Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 600
Dicaeopolis (dih-kee-AH-poh-lihs), an Athenian farmer whose name means “honest citizen,” a shrewd, earthy man who has had enough of deceptions wrought in the name of patriotism and who wants peace with the Spartans at practically any price. Although he is a loyal Athenian, he recognizes that the Spartans cannot be blamed for all the misfortunes of his homeland. When the assembly refuses to discuss measures for ending the war, he concludes a separate peace and opens a market where all enemies of Athens may trade. Before a chorus of Acharnian charcoal burners, who wish to stone him as a traitor, he eloquently defends the cause of peace. His wisdom is shown even more plainly near the end of the play when he, in the company of two courtesans, makes ready for the Feast of the Cups, while the pompous militarist Lamachus dons his armor to march away to defend the border.
Lamachus (LA-muh-kuhs), a general who is determined to fight the Spartans to the end. A mighty boaster, he at last receives his wounds, not at the hands of the enemy but while leaping a ditch.
Euripides (yew-RIH-pih-deez), the tragic poet, who lends Dicaeopolis rags worn by Telephus, one of the most unfortunate of the playwright’s heroes, so that Dicaeopolis will appeal to the pity of the Acharnians when he defends the cause of peace before them. Dicaeopolis takes not only the rags but also other accessories, such as a beggar’s staff and a broken cup, until Euripides complains that he has parted with enough material for an entire tragedy.
Amphitheus (am-FIH-thih-uhs), a friend of Dicaeopolis. Although he claims immortality, he suffers from hunger because of the deprivations of war and arranges a truce with the Spartans for Dicaeopolis.
A Megarian, a resident of a city near Athens but allied to Sparta. Also suffering from hunger, he resolves to barter his daughters, disguised as pigs, to Dicaeopolis for garlic and salt. Dicaeopolis’ examination of the wares leads to a bawdy exchange between the buyer and the seller.
A Boeotian, who gives his wares to Dicaeopolis in exchange for Nicharus, an Athenian informer.
A husbandman and
a bridesmaid, who try to obtain from Dicaeopolis some of his precious balm of peace. The former is refused, but when the latter explains that she wants the substance so that the bride can keep her husband home from the war, Dicaeopolis gives it to her, exclaiming that women should not suffer as a result of the war.
The chorus of Acharnian elders
The chorus of Acharnian elders, veterans who have fought at Marathon, made angry when they hear Dicaeopolis sacrificing to Bacchus after his truce is concluded. They have suffered from Spartan raids and are in no mood to tolerate pacifists. Dicaeopolis, dressed in the costume he has obtained from Euripides, speaks so tellingly for peace that the chorus is divided in sentiment and does not act against him.
An ambassador, returned from a mission sent to seek aid from the king of Persia. He escorts Pseudartabas, a supposed emissary from the Persian monarch, and two disguised Athenian citizens posing as eunuchs.
Pseudartabas (sew-DAHR-teh-buhs), the King’s Eye, who pretends to bring Dicaeopolis a message from the King of Persia.
Theorus (thee-OH-ruhs), an envoy sent on a mission to Thrace. He returns with a group of ragamuffins who, he announces proudly, are the host of the Odomanti, the most warlike soldiers in Thrace, sent to aid the Athenians. Dicaeopolis is disgusted by his boasting and pretense.