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A: Aristophanes Pf: 422 bc, Athens Tr: 1819 G: Greek com. in verse S: Before the house of Philocleon in Athens, the present C: 7m, 1f, extras, chorus (m)In order to avoid the possibility of corruption, the law courts of Athens enlist the services of a jury of 500 men. Philocleon ( = ‘lover of Cleon’) has become so flattered by the power that this has granted him that he has become addicted to jury service. His son Bdelycleon ( = ‘hater of Cleon’) has imprisoned him in his own house to try to cure him of his judging obsession. The chorus of fellow jurors, the Wasps, arrive to take Philocleon to court. His son intervenes to point out how miserably they are paid for their services and that the state is swallowing up the profits from the trials. The Wasps are convinced, but Philocleon is not. To keep his father happy, Bdelycleon arranges for a dog to be put on trial for having stolen some cheese. Although Philocleon is determined as ever to find the defendant guilty, he is horrified to discover that he has acquitted the dog. His son consoles him by promising to take him out on social occasions. Philocleon goes to a party, where he gets drunk, insults everyone, and makes off home with the flute girl who was entertaining them. The play ends with Philocleon leading the chorus in a merry dance.

A: Aristophanes Pf: 422 bc, Athens Tr: 1819 G: Greek com. in verse S: Before the house of Philocleon in Athens, the present C: 7m, 1f, extras, chorus (m)

Yet again Aristophanes launches a satirical attack on an Athenian society that has been corrupted by the prolonged war with Sparta, by now in its ninth year. He also continues his mockery of the hated demagogue Cleon, who was to die in battle later that year. Of more interest to a modern audience is the satire at the expense of the law, the first example in European drama of one of the favourite targets of comic playwrights. From Shakespeare's Justice Shallow to Howard Barker's Stripwell, the corrupt or incompetent lawyer has been a favourite butt of satirical comedy. Aristophanes' surreal treatment of the topic, especially in the trial of the dog, can be very effective in performance.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Aristophanes (c. 448—380 bc) Greek comic dramatist


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