A summary 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. 30-31.

The play of the Frogs turns upon the decline of tragic art. Euripides was dead; so were Sophocles and Agathon; there remained none but second-rate tragedians. Bacchus misses Euripides, and wishes to bring him back from the infernal world. In this he imitates Hercules, but though equipped with the lion-hide and club of the hero, he is very unlike him in character, and as a dastardly voluptuary, gives rise to much laughter. Here we may see the boldness of the comedian in the right point of view; he does not scruple to attack the guardian god of his own art, in honor of whom the play was exhibited, for it was the common belief that the gods understood fun as well, if not better, than men. Bacchus rows himself over the Acherusian lake, where the frogs pleasantly greet him with their croaking. The proper chorus, however, consists of the shades of the initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, and odes of wonderful beauty are assigned to them. Aeschylus had at first assumed the tragic throne in the lower world, but now Euripides is for thrusting him off.

Pluto purposes that Bacchus should decide this great contest; the two poets, the sublimely wrathful Aeschylus, the subtle, vain Euripides stand opposite each other and submit specimens of their art; they sing, they declaim against each other, and all their failings are characterized in masterly style. At last a balance is brought, on which each lays a verse; but let Euripides take what pains he will to produce his most ponderous lines, a verse of Aeschylus instantly jerks up the scale of his antagonist. Finally he grows weary of the contest, and tells Euripides he may mount into the balance himself with all his works, his wife, children and servant, Cephisophon, and he will lay against them only two verses. Bacchus, in the meantime, has come over to the cause of Aeschylus, and though he had sworn to Euripides that he would take him back with him from the lower world, he dispatches him with an allusion to his own verse from the Hippolytus. Aeschylus, therefore, returns to the living world and resigns the tragic throne to Sophocles during his absence.

Purchase The Frogs


Home · Theatre Links · Script Archive · Bookstore · Email · © 2002