Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Euripides (yew-RIH-pih-deez), the tragic poet and a perennial butt of Aristophanes’ satire, depicted in the broad strokes appropriate to farce. He is about to be punished by the Thesmophoriazusae, women who are celebrating the Feast of Demeter, because he has presented unflattering portraits of women on the stage and has, in the process, given away too many secrets of the sex. He does not know what fate is in store for him, but he wishes to have a friend at court if possible. He attempts to persuade Agathon to disguise himself as a woman, to mingle with the Thesmophoriazusae, and to speak up for him if need be. When Agathon refuses, Mnesilochus agrees to attempt the deception. In spite of his promise to rescue his friend should the trick not carry, Euripides is obviously much more interested in his own safety than in saving Mnesilochus from discomfiture, but after the disguise is penetrated, he comes to the rescue when Mnesilochus begins to hurl small wooden images from the temple, each inscribed with a plea for help, a parody of a device used by Euripides himself in his Palamedes. Once on the scene, Euripides joins Mnesilochus in befuddling the women by reciting wildly burlesqued passages from his own tragedies. When Mnesilochus is arrested and fastened to a post (a situation that permits Euripides to play first Echo and then Perseus to Mnesilochus’ Andromeda), Euripides disguises himself as an...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Aristophanes. Thesmophoriazusae. Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein. Warminster, Wiltshire, England: Aris & Phillips, 1994. Provides scholarly introduction, bibliography, Greek text, facing English translation, and commentary keyed to the translation. Sommerstein’s translation supersedes most earlier versions.

Dover, K. J. Aristophanic Comedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. Useful and authoritative study of the plays of Aristophanes. Chapter 13 provides a synopsis of the play, a discussion of the characters, and notes on the topicality of the play. An essential starting point for study of the play.

Harriott, Rosemary M. Aristophanes: Poet and Dramatist. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. The plays are discussed not in individual chapters but as each illustrates the central themes and techniques of Aristophanes’ work.

Spatz, Lois. Aristophanes. Boston: Twayne, 1978. A reliable introduction to Aristophanes for the general reader. Chapter 7 provides a summary of the problems of the play and offers several approaches to the theme of tension between the sexes and to the role of literary parody.

Whitman, Cedric. Aristophanes and the Comic Hero. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964. A standard work on the characterization of the Aristophanic protagonist. Chapter 6, “The War Between the Sexes,” provides excellent discussion of the issue in the play.