polis and his real
ἡμῶν γὰρ ἄνδρες, κοὐχὶ τὴν πόλιν λέγω,
μέμνησθε τοῦθ᾽ ὅτι οὐχὶ τὴν πόλιν λέγω,
ἀλλ᾽ ἀνδράρια μοχθηρά, παρακεκομμένα...
People among us, and I don't mean the polis,
Remember this - I don't mean the polis -
But wicked little men of a counterfeit kind....
- Aristophanes repeatedly mocks Cleon in his later plays, but they had little effect
on his political career as he was later elected to the board of ten generals.
6. His Plays
- In his next play, The Knights, Aristophanes again bashed Cleon
- He could not ﬁnd an actor to play the role of Cleon because his
power was so great at the time and nobody dared to impersonate
- Aristophanes played this role himself, which no comic had doen
- He smeared his face with wine dregs mocking Cleon’s reputation
as a alcoholic.
- The people of Athens were quick to recognize this as their
tyrannical leader and although the play had no real political effect,
it won ﬁrst prize at a festival.
7. The Clouds
- His plays were not always mocking political ﬁgures and he often made his sharpest
attacks on cultural ﬁgures.
- In, The Clouds, he discusses the great thinker Socrates.
- The story revolves around an old man named Strepsiades who was in debt
because of his son’s gambling problem.
- Desperate to gain his fortune back, he enrolls ins Socrates’ Thinking Shop in order
to confute his creditors with logic.
- On the day of his ﬁrst lessons, he ﬁnds Socrates sitting in a suspended basket
contemplating the sun.
-He was confused by this and decided to have his son educated instead.
- This play was summed up as an attack on the new spirit of intellectual inquiry and
8. The Wasps
- This comedy is a satire of the deteriation of Athens, which was one of his favorite
- Philocleon, a follower of Cleon, becomes so addicted to courtroom drama that he
has to be conﬁned to his house by his son.
- He becomes so desperate to escape and get back to the courtroom cases that he
tries to escape through as chimney and gets stuck.
- He is eventually rescued by his fellow jurors who appear to help him as a swarm
- This quotes underlies one of the main themes in his play:
“Hunger knows no friend but its feeder.”
9. The Frogs
- In his play, The Frogs, he attacked his favorite target, the tragic poet Euripides.
- In the play, Dionysus becomes annoyed that there is no major dramatist on stage
and wishes to bring Euripides back to life.
- He dresses as Hercules and goes to the underworld to beg Pluto to allow
Euripides to return with him back to Athens.
- However the great warrior-poet Aeschylus is not convinced that Euripides is the
best choice to bring back from the dead.
- The literary duel that follows is one of the most remarkable parodies in dramatic
10. Later Life
- Aristophanes wrote other plays one in particular called, The Peace, which sums up
the treaty between Athens and Sparta.
- His later plays moved back to politics but he soon gave up on them as they had no
effect on current politics.
- It would be nineteen years before who wrote another play about politics and by
that time it became too dangerous to make a direct attack on leaders.
- Three years after Socrates was put to death, Aristophanes passed away.