Aristophanes, son of Philippos
Cast of Characters in order of appearance, with speaking parts in bold print.
Two household slaves: Sosias and Xanthias.
The Son named as Bdelykleon (‘I-loathe-Kleon’), who is master of the house.
His Father named as Philokleon (‘I-love-Kleon’).
The household’s Donkey.
The Chorus: comprised of twenty-four elderly men, who serve as jurors in the law-courts.
They are accompanied initially by some young boys; one Boy has a small speaking part.
Three other household slaves named as Midas, Phryx and Masyntias appear but do not speak.
Mr. Barker, a noisy dog who acts as a legal prosecutor.
Another dog named ‘Labes’ together with his puppies.
A set of kitchen utensils: a pot, a pestle, a grill, a cheese-grater, a bowl.
An aged slave named Kroisos.
A Phrygian slave-girl: who plays the pipes at soirees.
A female bread-seller named Myrtia, accompanied by Chairephon a well-known intellectual.
An Angry Man acting as spokesman for a crowd of by-standers who have been assaulted.
A Man-in-the-street (leading his donkey): who has just been mugged.
Three tragic-actors: sons of Karkinos; probably played by the actors who took the parts of ‘boys’.
Their father Karkinos: a former naval commander and dramatist.
Much of the comedy turns on the contrast between the Son and the Father. The difference between
the two lies as much in their characters as in the generational gap. Anyone who remembers the BBC
Comedy series ‘Steptoe & Son’ will recognize in Aristophanes’ Father and Son the comic ancestors
of the rag-and-bone men; the impotent old man with his wheedling voice and endless guile, whose
ambitions are constantly thwarted by his son’s meddling and the upwardly-mobile son who puts on
airs but often fails to outwit his father’s wiles. There is some physical discrepancy, as old men are
diminished by age, but their sons are only sturdier, not taller. It is worth remembering too that their
clashes belie a grudging, familial affection.
The action of the play is set in mid-winter of the year 422 B.C. After nearly ten years of war, Athens
is temporarily at peace with Sparta, though some military action still continues in Macedonia, where
the formerly-allied city of Skione in Chalkidike has revolted from Athenian hegemony and is being
besieged by Athenian forces under the command of the general Kleon, son of Kleainetos.
The paraskenion (backdrop) represents the home of an average Athenian family. On one side stands
a two-storey house roofed with tiles or slates. It has a wooden door on the ground-floor; a window
on the upper-floor is covered with netting. On the other side is a low, brick structure with a flat roof,
from which a chimney protrudes. Between the two stands a low well-head with a stone water-trough
close by it. The orchestra (stage) represents the yard in front of the house and its boundary must be
imagined to be the enclosing wall.
The play begins in the early hours, shortly before dawn. There is no moonlight to illumine the stage.
Two shadowy figures lie asleep, although we cannot make them out yet in the darkness. One sleeps
sitting upright against the door-post of the main house with an iron spit beside him propped against
the wall. An empty wine-flask lies open beside him. Across from him on the flat roof of the annexe
lies another man wrapped in a fleece-blanket.
The slave Sosias enters carrying an iron roasting-spit over his shoulder and wearing a metal bowl
or colander on his head. These makeshift military accoutrements indicate that he is on guard-duty
and is coming to check on Xanthias his fellow-slave. He marches rather unsteadily to the centre of
the stage where he halts and ‘presents arms’ (in this case, the long roasting-spit) in the manner of
an Evzone. Then, alerted by the sound of gentle snoring, he turns and spots Xanthias asleep by the
Sosias (loudly exclaiming) Hey! W-what’s with you, Xanthias? You’re inviting t-trouble!
Xanthias (irritable at being so rudely awoken) I’m teaching myself how to ‘stand down’ the night-
Sosias You’ll be getting yourself a whole lot of trouble doing that. Don’t y’ get what a <wily> sort
of beast we have t’ guard?
Xanthias (trying to ignore him) I’m well aware, thank you! I just wanted a little shut-eye to try to
Sosias (looking warily around and yawning) Oh, go ahead and chance it then!
(He now starts to rub his eyes) I must admit, I’m feeling a gentle pressure on the eye-lids now too.
He slides down beside Xanthias and before long begins to nod off - until a dig in the ribs from his
companion jerks him awake again.
Xanthias Hold on, are you really losing your senses …or your mind?
Sosias Neither! It’s merely a light drowsiness from a spiritual source.
