The Knights was the fourth play written by Aristophanes, the master of an ancient form of drama known as Old Comedy. The play is a satire on the social and political life of classical Athens during the Peloponnesian War and in this respect it is typical of all the dramatist's early plays. It is unique however in the relatively small number of its characters and this was due to its scurrilous preoccupation with one man, the pro-war populist Cleon. Cleon had prosecuted Aristophanes for slandering the polis with an earlier play, The Babylonians (426 BC), for which the young dramatist had promised revenge in The Acharnians (425 BC), and it was in The Knights (424 BC) that his revenge was exacted.The Knights won first prize at the Lenaia festival when it was produced in 424 BC. The Knights is a satire on political and social life in 5th-century BC Athens, the characters are drawn from real life and Cleon is clearly intended to be the villain. However it is also an allegory, the characters are figures of fantasy and the villain in this context is Paphlagonian, a comic monstrosity responsible for almost everything that's wrong with the world. The identity Cleon=Paphlagonian is awkward and the ambiguities aren't easily resolved. This summary features the real-world names Cleon, Nicias and Demosthenes (though these names are never mentioned in the play). See Discussion for an overview of the ambiguous use of characterization in The Knights. Short summary: A sausage seller, Agoracritus, vies with Cleon for the confidence and approval of Demos ('The People' in Greek), an elderly man who symbolizes the Athenian citizenry. Agoracritus emerges triumphant from a series of contests and he restores Demos to his former glory (font:Wikipedia)
Aristophanes (/ˌærɨˈstɒfəniːz/ or /ˌɛrɨˈstɒfəniːz/; Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης, pronounced [aristophánɛːs]; c. 446 – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaeum, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his thirty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and they are used to define the genre. Also known as the Father of Comedy and the Prince of Ancient Comedy, Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes' play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher. His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. It is possible that the case was argued in court but details of the trial are not recorded and Aristophanes caricatured Cleon mercilessly in his subsequent plays, especially The Knights, the first of many plays that he directed himself. "In my opinion," he says through the Chorus in that play, "the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all." (κωμῳδοδιδασκαλίαν εἶναι χαλεπώτατον ἔργον ἁπάντων) (font: Wikipedia)
This is an English translation of Aristophanes' famous comedy, Clouds, noted for its critique of philosophy, society and education. It includes essays on Old Comedy and the Theater of Dionysus, suggestions for further reading, notes on production, and a map. Focus Classical Library provides close translations with notes and essays to provide access to understanding Greek culture.
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