Thursday, January 3, 2008


Born: c. 450 b.c.e.; Athens, Greece
Died: c. 385 b.c.e.; Athens, Greece

Aristophanes, the advocate of the old order, helped to create a new kind of play. Crafty servants such as Cario in Plutus, lovers thwarted by their elders such as those in Ecclesiazusae, intrigue, disguise, and recognition scenes such as the ones believed to be in Kōkalos became hallmarks of New Comedy. By the first century c.e., Plutarch in his Ethika (after c. 100; Moralia, 1603) would condemn the coarseness of Old Comedy, characterizing Aristophanes’ plays as resembling “a harlot who has passed her prime.”

Aristophanes’ plays remain historically important. Not only do they provide the only surviving record of the form and content of Old Comedy, but also they reveal much about daily life in late fifth century Athens. “Great, charming, and eloquent,” Quintilian called Aristophanes’ works, and the 150 extant manuscripts of Plutus alone attest his enduring popularity in antiquity. Modern productions, unencumbered by prudery, have demonstrated the vitality and beauty of his comedies, which, though written for a particular time and place, continue to speak to people everywhere.

Nephelai, 423 b.c.e. (The Clouds, 1708)
Sphēkes, 422 b.c.e. (The Wasps, 1812)
Eirēnē, 421 b.c.e. (Peace, 1837)
Ekklesiazousai, 392 b.c.e. (Ecclesiazusae, 1837)
Lysistratē, 411 b.c.e. (Lysistrata, 1837)
Thesmophoriazousai, 411 b.c.e. (Thesmophoriazusae, 1837)
Hippēs, 424 b.c.e. (The Knights, 1812)
Acharnēs, 425 b.c.e. (The Acharnians, 1812)
Ploutos, 388 b.c.e. (Plutus, 1651)
Batrachoi, 405 b.c.e. (The Frogs, 1780)
Ornithes, 414 b.c.e. (The Birds, 1824)

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