Thursday, July 25, 2013

Becoming a Writer: Aristophanes' Frogs

In 1902 the Trinity College Dramatic Society p...Image via Wikipedia

According to Aristophanes most good poets are dead. So, why not go to hell and fish them out of there? All that is willing good if one knew how go there and back unscathed; this seems not to matter in Aristophanic logic—which isn’t logic at all but parody to get people to laugh.

Aristophanes’ comedy Frogs portrays the humorous adventures of Dionysus, patron god of theater, and his slave Xanthias on its way to Pluto's court in Hades (Greek hell), to an extensive trial that is to determine whether Euripides or Aeschylus —the two foremost playwrights— deserves to be crowned champion of tragic poetry. And should the glory go to Aeschylus; then he had to be brought back from Hades.

The comedy is rich in analysis and critiques of prosody, syntax, images, meters, themes and doctrines of the two poets-tragedians.  While Euripides was convicted —maybe not convicted but vilified— for vulgarizing the genre, that  Aeschylus had elevated to Olympian heights, Aeschylus was too lofty in reaching up too high as to become rarefied, turgid, and times only understood by the gods.

At any rate, the discussion concludes with the thought that Euripides imitated Aeschylus, or if not explicitly, at least appropriated some of his ideas and material.

With the technical discussion that runs throughout the play, one can only infer that the Greek audience was so sophisticated that they would follow not only the allusions to myths and other tragedies, comedies, poems, and histories, but also given to linguistic analysis. And if that wasn’t enough, they would have to be knowledgeable in current events, for the gods know what is befouling the city. And what should be done with that scoundrel Alcibiades?

In the end, Dionysus chooses Aeschylus over Euripides—a choice that would have please the madman philosopher Nietzsche.

EURIPIDES: What have you done vile creature?
DINOYSUS: Me? Judged Aeschylus victor. Why not?

To become a writer I write every day. Since English is my second language, when I write articles I consult Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers.

When I write fiction I consult Toolbox for Writers
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