Archarnians is more effective as a comedy than as a plea for peace Do you agree?

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‘Archarnians is more effective as a comedy than as a plea for peace’

Do you agree?

Aristophanes uses his comedy ‘Archarnians’ to give the people of Greece advice on the war with Sparta. On the face of it the play may seem more effective as a comedy and some citizens may have taken it as just that, but most of the audience, especially the richer, well educated men – in particular those with oligarchic sympathies – would certainly have seen this plea for peace as effective and would have given it some serious consideration.

The play is very effective as a comedy because of the comic techniques employed. The obscenity, such as singing hymns to ‘Phales’, and abuse of prominent Athenian citizens, such as Cleon, would have been particularly amusing to the audience. Aristophanes even insults the Athenian citizens, inferring that they are not particularly wise and that amongst them lies ‘a bunch of good-for-nothing individuals’. Furthermore, Aristophanes’ defence of the Spartans has been compared to someone standing up during World War Two in front of many British citizens and declaring their support for Hitler. This altogether begs the question – would any of this have been taken seriously? There is always the possibility that the Athenian citizens would have been so offended and outraged by this that they thought no more about peace with Sparta and simply enjoyed the comedy as just that – a comedy. Aristophanes – speaking as always through Dikaiopolis – seems to skew the causes of the war, declaring that the only catalyst was the Athenians stealing a Megarian whore. This appears rather exaggerated to a modern audience, but surely the Greek audience would have known if he was lying about a war they were fighting which implies that there is some truth in what he says.

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During Dikaiopolis’s speech, Aristophanes uses metatheatre and breaks the fourth wall ‘I am a comic poet’ and begins explaining that he must tell the truth – ‘what I’m going to say may be unpalatable but it’s the truth’. He goes on to explain that technically it is the Athenians fault for beginning the war and compares the Spartan’s reaction to what they would have done (‘You’d have launched a fleet of three hundred instantly’) had the Spartans taken a puppy from Seriphos. This is significant because Seriphos is one of the most insignificant states in the Athenian alliance, yet the ...

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