CL106/EN106 Week 12:
1. Euripides, Bacchant Women:
a. What is Dionysos like? How is this information conveyed to the audience?
b. What is Pentheus like? How is this information conveyed to the audience?
c. What is the relation between the rational and the irrational in this play?
d. What is Euripides' attitude toward the events he portrays on stage? How can you tell?
e. How is this play similar to the Medea? How is it similar to the Hippolytus?
f. If you did not know who wrote the play how could you tell it was not written by Aeschylus?
g. If you did not know who wrote the play how could you tell is was not written by Sophocles?
2. Aristophanes, Frogs: (follow the links at the bottom of the page to the second and third parts of the text):
Note: The Frogs was performed in early 405, shortly after the deaths of Sophocles and Euripides. In the previous year the Athenians had defeated the Spartans and their allies in the naval battle of Arginousai; it is a sign of how bad things had become that the Athenians freed some of their slaves to row in the fleet in this battle. The play also mentions the oligarchic coup led by Phrynikhos, which briefly replaced the democratic government in 411; the leaders of this coup were deprived of their civil rights in the restored democracy. The play's second chorus is composed of initiates in the cult of Demeter and related gods, who believed in some sort of happy life after death; the cult was quite popular in Athens, and would have been familiar to the audience. Herakles was famous for his gluttony as well as his strength.
a. How is the Dionysus of the Frogs like the Dionysos of the Bacchant Women? How is he different?
b. What does it say about the Athenians that the god Dionysus can be portrayed as he is in this play?
c. What are the categories according to which Aeschylus and Euripides are compared in their contest?
d. To judge from your reading of plays of both Aeschylus and Euripides, how accurate is Aristophanes' characterization of them?
e. What does the staging of this contest tell us about the Athenian audience that viewed it?
f. Is this play escapist literature? If so, who is escaping from what? How?
g. What is humorous about this play?
h. Is there anything serious underlying the humor? If yes, what is it?
i. In particular, what, if anything, is political about this play?
3. More generally:
a. To judge from the Frogs, how are Athenian tragedy and Old Comedy similar? How are they different?
b. In what sense is it true that tragedy shows human beings as greater than they are in real life, and comedy shows them as something less than they are in real life?
c. Could attending a tragedy make you a better person? If so, how?
d. Would attending a comedy make you a better or a worse person? If so, how?
e. To judge from the Frogs, what do you think were the roles of both Athenian tragedy and Old Comedy in civic education?