Aristophanes (c.446–c.386 BC), translated by Theodoridis, G., (contributor-contact-email)

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Aristophanes’ play The Wasps, first performed in 422 BC, humorously critiques Athenian society, particularly its legal system and the demagogue Cleon. The plot centres on Philocleon, an old man addicted to serving as a juror, and his son Bdelycleon who attempts to address his father’s obsession by confining him to his home. Philocleon then carries out several unsuccessful escape attempts.

The play features a debate between father and son about the merits of jury service. Philocleon enjoys the power and attention it brings, while Bdelycleon argues that jurors are underpaid and manipulated by politicians like Cleon. Although Bdelycleon convinces the chorus (representing old jurors) with his arguments, Philocleon remains set in his old ways. To compromise, Bdelycleon creates a mock court where Philocleon judges a ridiculous case between household dogs. Bdelycleon tricks his father into an unexpected acquittal, shocking Philocleon who is used to convictions. The play concludes with Philocleon embracing new experiences at a dinner party, but his inability to adapt to sophisticated society leads to chaotic and humorous outcomes. Following Philocleon’s appalling behaviour, those with grievances against Philocleon demand compensation and threaten legal action. He makes an ironic attempt to talk his way out of trouble like a sophisticated man of the world, but this inflames the situation further. Finally, his alarmed son Bdelycleon drags him indoors.

The Wasps satirizes the Athenian legal system, exposing its flaws and ridiculing those who blindly support it, all through Aristophanes’ unique comedic lens.

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Theodoridis, G.,

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