Xanthias (pushing away the empty flask) In that case, you are no doubt under the influence of the
same spirit as I am, because slumber came upon me just now, as suddenly as any Persian…lulling
me off duty.
(He struggles to his feet and stretches) Oh, but I just had this incredible dream.
Sosias Me too!
(He gets to his feet as well) I’ve never had a dream like it… But, you tell me yours first.
Xanthias I thought I saw this perfectly enormous bird of prey swoop down into the market-place,
snatch up a shield in its talons and carry it off away up into the sky. Then, Kleonymos proceeded to
get rid of <the equipment>.
Sosias That certainly sounds like Kleonymos, though it’s a bit enigmatic.
Xanthias Come again!
Sosias Like a riddle someone poses at a drinking-party. He says, “The same creature discarded a
shield by land and sea and air - what is it? Answer: a Kleonymos!”
Xanthias Heavens! Something nasty is bound to befall me after seeing such an enigmatic dream!
Sosias (airily) Not to worry! I promise you, nothing awful will happen to you.
Xanthias Nothing awful indeed! Isn’t it dangerous for a man to <deliberately> dispense with using
protection? But, anyhow, you show me yours.
Sosias Alright, though it’s of serious proportions. It has to do with the city as a whole.
Xanthias Well, get on with it, then and fill in the hole!
Sosias I’d just nodded off, when I seemed to see sheep on the Parliament Hill, all huddled together
in a general assembly. They were wearing thin cloaks and carrying walking sticks. And then, there
appeared a whale of a landlady who proceeded to practice her coarse demagoguery on these sheep
with a voice like the skirl of a bloated pig-skin.
Xanthias Good Lord!
Sosias What’s up?
Xanthias Hold it right there! Tell me no more! Your dream has the stench of the tannery.
Sosias (ignoring his plea) Then, the repulsive monster started to weigh out portions of beef fat with
a pair of scales.
Xanthias Lord, help us! Our b.---- fate is in the balance. The fiend means to separate the citizenry
out into factions.
Sosias There’s more! I thought that I spotted Theoros, with a head like a…raven, perched on the
ground alongside this apparition. At that moment, Alkibiades turns toward me and says with that
curious affectation of his, “Rook at Theoros, he rooks ravenous.”
Xanthias Alkibiades got that right, at any rate!
Sosias Don’t you find it bizarre that Theoros should be turning into a raven?
Xanthias Far from it, it’s an excellent omen!
Sosias How do you figure that?
Xanthias How? Isn’t it obvious? All of a sudden a man’s turning into a raven. It must mean that
he’s going to take leave of us and his senses. He’s goin’ ravin’ mad!
Sosias Since you interpret dreams so brilliantly, how about I take you on at tuppence a-time?
Xanthias Enough of all this! Let me explain to the audience what’s going on.
(He turns to face the auditorium)
First, let me preface my remarks with the following qualifications. Don’t expect from us anything
too ferociously satirical, nor contrariwise, any feeble farce filched from the Megarians. At any rate,
you won’t get a couple of slaves showering the audience with nuts from a basket…especially the
old chestnut of Herakles being cheated out of his supper…nor Euripides once more flying off the
handle…yet again! What’s more, even if Fortune has ‘shone on’ Kleon of late, we’re not going to
mash him to a pulp all over again. Instead, ours is a tale with a moral, no more sophisticated than
you yourselves perhaps, but a cut above vulgar slap-stick.
(Turning round to point up at the Son lying on the stage scaffolding)
D’you see that fellow up there asleep on the rooftop? That’s the boss, our master. He’s the one that
locked his father inside and told us to stand guard to make sure he doesn’t get out of the door. The
reason being, that his old man has contracted this exotic disease, which nobody would ever be able
to identify or diagnose without our spillin’ the beans.
If you think you’re clever, see if you can place it!
Sosias (pretending to hear someone in the audience call out) Ameinias over there, Pronapes’ son,
says that the man’s got appen-dice-itis, gambler’s fever.
Xanthias No, he’s way off base. But, I’ll admit, he’s living proof that such a disease exists.
Sosias No, <he’s wrong of course>, but <he’s right about one thing>; the root of the problem is an
addiction. <Nikias> here is telling Derkylos that it’s a bott’lism, an addiction to the booze.
Xanthias Hardly a rare disease, though; that can affect the best of us!
Sosias On the other hand, Nikostratos (from Skambonidai) says that he’s too fond of performing
sacrifices, or else he’s philoxenos, fond of foreign parts.
