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AristhophanesComedy as well as Tragedy was the peculiar invention of the highly-gifted Athenian people. It grew out of the common celebration of the great festival of Dionysus, or Bacchus, at the yearly vintage. The merry songs of the people had been made the vehicle of hits at passing events. Public men were held up to ridicule i political conflicts were made the subject of jokes. Comedy did not appear until Tragedy had, by lapse of time, lost much of its impressive force. While Euripides, the third and last of the great tragic poets, was still furnishing serious and didactic drama.", though of less lofty one than those of h is predecessors, Aristophanes came before the pleasure-loving Athenians with a charming variation. He gave them lively dialogue, full of banter on public men and events. His plots, instead of being repetitions of mythological story, were witty burlesques of the serious affairs of the time. Instead of having the chorus comment on the action as developed in the play, he caused it to address the audience directly on current events or personal matters.


Aristophanes, the greatest of comic writers, was born about 448 B. C. His father held property in Aegina, and he may have been born there, as he was prosecuted in later life for having usurped the rights of citizenship. His first play was The Revellers, which was exhibited in 427 B.C., and attacked the teaching of the Sophists, then becoming fashionable. The Acharnians, exhibited in 425 B.C., is the earliest of his extant plays. The Peloponnesian war had been raging for over six years, and the country people, cooped up within the walls of Athens, were unable to celebrate the vintage festival according to their wont. Aristophanes brings forward a farmer, who makes peace with the Spartans on his own account and enjoys comfort and plenty. The Acharnian charcoal-burners attack him, but he pleads his cause so well as to convert half of them to his view. Lamachus, the general, is called in to punish the traitor, but is wounded and put to flight. The whole play is a plea for peace and an exposure of the selfish motives of the war-party.


The Knights 424 B.C. was the first play produced in the author's name. It is an open attack all Clean, who is represented as the trusted slave of Demos the people, a superstitious old mall. Two other slaves, with the knights, representing the aristocratic party, have Clean removed and a sausage-seller substituted. By his management Demos is cut up and boiled, and thus restored to youth and vigor. Aristophanes was at all times an upholder of established institutions and old ways. His most famous comedy is The Clouds 423 B.C., which ridicules Socrates as the head of the Sophists, who were diffusing skepticism among the people. Strepsiades is represented as grieving over his spend thrift Son, Pheidippides, until he resolves to send .him to the new Phrontisterion or Thinking-shop, where Socrates can teach him to make the worse appear the better reason. Socrates is found raised on high in a basket that he may worship the Clouds. After a good deal of wrangling, the sou becomes a pupil, and learns his lesson so thoroughly that at a feast on his return home, he beats his father and justifies the act by his new sophistry. The father, enraged, rushes out and sets the thinking shop on fire.


The Peace 42I B.C. was intended to set forth the excellent results to be expected from the Peace of Nicias. The Birds 414 B.C. is a vague satire on the brilliant projects of Alcibiades. The Frogs 405 B.C. shows Dionysus as going to Hades to get a good poet, the three great tragic poets being dead. In the presence of Pluto there is a contest between Aeschylus and Euripides, in which the former wins the prize. Two or more of the comedies relate to the vexed question of women's rights. In the Lysistrata,' or, Strikes of the Wives 411 B.C., the women of Greece refuse to obey their husbands until they consent to make peace. In the Ecclesiazusa!; or, Women in Politics 393 B.C., he makes the women, dressed as men, take their seats in the Pnyx, and frame a new constitution, establishing full community of property and wives. Out of a total of fifty-four plays ascribed to Aristophanes, only eleven remain. In spite of the extravagance of the plots and absurdity of the situations represented, the plays abound in graceful descriptions of country life and in genuine poetry. His last play was Plutus 388 B.C., which treats of the unjust distribution of wealth. The witty poet appears to have died in the same year at the age of sixty.




Strepsiades. Open the school, and let me see your master: I am on fire to enter-Come, unbar! The door of the School is unbarred. The Socratic scholars an seen in various grotesque positions. o Hercules, defend me t who are these? What kind of cattle have we here in view? Disciple. Where is the wonder? What do they resemble? Slaps. Methinks they're like our Spartan prisoners, Captur'd at Pylos. What are they in search of? Why are their eyes so riveted to the earth?


Dis. There their researches centre. Streps. "Tis for onions They are in quest-Come, lads, give o'er your search; I'll show you what you want, a liable plat, All round and sound.- But soft ! what mean those gentry. Who dip their heads so low? flif. Marry, because Their studies lead that way: They are now diving To the dark realms of Tartarus and Night. Streps. But why are all their cruppers mounted up?


Dis. To practice them in star-gazing, and teach them Their proper elevations: bu t no more. Streps. But look! who's this suspended in a basket? SOCRATES is discovered. Dis. (with solemnity) HIMSELF. The he.


Streps. The Hit? What Hit ?


Dis. Why, Socrates. Streps. Hah! Socrates!-Make up to him and roar, Bid him come down! roar lustily.


Dis. Not I: Do it yourself: I've other things to mind. Streps. Roo! Socrates-What hoa, my little Socrates I Socrales. Mortal, how now! Thou insect of a day, What wouldst thou? Streps. I would know what thou art doing.


Soc. I tread in air, contemplating the sun. Streps. Ah I then I see you're basketed 'so high, That yon look down upon the gods-good hope, You'll lower a peg on earth.


