The Frogs, Aristophanes – A Book (play) Review

Brekekekex koax koax Brekekekex koax koax Children of the marsh and lake / harmonious song now sweetly make. 

The oldest known literary critic in the Western world, Aristophanes lived from c.445 – c.380 BC. He was an Athenian, a poet, and a comic. Although he produced 40 (known) pieces in his lifetime, only 11 are preserved. The Frogs is one of Aristophanes’s surviving plays, and actually won first place at a Festival of Dionysus during his lifetime for its comic value and political satire.

The Frogs Summary

The story is lamenting the decline of tragic dramas in Athens, calling for a return to tradition. Written a year after the death of the tragedian Euripides, The Frogs tells the story of how the god Dionysus and his slave Xanthias journey down to Hades with the idea of bringing Euripides back. Dionysus disguises himself as the hero Heracles during the descent, and, proving himself to be a coward on multiple occasions, finds himself the butt of many a joke. Once in Hades, he must judge who is the better poet: Euripides or Aeschylus. The prize for winning is getting to leave Hades and return to life.

Thoughts and Opinions

This play is seriously so short, you can finish it in a day or so! It took me a little bit longer because the Kindle edition kept using weird words, so I’ll link to the PDF version of the text that I read down at the bottom of this post.

Like many comedies, there’s a moral message behind this play. Aristophanes was a bit of a traditionalist; he didn’t like the new directions that literature was taking during his lifetime. His attitude towards the role of the poet is clearly expressed in this line from Aeschylus during the competition between him and Euripides:

They’ve been useful from the start, / the noble race of poets. There’s Orpheus— / he taught us … not to kill.

The Frogs, Aristophanes

The meaning of this line is, of course, that poets should write plays and epics that teach us valuable morals. According to Aristophanes (via Aeschylus), the writings of poets should encourage us to be better people, not worse people! But the play isn’t all about morals and literature. It is an award winning comedy, after all.

The Frogs is full of fart jokes and, ahem dick penis jokes galore, and demonstrates how humans have been laughing at the same sort of stuff for centuries. That alone, I think, is an interesting reason to check out this book, even if you aren’t interested in Ancient Greek plays!

You can read the full text here!

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