A summary and analysis of the play by Aristophanes

This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 2. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 18-20.

The object of the Acharnians is to induce the Athenian people to put an end to the Peloponnesian war, which already threatened the destruction of the State, and a year or two later caused its downfall. For this purpose he represents in vivid colors the comforts they had vainly sacrificed, and ridicules the braddadocios of the day with ever-brightening wit, culminating in genuine Bacchanalian revelry.

Undeterred by the anger of the Acharnians, who crave vengeance for the destruction of their vineyards, an honest citizen, named Dicaeopolis, enraged at the false pretexts for continuing the war with Sparta, sends an embassy to Lacedaemon and concludes a separate peace for himself and his family. In spite of all opposition, he builds an enclosure around his house, within which there is peace and free market for the neighboring people, while the rest of the country is harassed by war. The blessings of peace are exhibited in the most palpable manner, and nothing is thought of but feasting and revelling. Lamachus, the leader of the war party, is summoned by a sudden attack of the enemy to the defense of the frontier, while Dicaeopolis is invited by his neighbors to partake of a feast to which each brings his contribution. The preparation of arms and the preparations in the kitchen now go on with equal diligence and dispatch on both sides; here they fetch the lance, there the spit; here the armor, there the wine-can; here they fasten the crest on the helmet, there they pluck the thrushes. Shortly afterward Lamachus returns with broken head and crippled foot, supported by two comrades; on the other side, Dicaeopolis, drunk, and led by two good-natured damsels. The lamentations of the one are continually mimicked and derided by the exhultations of the other, and with this contrast, which is carried to the highest point, the play ends.

About midway in the comedy Euripides appears on the scene.

SLAVE: Who's there?
DICAEOPOLIS: Euripides within?
SLAVE: Within and not within, if you can think.
DICAEOPOLIS: How can he be within and not within?
SLAVE: Rightly, old man. His mind, collecting scraps,
Is all abroad, and so is not within;
But he himself is making tragedy
With feet reposed upon his couch at home.
DICAEOPOLIS: Thrice-blest Euripides, whose very slave
Can act so well his master's character!
But call him out.
SLAVE: It cannot be.
For I will not depart, but go on knocking;
Euripides! Euripides, my boy!
List my words, if ever mortal man
Secured your ear. 'Tis Dicaeopolis
By deme Choileides, who is calling you.
EURIPIDES: But I've no time.
DICAEOPOLIS: Well, let them wheel you round.
EURIPIDES: It cannot be.
EURIPIDES: Well, I'll allow them
To wheel me round, but I can't leave my couch.
EURIPIDES: What say'st thou?
DICAEOPOLIS: Do you write
With feet laid up, when you might set them down?
You're just the man to be the cripples poet.

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