Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Demos (DEE-mos), a personification of the Athenian people to whom all citizens owe obeisance. He is represented as a selfish, testy, and sometimes foolish old man who seems to ignore the corruption in the officials and politicians who minister to him. The play opens with Cleon, his favorite (his “servant” or his “slave”), firmly entrenched in power, ostensibly by virtue of his whining, obsequious, insolent, arrogant, and cunning qualities. Before the play is concluded, however, Demos displays his strength and craftiness (the strength and craftiness of the people themselves) in that he tolerates such knavish managers as Cleon because he can control them, because he can raise them and dash them down at will. The farcical relations of Demos and those who govern him (Cleon, succeeded by the Sausage-Seller) generate the major dramatic action of the play.


Cleon (KLEE-on), the Tanner, so called because of his ownership of a leather-processing factory. He also is called the Paphlagonian, a nickname given him to ridicule his mode of speaking (paphlazo means “to foam”). He assumes that his political power over Demos is secure, and he is the terror of his fellow officials. A secret oracle, however, has predicted that he will lose his position and power to one even more base than himself. Accordingly, the Sausage-Seller challenges him....

(The entire section is 508 words.)