Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Wasps is a satire about what Aristophanes sees as the flaws in Athenian society. Its primary theme is the pros and cons of the judicial system, especially trial by jury. The author also addresses individual foibles, tackling the theme of the negative effects of obsessive behavior.
The elderly Philokleon is passionately devoted to justice—or so it seems to him. Not only is he enamored of the trial by jury system of Athens, he is also determined to do his civic duty to the maximum extent possible. To that end, he tries to serve on a jury every single day. He also benefits from the small stipend earned by serving. His family, however, is alarmed by his excessive behavior. As they try to prevent him going, he sneaks out of the house.
In his zeal to see justice done, however, Philokleon abuses the system. He is really more determined to punish the guilty, and he sees guilt everywhere. And in being so single-minded, he is damaging his own mental health and unbalancing the scales of justice, as jury service has turned from a civic obligation to a personal crusade.