First performed in 421 BC, just two weeks before the Peace of Nikias was concluded. It won second prize.

[If you are using IE, the answers to the questions should appear miraculously when you move your mouse over them. The page numbers refer to the Penguin translation by Alan Sommerstein]


Section 1 (98 - 100)  The Slaves and the Dung Beetle

  1. What are the audience supposed to think the slaves are doing (at first)?
  2. How is the audience’s curiosity aroused?
  3. What impression do we get of the “thing” behind the screen?
  4. Explain the joke about “clever dicks who think it’s an allegory”
  5. Explain about Cleon
  6. What’s the purpose of the beetle? How else had Trygaeus tried to achieve it?

    Section 2 (100-104)  The Flight of the Dung Beetle

  7. The “machine” (Greek mechane) - what was it, and what was it usually used for?
  8. Why does  Trygaeus want to reach Zeus? (How much does he reveal at this stage?)
  9. What is scatological humour? Give examples.
  10. Explain why the Daughter speaks the way she does (her diction as much as the content).
  11. In what way is Euripides’ lost play Bellerophon important in understanding this scene?
  12. What’s meant by “breaking the dramatic illusion” ? Give an example from this scene.

    Section 3 (104-106)  Hermes

  13. Why have the gods left Hermes in charge?
  14. Hermes is god of luck and thieves. How are these attributes explored during the play?
  15. Explain why Trygaeus is at pains to say he’s not an informer (Greek sycophant). What is his profession?
  16. Explain the joke about the gods leaving home (absurd?)
  17. Explain the reference to Pylos
  18. Note how Peace and War can easily become characters in drama. Any other examples of allegorical characters?

    Section 4 (106-107) War

  19. What’s the joke about the mortar and the various ingredients?
  20. Why does Trygaeus react as he does to the different items?
  21. Explain the references to the Athenian and Spartan pestles. (Clue: both had died in 422 BC)

    Section 5 (108-110) Arrival of the Chorus (parodos)

  22. Why does Trygaeus react the way he does to their celebration? What makes this part of the scene funny?
  23. Explain the reference to “old Cerberus”.

    Section 6 (110-113) Preparing to pull Peace from the pit

  24. Winning over Hermes: how is it done  (Trygaeus used meat on p104-5 - what bribes are offered this time?)
  25. The prayer and the libation. Solemn or comic?

    Section 7 (113-116) Pulling Peace

  26. Who are told off and why? (Explain refs to Lamachus, Argives, Spartans - and the prisoners, Megarians, Athenians)
  27. Who does all the work? Explain why.

    Section 8 (116-118) Peace Returns

  28. How would this scene be impressive in production?
  29. Explain the references to Sophocles and Euripides
  30. How do the audience react (allegedly!)
  31. Note Trygaeus’ song (p117) - it is poetic and sincere, as are the Chorus’ songs. Not everything in a comedy is funny!

    Section 9 (p118-119) Hermes’ lecture on the causes of the war.

  32. Explain the references to Pericles, Pheidias and the Megarian Decree.
  33. Who (according to Hermes) was responsible for the war? Who didn’t want it? Why did it happen?
  34. Explain references to Cleon

    Section 10 (120-122) Hermes and Peace

  35. What is “leather on the brain”?
  36. Explain the references to Pylos; Cleonymus (where else is he referred to in the play?); the Pnyx; Hyperbolus (the lamp-maker joke); Sophocles; Cratinus.
  37. Explain the allegorical significance of the two (probably naked) girls who came up with Peace.
  38. Explain the joke about Ganymede and the beetle.

    Section 11(122-125) The PARABASIS: a traditional part of Old Comedy, where the Chorus took off their masks and put down their props - and could confront the audience out of character (if desired) with any personal reflections of the writer, and topical political comment.

  39. How true is Aristophanes’ defence of his “great art”? Investigate                                        
    • Poking fun at rags
    • Poking fun at gods 
    • Whipping scenes
    • Attacks on individuals
  40. How true is the reference to his courage? (attacking Cleon)
  41. Explain the reference to baldness.
  42. Who were Carcinus, Melanthius and Morsimus. What does Aristophanes have against them?

    ACT 2

  43. Section 1 (126 - 134) Trygaeus returns home with Peace

  44. What's the joke about the long walk home?
  45. What is the slave's reaction to Harvest and Festival?
  46. What is Trygaeus intending to do with them?
  47. From the text (p128 -9) what "festivals" is Festival meant to represent?
  48. Note the sexual inuendoes (p 128 - 9).
  49. What does the Chorus feel about feel about Trygaeus' achievement?
  50. Explain the reference to deme, Hyperbolus (129)
  51. The sacrifice (130 -133). Explain how this is made entertaining.
  52. In Trygaeus' prayer (132) explain the references to Megarians and Boeotians (compare Acharnians)
  53. Section 2 (134 - 137) Hierocles arrives and is dealt with

  54. Who is Hierocles - what is his pretext for coming, and why has he really come?
  55. How is he made to look foolish? (What does he say? What does he do? What happens to him?)
  56. What is the evidence that Hireocles is a professional scrounger?
  57. Section 3 (137 - 140) The Second PARABASIS.

  58. An optional feature. This time the Chorus remain in character. List the benefits of peace that they mention. They all depend on going back to their homes in a countryside at peace.
  59. Why is it dramatically necessary to have a parabasis at this point in the play?
  60. Section 4 (140 - 142) The arrival of various types: those who've lost out and those who have benefited from peace

  61. Which professions are mentioned? How many "extras" are needed?
  62. How does Trygaeus wind up the arms salesmen?
  63. Section 5 (142 - 144) The boys

  64. How is the first boy made fun of? Whose son is he?
  65. How does the second boy resemble his father?
  66. Section 6 (144 - 146) The finale - wedding and party

  67. What two things is Trygaeus looking forward to?
  68. Explain the references to torches, Hymen, figs
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