Aristophanes And The Demon Poverty

Classical Quarterly 34 (02):314- (1984)

Abstract

Aristophanes' last two surviving plays, Assemblywomen and Wealth, have long been regarded as something of an enigma. The changes in structure – the diminution in the role of the chorus, the disappearance of the parabasis, etc. –, as well as the shift of interest away from the immediacies of current politics towards broader social themes, can reasonably be interpreted as an early stage of the process that ultimately transformed Old Comedy into New, even if it is unlikely ever to be finally agreed whether Aristophanes was leading or following this trend. The decline in freshness, in verbal agility, in sparkle of wit, in theatrical inventiveness, which is perceptible in the earlier play and very marked in the later, may be put down to advancing years and diminishing inspiration. Such an explanation squares with the evidence of a marked decline in Aristophanes' productivity towards the end of his life. Whereas in the first seven years of his career he seems to have produced, or had produced for him, not less than ten plays, and in the years 420–405 approximately another eighteen, the twenty years or so that followed Frogs yielded a further eleven at the very most unless some titles have been completely lost; and since it is not likely that after the outstanding success of Frogs, and the public recognition that followed it, Aristophanes would have experienced any difficulty in securing a chorus, the explanation can only be that he was writing less. But the truly puzzling feature of the two late plays we possess is the apparent sea-change in the author's social orientation. In his fifth-century plays, from Acharnians toFrogs, as has been shown by de Ste Croix, Aristophanes reveals himself as one who instinctively speaks the language and thinks the thoughts of the well-to-do, even if at the same time he can laugh with the common man at ostentatious and useless wealth in the shape of Pyrilampes' peacocks, Leogoras' pheasants or the sultan-like garments of an Athenian imperial official – as one who was happy for the Demos to be sovereign so long as it was willing to be guided by the advice of its' betters', the καλоί тε κáγоθоί of Knights 738 or Frogs 727–9, and to leave them in the quiet enjoyment of their property. At first sight in Assemblywomen and Wealth this seems to have changed almost diametrically

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Citations of this work

How to Avoid Being a Komodoumenos1.Alan H. Sommerstein - 1996 - Classical Quarterly 46 (02):327-.
How to Avoid Being a Komodoumenos.Alan Sommerstein - 1996 - Classical Quarterly 46 (2):327-356.
Topicality in Aristophanes' "Ploutos".Matthew Dillon - 1987 - Classical Antiquity 6 (2):155-183.

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