A Short Analysis of Aristophanes’ The Frogs

An introduction to a classic play

The Frogs is one of Aristophanes’ most curious plays. It’s the only Greek play which we know for a fact was popular enough to have been given a repeat performance. It’s also notable for its discussion of the nature of theatre – an early version of literary theory and analysis, which Aristotle would help to develop in his Poetics nearly a century later. The 1974 Stephen Sondheim musical version of The Frogs was the first musical ever staged in a swimming pool, which, if nothing else, shows that people are continuing to experiment with this most experimental of plays.

The plot of The Frogs can be summarised easily enough. The god Dionysus – in whose name the City Dionysia, incorporating the ancient Greek theatre festival, was held – goes down into the Underworld to find the tragedian, Euripides, who had died a year earlier. He is looking for Euripides because he believes the recently deceased playwright will be able to save the city of Athens from itself. Disguised as his own altogether more tough and heroic half-brother Heracles, so that spirits won’t be tempted to tangle with him, the rather incompetent Dionysus gets ferried by Charon across the lake leading to the Underworld, debating with a chorus of frogs as he makes his journey.

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A Summary and Analysis of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Lysistrata is the first female lead in a Western comedy, and this alone arguably makes Aristophanes’ play worthy of study and analysis. Lysistrata is the only one of Aristophanes’ plays to be named after one of its characters. First performed in 411 BC, the play is set during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, a war that had been raging for two decades by this point.

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10 of the Best Classical Plays Everyone Should Read

The best drama from the ancient world

For over 2,000 years, the Greek dramatist Menander’s works were lost. Then, in the twentieth century, they were rediscovered. Menander was praised by his contemporaries as a great comic playwright – some even said the greatest, beating even Aristophanes into second place. But when Menander’s work was rediscovered in the twentieth century, it was something of a disappointment. Translators and Greek scholars were lukewarm in their praise for the newly discovered Menander material. He was, perhaps, the first writer to be the victim of over-hype surrounding his work.

All of this makes us wonder: which are the greatest plays of the classical era? What are the finest ancient Greek and Roman plays? Here is our pick of ten of the best. We’ve tried to offer as great a range of authors as possible here, so have restricted ourselves to just two entries by the same playwright (which proved difficult with some playwrights who wrote a number of classic plays).

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A Summary and Analysis of Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

It has to win the prize for ‘classical play known under the most different titles’. Although not his most famous play, Assemblywomen is one of Aristophanes’ most interesting. It’s been translated as Congresswomen, Women in Parliament, Women in Power, Women Holding an Assembly, A Parliament of Women, and, of course, its most familiar title, Assemblywomen.

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