The Frogs | Study Guide

Aristophanes

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The Frogs | Parabasis | Summary

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Summary

Aeacus, seeing Xanthias dressed as "Hercules," ties him up and threatens him with execution. Xanthias claims he has stolen nothing and cleverly suggests "take this slave of mine / and torture him. If you find out from him / I've done wrong, then take me out and kill me." Dionysus reveals that he is a god, and claims that he is thus immune to torture. Xanthias claims that he, too, is a god.

Aeacus beats each of them, and neither shows pain (though both feel it). Aeacus is baffled, and can't determine which is a god. Finally, he says: "You'd best come inside. / My master Pluto will know who you are." This is, of course, just what Dionysus and Xanthias are hoping for, and they enter Pluto's house.

At this point the Chorus, left outside, recite lines that provide insight into Aristophanes's message. They discuss Athenians' unwillingness to allow foreign allies to become citizens, saying, "But you here ... / should drop your anger and make everyone / who fights alongside us at sea a kinsman, / a citizen." They then describe Athens as ignoring its best and brightest citizens, and instead paying heed to those who are "debased ... / useless men from useless fathers." Finally, they make Aristophanes's most important point: "you silly fools, it's time to change your ways. / Use worthy people once again." Given that Athens will lose its long-standing war with Sparta within the year, Aristophanes's words were prophetic.

Analysis

The Parabasis is the portion of the play in which the author, through the Chorus, shares insights and advice. This, for Aristophanes, is an opportunity to insert politics into comedy—something the audience expects, as the Parabasis is part of every Old Comedy. In his Parabasis Aristophanes makes a plea to the people of Athens, asking them to reinstate the leadership of men of worth. He also suggests that the people of Athens have lifted up people of counterfeit value in place of those of real talent and ability. Dionysus here reveals who he is, but he still takes a beating, feels pain, and seems quite equal with his slave. He does not appear godlike.

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