Aristophanes and the Political Parties at Athens

Aristophanes and the Political Parties at Athens

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Aristophanes and the Political Parties at Athens

Aristophanes and the Political Parties at Athens

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Excerpt

Aristophanes is all elusive poet. The main religious convictions of Aeschylus may be determined with certainty from his extant plays; attentive study of the dramas of Euripides reveals his cardinal opinions on politics, society and religion, and his philosophic attitude; but who can affirm with confidence that he has penetrated the comic mask of Aristophanes and knows his beliefs? The poet's mocking irony baffles and perplexes him reader at almost every turn.

"ξυńκα' ὃλέιι-µὰτὸν`ΑπǷ9ννω`γὼµὼὲνοὔ."

One element of the poet's irony is his apparent frankness. He has at times the air of desiring to be taken seriously and seems to be expressing honest convictions. He is very suggestive and provokes reflection, but the attempt to reduce his opinions to system reveals the illusion. We become uneasily conscious that the great satirist is laughing behind his mask.

A proof of this deceptive quality of the poet's humor is found in the diversity of the opinions that have been held as to his purpose in writing. It was once the fashion among modern interpreters to take him very seriously,--the comic poet disappeared in the reformer. He was eulogized as a moralist and patriot, whose lofty purpose was to instruct his fellow-countrymen; as an earnest thinker, who had reflected deeply on the problems of society and government and had made Comedy simply the vehicle of his reforming ideas; as a wise and discerning counsellor, who was competent to advise the citizens of Athens at a critical time on political questions . . .

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