Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Athens. Ancient Greek city-state, in which the action of the play is set in an open, public place—probably the agora, which was the heart of the political community. Though pseudonyms thinly veil the characters, the allegory of a gullible, shallow, and misled citizenry of Athens (personified as “Demos”) finally rejecting the aid and counsel of the scoundrel slave Cleon (also called “Paphlagonian”) directly reflected the politics of post-Periklean wartime Athens. The politicians Nicias, Cleon, and Demosthenes appear as slaves of Demos despite their powerful positions. Given the nature of the Athenian democracy, the leaders were essentially the slaves of public opinion, which Aristophanes pillories for being swayed by Cleon’s deceit and blandishments. The boorish, uneducated, and equally unscrupulous sausage-seller Agoracritus, rather than the men of education and character—Nicias and Demosthenes—successfully counters the rascally slave: Only a rogue and stupid fellow can successfully lead the Athenians.


*Areopagus. Athens’s senate house. Paphlagonian is bested by the sausage-seller in the trial before this determinative body of the Athenian state, which is held offstage. Only following this vindication is Demos directly confronted by the sausage-seller and the slaves.