Aristophanes 'frogs' Essay

1484 words - 6 pages

In the ‘Frogs’ and ‘Wasps’ written by the “eminently best” comedian of the fifth century, Aristophanes, we see he utilized humour to exact the important message that Athens is corrupt, and on the verge of chaos. The Athenian audience would expect to be thrust into a world of humour in the City Dionysia, somewhere parallel to their own (e.g. the Athenian jury in the ‘Wasps’, and the failings of the government in ‘Frogs’). It is vital, then, that Aristophanes conveys his political and social views through slapstick, farce, and caricature to interest the audience. This is an important component in both plays as the audience is able to simultaneously accept his diplomatic views whilst being ...view middle of the document...

Here, the pun would provoke a phylai (tribal) effect, as the uproar around the stage would begin as a result of the debate among individuals who agree or disagree with Aristophanes idea of Cleonymus. This would further connect the audience with the play, as they more-closely follow the motifs of the play in interest. Similarly his emphasis on his hatred towards Cleon his highlighted by caricature, reminding everyone that he is a “shield dropper” constantly. The audience is led into a riddle: “… a figure like a whale and a vice like a scalded sow”, which inherits the anti-Cleon message again, exacting his message that this “rapacious-looking creature” with a story that “stinks of a tanners yard” (verbal attack on Cleon manipulating jurymen and devising state owned funds for personal benefit) -- both culminating into a humiliating portrayal of the presumably disgusting and sadistic politician. More importantly, this adds to the more universal idea that “It is a difficult undertaking… to cure the city of such a chronic and endemic sickness”, suggesting a brutal fate for those who follow in the steps of Clenoymus, namely the key-protagonist, Philo-Cleon, who suffers from a mad case of “jurymania” - one that is an infectious and incurable disease.

Physical humour involves the slapstick, absurd farce, and sexual innuendo which marks a considerable section of the play, which is interesting despite the fact that Aristophanes proclaimed that there would be “none of that crude Magarian stuff”… or should we not be surprised? Immediately in the Parados the audience is exposed to a chorus of old men; their physical attributes in their age (e.g. wrinkled faces, stiff movements) portrays themselves as withered old jurymen. This, along with their military background and overall helplessness in their old age, acts as an important component in its comedic-value. This is shown as they follow “…[their] Great Protector”, Philo-Cleon, poking fun at how low his morals are to be praised by unstable men as a God. To-this-end we see physical slapstick as the chorus leader slips into a “puddle”. That kind of “knock about humour” we ‘don’t expect’ from Aristophanes comedy, may comes as some surprise, so we take everything displayed verbally and visually as a grain of salt, which is important as it allows us to be not overcome by his strong views on Cleonymus. Once again the audience is exposed to more slapstick in the conclusion of the Parabasis. Here, Philo-Cleon mirrors the carelessness of Cleonymus, as the laurel branches; wreathed with bands of red or white wool, beat him half way done the rope. “Run, boys, run along to Cleon” - This brings the theatrical play to the stunning revelation of the choir’s stings, as they unravel the costume behind their himation (cloak). The old men revert to their army training “Present!” reverting back to their habitual ways, which we think they will never seas their loyalty to Cleon. Buzzing and charging into each other, the audience...

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