Xanthias For pity’s sake, Nikostratos! Surely not Philoxenos; he certainly sacrifices himself and he
takes in foreign parts!
We are not getting anywhere with this nonsense. I can see you’re not going to get it. So, if you
really want to find out, just quieten down and I’ll tell you what the old man’s disease is. He is, bar
none, ‘foren-sick’, he’s a compulsive juryman. Not only is he hooked on this judging lark, but he
even starts moaning if he doesn’t get to sit on the very front bench. He doesn’t get a wink of sleep at
night, thinking about the courtroom; or, if he should happen to drop off unavoidably, he is
transported there in his imagination and haunts the court-clock all night long. Indeed, so used is he
to holding his voting-pebble, that when he gets out of bed, his first three fingers are locked together
as if he were about to place frankincense on the censer…as one does at the new moon.
Yes, and I swear that when he spotted some graffiti written on a door somewhere saying ‘I love
Justine’, he went and changed it to, ‘I love Justice’.
Once, when the cock crowed just after nightfall, he claimed it must have been bribed to wake him
up late by the defendants; those public officials under investigation.
Then <one time>, straight after supper he had yelled for his walking shoes and afterwards in the
wee small hours set off there <down to the court-house> to sleep beforehand, attached to one of its
pillars like a limpet.
So prone is he to peevishness that he awards the severest penalty <on his wax-tablet> to all <who
are found guilty> and comes home like the humble-bumble-bee; with his fingernails caked in
Once, he became worried that he might at some point run out of pebbles with which to cast his vote,
so he keeps a beach-load of them <ready> in the house.
“Thus is he so impassioned to the core, that being counseled only makes him judge the more.”
That’s why we have restrained him under lock and key and keep a close watch on him, so he can’t
slip out. For his disease is making his son feel quite ill.
To begin with, the son tried to win his father over by argument and persuade him not to go outdoors
in his inadequate, threadbare cloak. But, that had no effect on him.
Then, he had a go at ritual cleansing and purification, but that was ‘water off a duck’s back’.
Next, he tried hypnotism, by inducing a Korybantic trance, but at the very <sound of > drumming,
the old man darted off, alighted in the empty courtroom and began his jury-duty.
Then, when these ritual solutions proved of no avail, the master sailed over to Aigina Island with
him. He trussed him to a trestle-bed for the night in the sanctuary of Asklepios, <god of healing>,
yet, he still managed to show up at the jury-entrance at the crack of dawn next day. From then on
we did not let him loose outside any more. Nevertheless, he kept escaping through the drains and
holes in the wall. We, for our part, kept stuffing any holes we found with rags to bung them up.
He hammered nails into the wall for himself, and then hopped it like a jackdaw. So, now we’ve
spread nets all over the courtyard and we are standing guard on all sides.
The old man’s name is ‘I-love-Kleon’ (Philo-Kleon). It is, I swear it!
While his son up there (indicating the figure lying on the top of the paraskenion) is named ‘I-loathe-
Kleon’ (Bdely-Kleon)! He’s the one with the so-so-sophisticated and classy manners.
At which point the character so described bawls down to the two slaves from the top of the
Son / Bdely-Kleon Ahoy there! Xanthias…Sosias…are you asleep?
Xanthias Oh dear!
He gives Sosias, who was no longer paying attention and has dozed off, a gentle kick.
Sosias What’s up?
Xanthias ‘I-loathe-Kleon’ is up and about.
While Sosias is still yawning and Xanthias is looking up at the roof of the bake-house, a diminutive
figure is seen to scamper across the yard into the bake-house.
Son Won’t one of you two run round here quickly? Papa has just emerged and is headed for the
oven with his head down, scurrying like a mouse. So, keep an eye out to make sure he doesn’t take
off down the drain of the water-trough. You there, stay by the door!
Sosias You got it, boss!
Xanthias goes across to the bake-house door and sits down with his back against it. Meanwhile, a
dull rumbling is heard off-stage.
Son Poseidon, lord of earthquakes! What is that hollow rumbling coming from the oven-chimney?
(He peers down behind the paraskenion)
Hey! Who’s down there?
Father / Philo-Kleon (His voice is heard from behind the stage as if he’s speaking through a loud-
hailer) It’s just me Smokey rising up.
Son <Old> Smokey, eh? <Well, come on up>.
