Essay 1 (Due
in class, Thursday, 24 February)
Choose from one of the following topics, all of which pertain
to the comedies of Aristophanes that you have read in CL223.
Topics (A) and (B) are more literary, topic (C) is more
theatrical. If you choose to focus on stagecraft this
time around, you must choose a literary topic for Essay
2 (and vice versa).
A) Select a running theme from Aristophanes' comedies.
Define your theme and discuss how it is developed from play
to play. Is Aristophanes consistent, or do his views change?
Why do you think this theme is important to Aristophanes
or for Athens?
You need not discuss the plays in chronological
order, nor must you discuss every play. It might be helpful
to think about your essay in these terms: Which plays
are the most helpful in understanding your theme, and
Examples of themes include old versus
young, the polis versus the individual, men versus
women, tragedy versus comedy, and so on. Feel free to
discuss a potential theme with me.
B) Select an historical event that lies in the background
of one of Aristophanes' plays. Bring this event into the
foreground by describing it in some detail, and then by
offering a reading of the play in light of this event.
Be very specific in your choice of events.
Do not, for example, choose the entire Peloponnesian War.
When describing the event, tailor your description toward
your reading of the play. What does your reader need to
know about the event in order to appreciate the play?
Be sure to cite from where your knowledge of the historical
Your reading, in turn, should reflect
your description of the event. The goal is to describe
what the comedy in question would have meant to a fifth-century
audience. How does appreciation for the play suffer without
knowledge of the historical background?
C) Select what you believe to be the key scene in one of
Aristophanes' plays. State from the start what your scene
is, and why you have chosen it. Based upon your interpretation
of the play, decribe in detail how you would stage this
Be sure to indicate the dressing of your
stage, what the characters look like, how they behave,
what they do onstage, when they enter and exit, and so
on. The reader should be able to visualize the scene as
it plays out in the theater of your imagination. Do not
write a complete script: use descriptive paragraphs, citing
the translation where appropriate.
Your staging can be as ancient or as
modern as you like; it must, however, convey your approach
to the play as a whole. How does your staging communicate
to the audience what the words of the playwright and the
actions of his characters already communicate?