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Aristophanes, c.448-c.380 B.C.

aristophanes.jpg (5444 bytes)The greatest of the Greek comic playwrights, Aristophanes ridiculed Athenian statesmen and intellectuals, censured government policies and protested against what he perceived to be the decay of Athenian values. Of course, behind his wit lay his seriousness and there was much in the Peloponnesian War that angered him. An aristocrat himself, he was disgusted when Cleon, a common tanner, succeeded Pericles. Aristophanes believed the ancient Athenian values of honor, duty and moderation had been destroyed by the Sophists who had come to Athens in the 5th century

We have little biographical information about Aristophanes except that he had three sons, all of whom became comic poets. It is said that Aristophanes wrote 54 plays but only eleven are extant. His plays are divided into the categories of political, philosophical, social and literary and again, under three periods. To the period ending in 425 B.C., belong the Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps and The Peace, all political satires. In the second period, ending in 406, come the Birds, Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae and Frogs. Finally, to the period ending in 388, belong the Ecclesiazusae and Plutus.

In the Clouds, Aristophanes ridiculed Socrates as a subversive who had caused Athenian youth to repudiate civil morality and to speculate about nonsensical questions. Socrates had his feet in the clouds. It was the Athens of Marathon that Aristophanes most admired and he feared the rationalism of Euripides, the Sophists and Socrates.

More Information
Aristophanes Exhibit

The Acharnians
The Birds  
The Clouds  
The Ecclesiazusae  
The Frogs  
The Knights  
The Wasps  

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copyright 2000 Steven Kreis
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