Why are Bacchus and Xanthias's deceptions comedic in The Frogs?

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In The Frogs, Bacchus is vain and cowardly. These traits stand in contrast to the way Euripides portrayed Bacchus in his play The Bacchae, which had been a big success shortly before Aristophanes wrote The Frogs. In The Bacchae, Bacchus is mysterious and powerful, so Aristophanes’s character is meant to satirize Euripides’s Bacchus.

This is one reason why Bacchus’s decision to masquerade as Hercules is so funny. When Bacchus reaches the gates of the underworld and declares that he is Hercules, Aeacus, the porter, vows revenge on him for his theft of Cerberus. Bacchus is terrified and insists that his slave, Xanthias, pretend to be Hercules instead while he pretends to be a slave. But no sooner is Xanthias/Hercules recognized by a woman and invited to a feast in his honor than Bacchus insists on changing roles again so he can enjoy the feast! Aristophanes undermines Bacchus’s authority as a god by making him the butt of jokes in this way and also satirizes Euripides’s play as well.

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