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litical convictions. As in the Acharnians, Knights, Peace, Lysistrata, so now he is an advocate for peace (1530—1533), and is bitter against demagogues, such as Cleophon and others, who opposed it. He shows a decided preference for the wellborn, the noble, the Athenians of the old school (whom alone he thinks likely to save Athens), a contempt for the base rabble and spurious upstarts (727-737). Yet he would not have called himself exactly an aristocrat, or at least not an oligarch : and he certainly had no sympathy with the party who were traitorously preparing to make over everything to Sparta. The government of the Four Hundred he alludes to as a mistake not to be too severely visited on the offenders, misled as they were by Phrynichus: he advises reconciliation and amnesty (687—692). And it would have been well for Athens had she followed this advice.
Aristophanes' sentiments with regard to some of the chief events and leading men of his time should be noticed. On the condemnation of the generals at Arginusae, which was fresh in every one's recollection, he is guarded in his expressions. Yet plainly 1. 1196 implies pity for the victims : and 1. 191 probably is a sneer at the judgment of the Athenians, for making so much of the loss of a few of the men, so little of the gain of the brilliant victory.
Of Cleophon, the demagogue who more than once prevented peace, he speaks most bitterly. Theramenes, the turncoat, he plainly detests: he is a clever knave who extricates himself by sacrificing his friends (541); a worthy pupil of Euripides (967), but Euripides' school is our poet's aversion.
Of Alcibiades he speaks in ambiguous terms : indeed it was hard to do otherwise. Euripides is made to condemn him, though not by name, as the citizen slow to help, swift to harm his country, whose resources are used only for his own selfish advancement (1426—1429). But Aeschylus—who is ultimately preferred—counsels that the lion's whelp, now that they have bred him up, must perforce be humoured (1431-1432). And indeed Alcibiades' second disgrace and removal from command proved ruinous to Athens : as Kock
well says, 'the hasty Athenian people trusted the young lion too much at first, too little at last.'
Such appears to be the political bearing of the play. That it won approval at the time is shown by the fact that the play gained the first prize and was re-acted mainly because of the reasonable views expressed in the Parabasis. It is worth noting that of the other two competing plays, The Muses of Phrynichus was on the degeneracy of the drama, The Cleophon of Plato was against the demagogue of that name; one literary, the other political. Aristophanes with a purpose and plot in appearance mainly literary combined much that was political. Indeed, as we shall see presently, his severe handling of Euripides was prompted by his political feeling.
Let us now look briefly at the religious drift of the play. Upon this Mitchell in his Introduction has written fully, holding that at least one chief object of this play was to uphold the declining influence of the Eleusinian mysteries, to enforce the distinction between the old mystic Iacchus and the reveller Dionysus, and to ridicule this new god. To the neglect of the Eleusinia Aristophanes and his party would, he thinks, attribute much of the disaster of the war. And as Aeschylus in the Eumenides upheld the court of Areopagus, so Aristophanes here upholds the sanctity of the Eleusinia, the blessings of initiation in this world and the next.
No doubt Aristophanes held in great honour the ancient rites of worship : the renewal of the Eleusinian procession on Alcibiades' return after enforced disuse, was greatly to his mind; and therefore the Mystae are prominent as the Chorus, with their hymns and processions (1. 340—459). But into the details and mysteries of this old worship few will now care to enter : the results of Mitchell's learning and research will find few readers : and, after all, the religious object of the play seems unimportant as compared with the literary and political. One point indeed, on which Mitchell insists, should be clearly recognized : that Dionysus and Iacchus in the play are quite distinct. When the Chorus are invoking Iacchus, Dionysus does not take their hymns to concern himself. The Iacchus of the mysteries (as Paley says) probably represents the Sungod : whereas Dionysus is simply the god of feasting and jollity, and the patron of dramatic art, at whose Dionysia plays were brought out. It is true he proves but a sorry critic, and is constantly making himself ridiculous. Hence Mitchell supposes that there is a deliberate intent in this play to discredit Dionysus as a new-comer, in comparison with the older Iacchus. But this will not explain the levity with which so many deities are treated in Aristophanes' comedies. This is indeed a curious feature in our poet, this presentation of deities in a ridiculous light. Averse though he is to atheism and rationalism, he yet makes fun of the gods whom he puts on the stage. They act with no dignity, have exaggerated human faults : as may be seen in several plays in the case of Hermes, Prometheus, Hercules, Poseidon. It is hardly possible to set up any thoroughly consistent defence of this : for religious men to ridicule the deities recognized by their own religion is an anomaly and irreverence. But no doubt, when in much of their own mythology