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Chorus of women, who burlesque the abuse against them, and the men's anxiety, notwithstanding their bad opinions of them, for their society and safety. Euripides at length appears, and the dialogue with his father-in-law turns on quotations from his tragedies, which are travestied and ridiculed. The police arrive, and Mnesilochus is put in the stocks, from which he endeavours to escape by parodying some of the improbable means resorted to by Euripides in the action of his plays, the humour of which must have depended much more upon the acting than the dialogue. At last Euripides promises never to abuse the ladies again, if they will release his friend, which is accomplished by bribing the constables.
THE FEMALE PARLIAMENT Is a satire against the communistic principles of Plato's ideal Republic.
The women, under the leadership of Praxagora, a strongminded female, have determined to reform the constitution of Athens, and, for this purpose, to attend the Pnyx dressed as men, and wearing beards; Praxagora is satisfied that when they have to speak they will be able to find words enough. At a midnight meeting for practice several break down, but she makes a telling speech, advocating the good old customs, and hinting that it will be difficult for the men to out-wit them, they know so many tricks. In the morning two of the husbands enter in dishabille, wondering what has become of their clothes, whilst a third comes to report that the Pnyx is filled with strange faces, and that a fair-faced youth has caused a resolution to be passed that the government shall be entrusted to a committee of ladies. This somewhat confounds them, but they congratulate themselves that of course the wives will in future maintain the children, and so the gods sometimes bring good out of evil. Praxagora returns home with excuses for her absence, but presently confesses that she has been chosen leader of the state, and appeals to the audience for their acquiescence, promising, among other advantages, that there shall be no more poverty, no law-suits, no gambling, and that the ugly women shall have the first choice of husbands. The scene changes to a street where the citizens are contributing their goods and chattels to the common stock, and indulging in political jokes, when a female beadle enters to summon them all to a banquet provided by Praxagora from the public funds, the name of one of the dishes at which consists of seventy-seven syllables ; and a final Chorus of ladies invite the plaudits of the spectators.
PLU TU S.
The avarice and corruption of Athenian society, induced by the artificial wants which luxury and self-indulgence had created, form the theme of this last of the poet's dramas.
Chremylus, a yeoman, is inclined, from his experience of life, to doubt whether honesty is the best policy, and consults Apollo as to the principles which he shall instil into the mind of his only son.
The oracle directs him to accost the first person he meets, who happens to be a blind man. With the help of his slave Cario he discovers that the stranger is Plutus, the god of wealth, who has just escaped from the house of a miser. Their conversation turns on the power of money, and the remarkable fact that, whilst of all things else there comes satiety, no man ever has riches enough. The god follows his guides very unwillingly, the manner in which men treat him never being pleasant, for the miser buries and disavows him, and the spendthrift wastes his substance and turns him adrift
. He, however, reaches the house of Chremylus, and Cario summonses all his master's acquaintances to meet the guest. These form the Chorus, who are only too happy to welcome him. One of them, however, Blepsidemus, accuses his host of having gained his sudden wealth by sacrilege, and suggests that, if he will share it with him, he will hush it up, and bribe the prosecutors. Chremylus is endeavouring to explain that Plutus has arrived in person, when an ill-looking lady, Poverty, makes her appearance, and deprecates her banishment from the city, assuring them that all real blessings come from her. The Chorus evince a warm interest in the ques
tion, and she contends that everything would be at a standstill if all were rich. Wealth makes men gouty, and wheezy, and paunchy; but poverty makes them strong and wiry, with waists like wasps, ay, and stings for their enemies. Look at the demagogue leaders, as soon as they get hold of the public money they turn traitors. Poverty, however, is sent away, and Plutus conducted by Cario to pass the night in the temple of Æsculapius, to invoke the restoration of his sight. The following morning Cario relates to Mrs Chremylus how the god visited each of his patients, and cured Plutus, but applied a lotion to another which made him blinder than before ; and how, when the lamps were put out, the priests crept round and ate up the offerings of cakes and fruit which the invalids had brought for the god, which seemed such a holy practice that he followed their example. Plutus returns to Chremylus's house, resolved to choose those who are worthy of his friendship in future, and the neighbours flock in with their congratulations, but are sent away by Chremylus, who is determined to monopolise his guest. In the next scene Cario tells the Chorus what a blessed gift is wealth, and how, without cheating any one, they live upon the best of everything, and even play at pitch and toss in the kitchen with gold pieces, when an informer comes prying about, and is kicked off the premises howling. An old lady also, who has lost her money, and with it her lover, appeals in vain to Chremylus; and when Mercury arrives from Olympus, and orders Cario to bring out the whole family to be punished as malefactors, the slave answers pertly that he and his master have become independent of Jupiter. Mercury replies that since Plutus has regained his sight men no longer make offerings to the gods, and intimates that he would gladly accept a situation in Chremylus's household. What, turn deserter ? asks Cario, and serve with mortals, an amusing dialogue following, in which the various useful offices assigned to the god are burlesqued. Then comes the priest of Jupiter, who also complains that gifts are no longer brought to the temple, and that he is starving now that every one is rich. Chremylus, to comfort him, tells him that Plutus is his visitor, that he means to set him up as the true Protector, in the Public Treasury, and that he shall be the minister of the new deity, if he is prepared to quit the service of Jupiter. The priest is quite willing, a procession is at once formed, Cario and the Chorus bringing up the rear with an antic dance, and they proceed with all due formalities to establish the worship of Wealth.
DIED B.C. 350.
HE writings of Xenophon are chiefly historical, but
they also vividly reflect his own character. Belong
ing to the upper middle class at Athens, he was a pupil of Socrates, and, during his early manhood, enjoyed the refining influence of the tragic poets and the comic humour of Aristophanes, having probably attained the age of thirty when he was induced, by a letter from his friend, Proxenus, to join the army of Cyrus, the younger brother of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, about a century after the death of Cyrus the Great, mentioned by Heredotus.
The title of his most interesting work is the 'Anabasis,' which consists of three parts, namely, the Invasion of Persia, the Retreat of the Ten Thousand Greeks to the Euxine, and their vicissitudes after getting back amongst their own countrymen.
The young prince, whose service Xenophon entered, having been born in the purple, was ambitious of dethroning his brother, and, as the satrap of a considerable portion of Asia Minor, had already Greek troops and Greek officers in his pay. This force, after his father's death, he increased to ten thousand, on the pretext of an expedition against the Pisidians; and with them, and upwards of a hundred thousand native soldiers, he started from Sardis to march against Babylon, followed along the coast by his fleet as far as Issus. On reaching Tarsus the Greek contingent, suspecting they