To What Extent Do You Think Aristophanes

2 February 2017

Through the character of Xanthias, Aristophanes claims that he does not “intend to make mincemeat of Cleon this time”. As this is during the opening of the play, the audience may assume that “Wasps” is not a serious critique of political matters at this time, however many relations of Cleon are named which does suggest a political target of importance. Aristophanes can be seen to seriously criticise Cleon during the debate between Bdelycleon and Philocleon.

A distinct contrast of personalities and views is portrayed through these characters from the first introduction of said characters, as “Bdely”, meaning hate, or puke, suggests a hatred of Cleon due to the use of “Cleon” as a suffix, and “Philo” meaning love, suggests a fond admiration of the archon. It is this difference in opinions which divides the father and son and causes the debate. Through the character of Bdelycleon, Aristophanes insists that Cleon takes advantage of the jurymen, paying them less than ten per cent of the national income of which they produce.It is suggested that the people elected to rule over the state receive all of the benefits whilst the jurymen, who work for the state, receive merely the leftovers. It is also suggested that Cleon encourages the jurymen and more trials to take place in order to raise funds and gain more money, not for the sake of justice. Further critiques of Cleon are shown through Sosias’ dream. These critiques, however, appear more light-hearted and mere immature digs at the physical appearance of the archon as “a rapacious-looking creature with the figure of a whale” depicts Cleon speaking to the Athenian citizens.

To What Extent Do You Think Aristophanes Essay Example

It could also be argued that this is a clear critique of the relationship between Cleon and the people. This is because the people are portrayed as the sheep in Sosias’ dream, who just follow one another under the leadership of Cleon, all wearing the same little cloaks and all listening intently to the speaker before them, producing a more serious critique than mere name-calling. Xanthias’ response appears to be a more personal attack of Cleon rather than the Athenian citizens who follow him under his reign.Xanthias response of that dream “stinks of a tanner’s yard” is a direct insult of Cleon as he was born and raised in a tanner’s family, but this not only insults Cleon, but also directly enforces the impression that the whale speaking to the sheep “with a voice like a scalded sow” is a representation of Cleon. Similar to this, the representation of Cleon is also shown during the faux trial in the courtyard of Philocleon and Bdelycleon’s home. Clear links are portrayed in rder to represent Cleon as the prosecuting dog in the trial. The “Dog of Cydathenaeum” is an obvious link to Cleon which the audience would recognise as Cydathenaeum is the deme of which Cleon belongs.

The defendant, Labes of Aexone, presents similarities to Laches, who faced accusations from Cleon for misappropriation of public funds while in Sicily. Aristophanes even goes as far to include Sicilian cheese in the play, which is supposedly what the dog Labes, meaning ‘snatcher’, had stolen.Laches had belonged to the deme of Aexone, so this trial posed many recognisable associations which the audience would comprehend as distinct references to Cleon. The faux trial seems like a pointless and frivolous affair, as stealing cheese could be seen as a minor crime and by portraying Cleon as a dog accusing another dog on immoral grounds of a trivial crime, Cleon could be seen to be criticised. The law courts too, face criticism from Aristophanes in ‘Wasps’.Aristophanes portrays the jurymen as being less concerned with justice but only concerned in the pay of three obols, and anything else they can get out of the job through bribes, such as the offer of the defendants daughter for sexual favours or the pleasure the jurymen may have found in a nude boy. It is evident that the jurymen also enjoy enforcing the law as they please and causing harm through the power they believe they have by deciding the fate of any defendant who crosses their path.

Yet, even though these jurymen are obsessed with securing the conviction they are easily fooled by demagogues such as Cleon, and therefore manipulated into being taking advantage of and ordered around for a mere three obols. On the other hand, Aristophanes appears to display the law courts in a much more comedic sense to show the foolish structure of the system in its entirety. By creating a parody of the trial procedure Aristophanes appears to present the trials as an act which could be set up anywhere, which gives the impression of a masquerade or show, rather than a system of justice.Much like previous works of Aristophanes, ‘Wasps’ presents usual, everyday serious matters into ludicrous and trivial affairs, not to be taken seriously. The main comedic element of the law courts has to be the jurymen, presented as an exaggerated caricature of a vicious yet moronic swarm of wasps. It is this caricature which prevents the law courts being taken seriously in the play, as the jurymen would often be older men with a stern mind, as “it takes a clever speaker to convert a hostile jury”. The comical image of the jurymen all ressed as wasps, prancing around the stage singing in chorus creates an extremely comical effect, sure to make the audience of the play laugh.

