An 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. 29-30.

The Wasps was brought out in the name of Philonides, and was performed at the Lenaea, in 422 B.C. As the objects of the Clouds was to attack the prevailing vices of the young men of the day and to stigmatize the love of disputation, which was so prevalent in Athens, the purpose of the Wasps was to satirize the love of litigation common to the Athenians, whose delight it was to spend their time in the law-courts and to live on the judicial fees which Pericles had established, and which Cleon was pledged to maintain. There are many points in which the Clouds and the Wasps supplement one another, and there is a unity of design between them which cannot be mistaken. A father and his son are the principle characters in both. In the Wasps, the father, Philocleon, who, as his name denotes, is warmly attached to Cleon, has surrendered the management of his affairs to his son Bdelucleon--the word meaning the detester of Cleon. The son regrets his father's fondness for judicial business, and weans him from it partly by establishing a law-court at home, in which the house-dog is tried for stealing a Sicilian cheese, with all the formalities of a regular process in the dicasterion. In the second half of the play Philocleon is induced to turn his attention to music and literature, whereupon he is congratulated by the chorus. An eminent modern scholar has pronounced the Wasps one of the most perfect of the plays of Aristophanes, and the dramatic merits of the piece must have been very considerable. Racine reproduced it in Les Plaideurs, with eminent success as a French comedy, adapted to the usages of his own time.

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