To What Extent Do You Think Aristophanes Has Serious Targets in Wasps and to What Extend Is He Simply Trying to Make His Audience Laugh

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 45
  • Published: October 13, 2012
Read full document
Text Preview
Through the character of Xanthias, Aristophanes claims that he does not “intend to make mincemeat of Cleon this time”. As this is during the opening of the play, the audience may assume that “Wasps” is not a serious critique of political matters at this time, however many relations of Cleon are named which does suggest a political target of importance. Aristophanes can be seen to seriously criticise Cleon during the debate between Bdelycleon and Philocleon. A distinct contrast of personalities and views is portrayed through these characters from the first introduction of said characters, as “Bdely”, meaning hate, or puke, suggests a hatred of Cleon due to the use of “Cleon” as a suffix, and “Philo” meaning love, suggests a fond admiration of the archon. It is this difference in opinions which divides the father and son and causes the debate. Through the character of Bdelycleon, Aristophanes insists that Cleon takes advantage of the jurymen, paying them less than ten per cent of the national income of which they produce. It is suggested that the people elected to rule over the state receive all of the benefits whilst the jurymen, who work for the state, receive merely the leftovers. It is also suggested that Cleon encourages the jurymen and more trials to take place in order to raise funds and gain more money, not for the sake of justice. Further critiques of Cleon are shown through Sosias’ dream. These critiques, however, appear more light-hearted and mere immature digs at the physical appearance of the archon as “a rapacious-looking creature with the figure of a whale” depicts Cleon speaking to the Athenian citizens. It could also be argued that this is a clear critique of the relationship between Cleon and the people. This is because the people are portrayed as the sheep in Sosias’ dream, who just follow one another under the leadership of Cleon, all wearing the same little cloaks and all listening intently to the speaker before them, producing a more serious critique than mere name-calling. Xanthias’ response appears to be a more personal attack of Cleon rather than the Athenian citizens who follow him under his reign. Xanthias response of that dream “stinks of a tanner’s yard” is a direct insult of Cleon as he was born and raised in a tanner’s family, but this not only insults Cleon, but also directly enforces the impression that the whale speaking to the sheep “with a voice like a scalded sow” is a representation of Cleon. Similar to this, the representation of Cleon is also shown during the faux trial in the courtyard of Philocleon and Bdelycleon’s home. Clear links are portrayed in order to represent Cleon as the prosecuting dog in the trial. The “Dog of Cydathenaeum” is an obvious link to Cleon which the audience would recognise as Cydathenaeum is the deme of which Cleon belongs. The defendant, Labes of Aexone, presents similarities to Laches, who faced accusations from Cleon for misappropriation of public funds while in Sicily. Aristophanes even goes as far to include Sicilian cheese in the play, which is supposedly what the dog Labes, meaning ‘snatcher’, had stolen. Laches had belonged to the deme of Aexone, so this trial posed many recognisable associations which the audience would comprehend as distinct references to Cleon. The faux trial seems like a pointless and frivolous affair, as stealing cheese could be seen as a minor crime and by portraying Cleon as a dog accusing another dog on immoral grounds of a trivial crime, Cleon could be seen to be criticised. The law courts too, face criticism from Aristophanes in ‘Wasps’. Aristophanes portrays the jurymen as being less concerned with justice but only concerned in the pay of three obols, and anything else they can get out of the job through bribes, such as the offer of the defendants daughter for sexual favours or the pleasure the jurymen may have found in a nude boy. It is evident that the jurymen also enjoy enforcing the law as they please and causing harm...
tracking img