Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
On the way to the house of Agathon, Euripides, the celebrated dramatist, explains to his aged but lusty father-in-law, Mnesilochus, that he is in great danger. The Thesmophoriazusae are gathered at the temple of Demeter to decide on an appropriate punishment for the playwright—Euripides—who so consistently and so bitterly insults their sex in his plays. Agathon will surely be able to help him. At the door of Agathon’s house a servant appears and orders the people and the winds to be quiet because his master is seized with poetical inspiration. Mnesilochus knows at once that no real help can come from such a man.
When Agathon appears, reposing on a bed, dressed in a saffron tunic, and surrounded by feminine toilet articles, Mnesilochus insults him roundly for his lack of manhood. As expected, Agathon refuses to aid Euripides by dressing as a woman in order to mix with the fertility celebrants and plead Euripides’ cause; the plan is simply too risky. Mnesilochus then offers himself and is promptly and painfully shaved, undressed, and depilated. Disguised as a woman, the old man is suddenly very reluctant to go to the temple until Euripides swears by all the gods to come to his aid if anything goes wrong.
Striving to act as womanly as possible and giving his voice a feminine lilt, the old man enters the temple with a prayer to Demeter and Persephone that he will not be recognized. After certain preliminaries the women within begin their deliberations concerning Euripides’ fate. The First Woman, after spitting as orators do, opens with the charge that Euripides presents women in his plays as adulterous, lecherous, bibulous, treacherous, and garrulous; he causes husbands, especially old ones, to be suspicious of...
(The entire section is 711 words.)
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