Aristophanes' Agathon in Women at the Thesmophoria
Aristophanes and Agathon were peers in Ancient Greece. Aristophanes was the master of comedy, and Agathon was the master of tragedy. They traveled in the same circles and are present in the same works. In looking through the comic lens at Agathon in Aristophanes’ Women at the Thesmophoria, the reader is presented with a portrayal of an effeminate man with a flair for the dramatic and a queenly attitude. Aristophanes’ Agathon is a comic character to be laughed at, a man that is more female than male. In looking at this view of Agathon, Greek views of homoeroticism are brought up and Agathon’s reputation and character in the world of Ancient Greece is brought into question. How much of this portrayal is actual, and how much is Aristophanes use of comedy? More importantly, what is exposed in viewing Agathon in this light? In order to answer these questions, an alternate, non-comic view of Agathon must be looked at, which Plato’s Symposium offers. By comparing Agathon’s portrayal in both works, views on Agathon and on Greek homoeroticism can be inferred. Aristophanes’ portrait of Agathon is not true to Agathon’s actual self, but rather uses cultural stereotypes and bigotry to gain laughs. Looking at Aristophanes’ portrayal of Agathon in both Symposium and Women at the Thesmophoria and in looking at the general treatment given to Agathon in Symposium, a basis for this interpretation is created, allowing the modern reader a clearer look at Greek life. Three lenses are presented- Aristophones’ comic lens in his famous comedy, Aristophanes’ personal lens through his speech in Symposium, and Plato’s non-comic lens in Symposium, providing a wide range of views to be explored.
Aristophanes’ Agathon in Women at the Thesmophoria is one that is seen by the average citizen as unmanly and as a target for degradation. The kinsman in the play makes comments to the character Agathon of ultimate disrespect, such as, "I’ll get behind you with my hard on and show you" (line 178, Women at the Thesmophoria). Aristophanes’ is using Agathon as a punch line, costuming him in dresses, letting him offer up his own high heels, giving him a wig, "Even better, this wig I wear at night!" (line 310, Women at the Thesmophoria). Aristophanes’ portrayal of Agathon as a passive, effeminate man would be highly comedic. In Ancient Greece, although homoeroticism was accepted, it was seen as a disgrace and a joke to be a passive male in a homoerotic relationship after one is considered a man. Therefore, this portrayal of Agathon as a lady-like homosexual is one that presents Agathon as a character to be lampooned and satirized. The question arises as to whether Agathon was actually this way and viewed in this ludicrous manner, or if this was just Aristophanes’ comic usage of Agathon, a known homosexual, which can be answered after exploring all lenses available to the modern reader.
In looking at this portrayal of Agathon, it...