FROM ARISTOPHANES TO MENANDER
By W. GEOFFREY ARNOTT
At the beginning of 405 B.C., fourteen or fifteen months before the final catastrophe overtook Athens in the Peloponnesian War, Aristophanes produced the Frogs. It is the last extant play of Old Comedy proper.
Its plot is at times discursive, its subject-matter is passionately tied to the city in which the play was conceived, and its structure is largely controlled by such traditional and formal Old Comedy elements as the agon and parabasis. The Frogs won first prize.
In 316 B.C., just eighty-nine years later, if we accept a plausible emendation in the Bodmer papyrus, Menander in his turn won the first prize at the same festival with his Dyskolos. The Dyskolos is the first extant play of the New Comedy to which we can give a firm date. Its plot is tightly knit, its subject-matter is universal, and its structure is largely governed by a new set of formal elements.
Aristophanes’ Frogs had a chorus of initiates, who charmed the audience by their nostalgic evocation of the old annual procession to Eleusis, suspended at the time because of the Spartan occupation of Decelea. This chorus of initiates sang and danced between the dialogue scenes a series of specially composed, memorable lyrics which were relevant to the plot, to the city, and to the period; they and their leader also delivered the parabasis. This vivid, lively, functional chorus is replaced in Menander by only a dim shadow: a KCOIOS of tipsy young men who have no function whatever in the plot, who serve merely to entertain the audience in the intervals between the five acts with a song-and-dance routine whose words are not preserved and possibly were not even specially composed for the play by its author.
Aristophanes Surviving Plays:
Most of these are traditionally referred to by abbreviations of their Latin titles; Latin remains a customary language of scholarship in classical studies.
The Acharnians (Ἀχαρνεῖς Akharneis; Attic Ἀχαρνῆς; Acharnenses) 425 B.C.E
The Knights (Ἱππεῖς Hippeis; Attic Ἱππῆς; Latin: Equites) 424 B.C.E
The Clouds (Νεφέλαι Nephelai; Latin: Nubes); original 423 B.C.E, the uncompleted revised version from 419 B.C.E – 416 B.C.E survives
The Wasps (Σφῆκες Sphekes; Latin: Vespae) 422 B.C.E
Peace (Εἰρήνη Eirene; Latin: Pax) first version, 421 B.C.E
The Birds (Ὄρνιθες Ornithes; Latin: Aves) 414 B.C.E
Lysistrata (Λυσιστράτη Lysistrate) 411 B.C.E
Thesmophoriazusae or The Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria (Θεσμοφοριάζουσαι Thesmophoriazousai) first version 411 B.C.E
The Frogs (Βάτραχοι Batrakhoi; Latin: Ranae) 405 B.C.E
Ecclesiazusae or The Assemblywomen; (Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι Ekklesiazousai) 392 B.C.E
Wealth (Πλοῦτος Ploutos; Latin Plutus) second version, 388 B.C.E
Dated Non-surviving (lost) plays:
The standard modern edition of the fragments is Kassel-Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci III.2.
Banqueters (Δαιταλείς Daitaleis) 427 B.C.E
Babylonians (Βαβυλώνιοι Babylonioi) 426 B.C.E
Farmers (Γεωργοί Georgoi) 424 B.C.E
Merchant Ships (Όλκάδες Holkades) 423 B.C.E
Clouds (first version) 423 B.C.E
Proagon (Προάγων) 422 B.C.E
Amphiaraus (Αμφιάραος) 414 B.C.E
Plutus (Wealth, first version) 408 B.C.E
Gerytades (Γηρυτάδης) estimated 407 B.C.E
Cocalus (Κώκαλος) 387 B.C.E
Aiolosicon (Αιολοσίκων, second version) 386 B.C.E
Un-dated Non-surviving (lost) plays:
Aiolosicon (first version)
Frying-Pan Men (Ταγηνισταί Tagenistai)
Danaids (Δαναΐδες Danaides)
Centaur (Κένταυρος Kentauros)
Lemnian Women (Λήμνιαι Lemniai)
Old Age (Γήρας Geras)
Peace (second version)
Phoenician Women (Φοίνισσαι Phoinissai)
Seasons (Ώραι Horai)
Storks (Πελαργοί Pelargoi)
Telemessians (Ίελμησσείς Telmesseis)
Thesmophoriazusae (Women at the Thesmophoria Festival, second version)
Women in Tents (Σκηνάς Καταλαμβάνουσαι Skenas Katalambanousai)