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Page:Comedies of Aristophanes (Hickie 1853) vol1.djvu/198

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THE ARGUMENT.

 

 

For the date and other particulars relative to the performance of this Comedy I give the words of Clinton, in the Fast. Hell. p. 69, 2nd edit.

"Aristophanis Σφῆκες. Arg. Vesp. ἐδιδάχθη ἐπὶ ἄρχοντος Ἀμυνίου (sic) διὰ Φιλωνίδου—εἰς Λήναια. (Anthesterion, or Feb. B. C. 422, Ol. iii. 89,) καὶ ἐνίκα πρῶτος Φιλωνίδης [δεύτερος] . . . . . . Προάγωνι· Λεύκων Πρέσβεσι τρίτος (sic legendum e cod. Rav.). Ed. Ald. et Kuster. Φιλωνίδης προάγων. Γλαύκων πρέσβεσι, τρίτος. Cod. Brunckii, Φιλωνίδης . . . . . . . προάγων. Γλευκεῖς Πρεσβεῖς τρεῖς . . . . . . . Cod. Ravenn. Φιλωνίδης προάγωνι Λευκῶν πρέσβεσι Γ. The name of Leucon was corrupted, because the first letter of Προἀγωνι adhered to the following word, ΠΡΟΑΓΩΝΙΛΕΥΚΩΝ; hence the corruption of the word into ΓΛΕΥΚΩΝ and ΓΛΑΥΚΩΝ. Leucon, the comic poet, is acknowledged by various testimonies: Athen. viii. p. 343, c. Phot. Lex. v. Τίβιοι. Hesych. v. Παάπις·—and flourished in these times.—Vide Suid. Λεύκων. Philonides, therefore, obtained the prize with the Σφῆκες of Aristophanes: as he obtained the first with the Βάτραχοι (Φιλωνίδης ἐπεγράφη καὶ ἐνίκα) in B. C. 405, Ol. iv. 93."

In The Wasps, as in the two preceding Comedies, a knowledge of the jurisprudence of Athens is absolutely necessary and indispensable. This Drama is a satire on that litigious spirit so prevalent in every rank at the time of its representation. The plot is soon told. Philocleon (i. e. a partisan of Cleon) is represented as a bigoted devotee to that malady most incident to his countrymen. Bdelycleon, his son, (i. e. an opposer of Cleon,) endeavours to persuade him, by every means in ins power, to change his present mode of life for one of a more noble cast. Every thing fails. At last, he proposes to convert his own house into a court of justice, and to remunerate Philocleon for his absence from the public suits. This succeeds, and the theft of a Sicilian cheese, by a house dog, soon gives the old gentleman a means of exercising his old craft as dicast. By an inadvertency he acquits the defendant—ἀπατηθεὶς ἄκων τὴν ἀποδικάζουσαν φέρει ψῆφον. The Parabasis follows. Afterwards Philocleon is brought forward in a different point of view, to use Mr. Mitchell's words, as, "The dicast turned gentleman;" or, as the Greek has it, ὁ δὲ γέρων πρὸς αὐλὸν καὶ ὄρχησιν τρέπεται, καὶ γελωτοποιεῖ τὸ δρᾶμα. "The Wasps is, in my opinion, the feeblest of Aristophanes' plays. The subject is too limited, the folly it ridicules appears a disease of too singular a description, without a sufficient universality of application, and the action is too much drawn out. The poet himself speaks this time in very modest language of his means of entertainment, and does not even promise us immoderate laughter." Schlegel.