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Acharnians


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A: Aristophanes Pf: 425 bc, Athens Tr: 1816 G: Greek com. in verse S: Athenian Assembly, the farm of Dicaeopolis, and home of Lamachus, 5th c. bc C: 18m, 3f, extras, chorus (m)The Peloponnesian War has lasted for nearly six years. The Athenian Dicaeopolis is weary of having his farm ruined each summer by the invading Spartan army, so he goes to the Assembly in Athens, demanding an end to the war. The Assembly however merely considers various ways of prolonging hostilities, so Dicaeopolis sends a messenger to Sparta to sue for a private peace treaty, and returns home to celebrate the Dionysia. Unfortunately, a chorus of old men from Acharnae, who are sworn to take revenge on the invaders, have learned of Dicaeopolis' personal peace plan. As he and his family prepare for the Dionysian ritual, they are stoned by the chorus of Acharnians. Eventually Dicaeopolis persuades the chorus to hear his case, and he goes to Euripides to borrow a costume in order to win over the angry Acharnians. In a parody of Euripidean tragedy, Dicaeopolis wins over half of the chorus. The other half then produce Lamachus, an Athenian general, to speak for them. Dicaeopolis defeats him in debate too, and begins to enjoy the benefits of his private peace initiative. In the final scene Lamachus returns wounded from battle, while Dicaeopolis celebrates a drunken banquet with the chorus.

A: Aristophanes Pf: 425 bc, Athens Tr: 1816 G: Greek com. in verse S: Athenian Assembly, the farm of Dicaeopolis, and home of Lamachus, 5th c. bc C: 18m, 3f, extras, chorus (m)

This is the earliest extant play of Aristophanes and first comedy of world drama. The stage is used quite flexibly, first as the Assembly, then as Dicaeopolis' farm, finally as his farm and as the home of Lamachus. It seems that at least five speaking actors would have been needed to stage the opening scene in the Assembly, compared with the three speaking actors in tragedy. These elements, together with the many different incidents and a double-sized chorus, would have made this play seem a fairly lavish affair, the equivalent of our modern ‘blockbuster musical’. In terms of content, Acharnians is a daring, anti-war piece, reminding the citizens of Athens, as they sink deeper into their pointless hostilities, of the benefits of peace. It is amazing that the Athenians tolerated such a play being staged in the midst of a bitter war. Moreover, it won first prize for Aristophanes.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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