Soc. Sublime in air, Sublime in thought I carry my mind with me, Its cogitations all assimilated To the pure atmosphere, in which I float; Lower me to earth, and my mind's subtle powers, Soc:'d by contagious dulness, lose their spirit; For the dry earth drinks up the generous sap, The vegetating vigor of philosophy, And leaves it a mere husk.


Strep!. What do you say? Philosophy has sapt your vigor? Fie upon it. But come, my precious fellow, come down quickly, And teach me those fine things I'm here in quest or.


Soc. And what fine things are they? Streps. A new receipt For sending off my creditors, and foiling them By the art logical; for you shall know By debts, pawns, pledges, usuries, executions, I am rackt and rent in tatters.


Soc. Why permit it? What strange infatuation seiz'd your senses?


Streps. The horse-consumption, a devouring plague; But so you'll enter me amongst your scholars, And tutor me like them to bilk my creditors, Name your own price, and by the gods I swear I'll pay you the last drachm. Soc. Your gods? By what gods? Gods are not current coin with me.


Streps. How swear you then? As the Byzantians swear, By their base iron coin? Soc. Art thou ambitious To be instructed in celestial matters, And taught to know them clearly? Streps. Aye, aye, in faith, So they be to my purpose, and celestial.


Soc. And if I bring you to a conference With my own proper goddesses, the Clouds? Streps. 'Tis what I wish devoutly.


Soc. Come, sit down: Repose upon this sacred couch. Streps· 'Tis done. Soc. Now take this chaplet-wear it. Steps· Why this chaplet? Would'st make of me another Athamas, And sacrifice me to a Cloud?


Soc. Fear nothing; It is a ceremony indispensable At OUR initiations.


Streps. What to gain? (A basket of stone! showered on Ike head of Strepsiades Soc. Twin sift your faculties as fine as powder, Bolt 'em like meal, g rind 'em as light as dust; Only be patient.


Streps. Truly, you'll go near To make your words good; an' you pound me thus, You'll make me very dust, and nothing else. Soc. Keep silence then, and listen to a prayer, Which fits the gravity of age to hear- Oh! Air, all powerful Air, which dost enfold This pendant globe, thou vault of flaming gold, Ye sacred Clouds, who bid the thunder roll, Shine forth, approach, and cheer your suppliant's soul I.


Streps. Hold, keep 'em off awhile, till I am ready. Ah ! luckless me, would I had brought my bonnet, And so escap'd a soaking.


Soc. Come, come away I Fly swift, ye Clouds, and give yourselves to view I Whether on high Olympus' sacred top Snow-crown'd ye sit, or, in the azure vales Of your own father Ocean sporting, weave.


Your misty dance, or dip your golden urns In the seven mouths of Nile; whether ye dwell On Thracian Mimas, or Maeotis' lake, Hear me, yet hear, and thus invok'd approach! Chorus of Clouds. Ascend, ye watery Clouds. on high, Daughters of Ocean, climb the sky, And o'er the mountain's pine-capt brow Towering your fleecy mantle throw: Thence let us scan the wide-stretch'd scene, Groves, lawns, and rilling streams between, And stormy Neptune's vast expanse, And grasp all nature at a glance_ Now the dark tempest flits away, And lo! the glittering orb of day Darts forth his clear ethereal beam, Come let us snatch the joyous gleam. Soc. Yes, ye Divinities, whom I adore, I hail you now propitious to my prayer. Didst thou not hear them speak in thunder to me? Streps. kneeling, and affecting terror. And I too am your Cloudships' most obedient, And under sufferance trump against your thunder. Soc. Forbear These gross scurrilities, for low buffoons And mountebanks more fitting. Hush! be still. List to the chorus of their heavenly voices, For music is the language they delight in.


Chorus if Clouds. Ye Clouds, replete with fruitful showers, Here let us seek Minerva's towers, The cradle of old Cecrops' race, The world's chief ornament and grace; Here mystic fanes and rites divine And lamps in sacred splendor shine ; Here the gods dwell in marble domes, Feasted with costly hecatombs, That round their votive statues blaze, Whilst crowded temples ring with praise; And pompous sacrifices here Make holidays throughout the year, And when gay spring.time comes again, Bromius convokes his sportive train.


And pipe, and song, and choral dance Hail the soft hours as they advance. Streps. Now, in the name of love, I pray thee tell me Who are these ranting dames, that talk. in stilts? Of the Amazonian cast no doubt. Soc. Not so, No dames, but Clouds celestial, friendly powers To men of sluggish parts; from these we draw Sense, apprehension, volubility, Wit to confute, and cunning to ensnare. -ARISTOPHANeS, translated by T. MITCHELL.




They're always abusing the Women as a terrible plague to men: They say we're the root of all evil, and repeat it again and again: Of war, and quarrels, and bloodshed; all mischief, be it 'what it may:- And, pray then, why do you marry us, if we're all the plagues you say? And why do you take such care of us, and keep us so safe at home; And are never easy a moment, if ever we chance to roam? When you ought to be thanking heaven that your Plague is out of the way, You all keep fussing and fretting-"Where is my Plague today?"- If a Plague peeps out of the window, up go the eyes of the men; If she hides, then they all keep staring until she looks out again. -ARISTOPHANES, translated by L. COLLINS.



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