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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 267

The Wasps is one of the eleven plays written by Aristophanes. The play ridicules the law courts, which constitute the Athenian institutions, which acted as part of the power base for the Cleon. The play has got various characters including Philocleon, who is the main character in the story. Philocleon is an elderly man and one of the many Jurors within the courts in Athens. He is regarded as a “monster” who is not suffering from a common addiction such as alcoholism or gambling, but from a rare form of addiction, the law courts. Philocleon has a son by the name Bdelycleon, who tries everything within his reach to ensure that the father does not go back to the Law Courts. The chorus, who are a group of old men and Philocleon’s fellow jurors are not happy with Bdeycleon’s decision. Therefore, they try to rescue him from the two slaves Sosias and Xanthias who are tasked with the duty of ensuring that Philocleon does not leave the house. However, the efforts of his fellow jurors prove futile and Philocleon is not allowed to leave the house. Finally, an agreement is reached between father and son, and Philocleon agrees to carry out his juror’s duty without leaving the house. His first is that of a dog by the name Labes, who is accused of eating a Sicilian cheese that belonged to another dog. The defense witnesses for the case include a pot, a pestle, a cheese-grater, and a pestle. His son, Bdeycleon, convinces him to acquit the dog, an outcome that shocks the old juror.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593


Philocleon (fih-loh-klee-on), an elderly Athenian citizen and a dicast, one of the six thousand jurors of the Athenian courts. He is completely obsessed with judging and litigation, and to sit in court day after day is the greatest joy he can imagine. He prides himself on his hardness of heart; no appeal from a prisoner can move him, and he always votes for conviction. When his son imprisons him within his own house to prevent his going to court, he attempts to escape by almost every ruse imaginable. He finally allows himself to be persuaded to give up his madness because Bdelycleon convinces him that he is not a pillar of the state, as he had imagined, but a dupe of the Athenian political bosses. He no longer attends court; instead, he sits at home in judgment on his dog, Labes, who has been accused of stealing a Sicilian cheese. At the end of the case, Bdelycleon tricks him into voting for acquittal, for the first time in his life. Later, Philocleon reluctantly allows himself to be dressed in a style becoming to a man of his years and to be taken out into society, where Bdelycleon evidently hopes that he will find interests to replace his extreme fondness for law courts. The old fellow is incorrigible. He staggers home drunk from a banquet after having exhibited there the grossest of manners, carried off the flute girl who entertained the guests, and misused several citizens along the streets. His misbehavior will involve him in several lawsuits, but his previous acrimony has been transformed into the wildest of high spirits.


Bdelycleon (DEH-lih-klee-on), Philocleon’s son, determined to break his father’s bad habits and to make him over into a model old man. Bdelycleon is evidently a man of substance, and he is clear-sighted enough to know that men like his father are being fooled by a corrupt government, which is using the state revenues for many purposes other than feeding a hungry populace. He is an affectionate son, willing to indulge his father’s foibles even to the point of acting as defense counsel for Labes, the accused dog. He speaks for moderation and common sense, but in the end he is no match for Philocleon’s buffoonery.


Sosias (SOH-see-uhs) and


Xanthias (ZAN-thee-uhs), house servants of Philocleon who aid Bdelycleon in keeping their master prisoner and complain vigorously about his vagaries. Sosias speaks for the dog that accuses Labes during his mock trial, and Xanthias acts as the prosecuting counsel.

A baker’s wife

A baker’s wife and

an accuser

an accuser, who are wronged by Philocleon as he reels his way back to his house after the unfortunate banquet. They appear to demand satisfaction for his having ruined the baker’s wife’s wares and thrown rocks at the accuser. When Bdelycleon tries to smooth matters over, his father adds insult to the previous injuries.

A Chorus of wasps

A Chorus of wasps, all old men and Philocleon’s fellow dicasts. Like him, they are bewitched by the power they seem to enjoy as jurors, and they rise before daylight to be first on hand for the opening of the tribunals. Their costumes suggest their temperament and their stings the sharpness of their verdicts. When they discover that their colleague has been shut in his house, they attempt to storm the doors but are driven off by Bdelycleon and the servants. Later, they, like Philocleon, are convinced of the error of their way of life by Bdelycleon.

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