By presenting the jurymen in such a manner Aristophanes is successful in making his audience laugh, but I think at the same time he displays the jurymen as idiots and people who cannot be taken seriously as they are easily influenced and he presents them as a mockery to the justice system by presenting them in a costume with stings in their rears as a visual representation of the pain they inflict.Moreover, the character of Philocleon is an individual member of the swarm of wasps who also makes the audience laugh. The roles of the father and son appear to be reversed as Bdelycleon will go to extreme lengths to contain his father in the house for his well-being. The use of methods to do so create a comical atmosphere as the absurdity of covering the entire house with a net seems surreal.This absurdity is also presented through Philocleon as he will also go to extreme lengths to escape in order to go to the court, as he is a ‘trialophile’, meaning he loves to sit in the court as a member of the jury and decide the fate of the defendants. The actions of Philocleon present him to the audience as slightly crazy, and by clinging to the stomach of a donkey and pretending to be smoke blowing up the chimney he is clearly desperate to escape the netted house.It also becomes apparent that even when removed from the law courts and trials he is still nothing short of a nuisance to his son, Bdelycleon.

As Bdelycleon attempts to morph his father into a socialite, the impression is given that it is not only Philocleon and the jurymen who are corrupt in some way, but also Bdelycleon. This is because he criticises Cleon as greedy and insists he takes advantage of the jurymen, yet he is still insistent that the best thing for his father is for him to associate with the likes of Cleon in order for the family to move up in the social ladder.By doing to Aristophanes gives the impression that although Bdelycleon sees it as wrong for Cleon to treat his father as a juryman in such a manner, when him and his family are on the opposite end of the social ladder and are not affected by this corruption, he simply does not care. Aristophanes also touches on the social comment of the time, as Philocleon undergoes a complete role reversal from a vicious juryman to an anarchic, violent drunk. However, in both attitudes of the character, he still presents problems for his son, which creates a comical effect as it is nusual for the son to have to restrain his father. The drunk and sex-crazed behaviour is also odd behaviour for a senior citizen and it is much unexpected that an elderly member of the state would attempt to run off with a flute girl and then pretend that the girl is a sacrificial torch from the marketplace, or cause physical harm to other citizens. Aristophanes also plays on the paranoia of the richer citizens as he presents the slaves drinking and falling asleep instead of carrying out the task or job that they have been given sufficiently.

This could be seen as a serious issue as the audience may panic about what their own slaves could be doing at that moment while they were out, but by including jokes during the slaves’ conversation, about members of the audience such as Cleomenes, Aristophanes ensures a flippant manner is presented, which would also make the audience laugh. During the Parabasis of the chorus, Aristophanes appears fairly arrogant. This is because he is insistent that the audience will never witness humour or comedy as excellent as his plays.He criticises the audience for not appreciating his previous work, which could be taken as a serious note because the audience would not find such humour in being told “the author has a bone to pick with you” as they did not lavish him with the praise which he believed his work deserved. Aristophanes not only criticises the audience during this Parabasis but also criticises Cleon, in a more serious sense than previously in the play as this is during the Parabasis which is a less comical and more serious interval in the humour of the ‘Wasps’.Aristophanes reminds the audience he had previously taken “on the greatest monster in the land”, which indicates he believes Cleon is the worst political individual in the state of Athens. He then indulges in further name-calling such as “jagged-toothed monster” with a heinous stench.

This demonstrates a clear critique of Cleon in what could possibly have been a humorous manner, although I would argue that given the presentation of a serious criticism of the audience, this would be a less than light-hearted attack of Cleon as.

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