even devout Greeks saw extravagance and absurdity, a comic poet felt that he might without offence use the ridiculous traits of the deities in order to raise a laugh. Indeed the gods, when dressed as men on the stage, were hardly gods, but rather representatives of certain human types of character. An audience could laugh at Hercules the glutton who yet would reverence Hercules the champion and pioneer of civilization. And in The Frogs under the name of Dionysus we have a fat pursy little man, boastful but cowardly, and of a judgment and taste ridiculously misbecoming the divine patron of dramatic art. He is (as we have said) not Iacchus, nor the Dionysus of Herodotus. But neither is he the Theban Dionysus, the Dionysus of the Bacchae. Rather (as Kock has well shown) in the person of Dionysus the Athenian public, the audience at the Dionysia, seems typified. With all his failings he has some good qualities : though boastful, he is yet really venturesome and determined to carry through undertaking : while ent in education and taste, easily led by and dependent on others, he has yet a
ground-work of common sense and feeling and makes the right choice at last. He started to fetch back Euripides, but is converted to better views and takes Aeschylus. Aristophanes is bold to rebuke the Athenian public to any extent, as in the presentation of Demos in The Knights: yet in this play while he says that the Athenians did not appreciate Aeschylus, he adds that none in the world but the Athenians could pretend to be critics of poetry (1. 807—810). In the mythological Dionysus there were contradictions: a womanish softness, yet at times an avenging strength (as seen in Euripides' Bacchae). Such a contrast we have in the Aristophanic parody of the deity : his woman's dress with lion's skin and club, his double nature, now human, now divine, as the requirements of the comedy suggest.
But enough of the religious aspect of the play. Aristophanes doubtless welcomed the renewal of the Eleusinian worship, and gave it a prominent place in order to impress on his audience the importance and holiness of the celebration. That he meant (as some suppose) to reprove his countrymen for the unavoidable intermission of the procession in time of war seems doubtful : that, as a lover of peace, he rejoiced at the possibility of the renewal, seems certain : and by reminding his audience of the joys of these rites and the blessings they entailed hereafter, he was arguing the cause of peace.
For us, however, the literary aspect of the play is of chief interest. To recover one of the great tragic masters was Dionysus' aim, announced at the very outset of the play : the contest between the two determines that Aeschylus shall be approved and taken, Euripides rejected and left.
Shortly before the exhibition of The Frogs, Euripides and Sophocles had died, leaving no worthy successors. Aristophanes takes occasion of this to make a final grand attempt 'to wean the people from their great partiality for Euripides' (Cookesley). That Euripides was popular, increasingly popular, more so than Sophocles, is beyond a doubt. We have it on Plutarch's evidence that Athenian captives after the Sicilian failure obtained freedom or an alleviation of their lot by reciting Euripides to their captors. Aristophanes himself, in the expressions of love which he puts into the mouth of Dionysus, is a witness to the fact. Nor was this popularity transient : it continued through later centuries in Greece, and many modern scholars have ratified their verdict of approval. Yet Aristophanes pursued Euripides with invective and ridicule, not merely once or twice, but persistently in both his early and late plays, and notably in the Acharnians, Thesmophoriazusae, and Frogs. Cleon he spares after death (Pac. 648), Lamachus, so ridiculed in the Acharnians, he honours as a hero after his fall : but Euripides he will not allow to rest even in the grave.
We naturally enquire, What were the grounds for this hatred? Was it honest? Was it fair?
As criticism of poetical merit we may at once pronounce it unfair. Indeed we cannot suppose Aristophanes himself was blind to Euripides' genius or to the beauties of his poetry. The explanation of his enmity is to be sought in his views on politics and religion, and in his deep-set conviction that the effect of Euripides' writings was bad. And the more attractive his dramas were, the more dangerous were they; and as this danger did not cease with Euripides' life, so neither did Aristophanes' enmity. We must not forget the close connexion existing in Greece between art and public life. This was universally recognized. The poet was bound to educate, teach, improve, ennoble his audience (cf. 1. 1009, 1015, 1055). And we find, as a matter of fact, art and the state mutually influencing each other, and a sort of correspondence of the great artists to the times in which they lived. In an age of heroic effort against a mighty foe there is an Aeschylus to inspirit his countrymen. The more peaceful age of Pericles, with greater leisure for refinement and cultivation, produces the calmer and more perfect creations of Sophocles. Then, as party spirit increases, and sophistical argument comes in fashion, with doubts of the old faith and religion, Euripides comes forward with rhetorical style, quibbling, and scepticism (combined of course with real merit), just suited to charm his audience.
Now Aristophanes was one of the old school: he was from