(The father’s head, smudged with soot, pops up)
Of what wood, I wonder, are you ascended from?
Father A faggot!
Son I’m not surprised. You bring tears to my eyes; you must be a poof of smoke! Anyhow, you’d
better go back the way you came. Where’s that clay <chimney-cover>?
(He pushes his father’s head down out of sight and clamps the pot over the opening)
Down you go again!
(He grabs a lump of wood)
Here, I’ll lay this piece of wood on you for good measure. From now on, you’ll have to find some
other means of escape.
Oh, what an unlucky chap I am; nobody more so! They’ll be calling me ‘Fag-end’, son of a Smoke
The father’s head re-appears in the window-opening of the bake-house door.
Xanthias (pointing at the door, calls up to the Son in alarm) He’s pushing against the door.
Son (agitated) Then, push back hard!
(Xanthias rushes to hold the door. His cry brings Sosias running too.)
Fight the good fight with all thy might! I’ll be right down. While you’re at it, keep an eye on the
locking mechanism and watch out in case he tries cracking the lock-nuts of the bar with his teeth!
Father What are you trying to do, your utter reprobates? Won’t you let me out to do jury-service?
You realize, I suppose, that <devious> Drakontides will extricate himself?
Xanthias What’s that to you?
Father Well, one time when I consulted the oracle at Delphi, the god predicted that if I ever let
anyone off, I’d shrivel up.
Xanthias Heaven forbid fulfilment of that oracle! <You’d disappear altogether>.
Father Oh come on, for pity’s sake, come and take me out. I’m ready to explode!
Xanthias As the Earth-shaker is my witness, ‘I-love-Kleon’, I won’t ever let you out.
Father Then, I’ll nibble through this net with my teeth.
Xanthias No, you won’t; you don’t have any teeth.
Father Oh damn! That’s true. How can I get rid of you? How? …I know!
“Bring me my sword of burning gold” (the sword of justice) and quick about it.
…Or, better still, a stiff sentence!
His son enters.
Son (melodramatically) ‘This fellow seems intent on perpetrating some great villainy.’
Father No, I’m not; really I’m not. I swear. All I want to do is take the donkey to market and trade
it in…along with its panniers. It’s market-day, you know.
Son But, surely, I could cut a deal on the donkey myself, could I not?
Father You wouldn’t do it as well as what I would.
Son Au contraire, I would do it rather better.
Father Well, fetch him out then!
Xanthias (astounded) What a ruse! It’s merely a pretext he’s let down so you’d let him get out.
Son: (aside) I know. But, he certainly didn’t hoist me with it. I saw through his little scheme.
Xanthias Well, to be on the safe side, I think I’ll go in and lead the donkey out myself, so we don’t
get even a ‘peep’ out of the old man again.
Xanthias unbolts the door and disappears inside. He re-emerges seconds later leading a pantomime
donkey which is braying loudly.
Son What are you complaining about, ass! Is it because you’re to be sold today? Giddy up!
(The donkey continues to bray)
What are you moaning about?
(He takes a closer look at the donkey and spots something suspicious)
Ah! Could it be that you are carrying an …Odysseus?
That’s absolutely right! He is carrying somebody concealed underneath.
Whoever can it be? Let me take a look.
Sosias That’s him there!
Son What have we here? Verily, sir, who might you be?
(A voice from beneath the donkey) I’m nobody, really!
Son Nobody, are you? Would that be…Nobody from around here?
Father (sticking his head out and speaking sonorously) From Ithaka am I; the son of…Abyssinia.
Well, Nobody, you’ll not be seein’ ya’ freedom. I can promise you that!
(To Xanthias) Drag him out from under there!
Sosias Will you look where the blackguard is cowering!
Xanthias Yes, it looks to me for all the world like the donkey has a big prick on it.
Xanthias and Sosias try to dislodge the old man.
Father If you fellows don’t let me go in peace, we’ll come to blows.
Sosias What, pray, are you going to argue about?
Father About who is making an ass of himself.
Son You are certainly overburdened, clumsy and ready to be put out to grass.
The old man releases his grip on the donkey and tumbles to the ground.
Father Who me? I’ll have you know, by Jove, I’m in my prime just now.
(Menacingly from the ground)
As you may discover when you swallow a prime uppercut from a veteran of the Eliaia.
Son (to Sosias, wearily) Push the donkey back…and you shove the fellow into the house.
The donkey tries to wander off to the water-trough, but Sosias pushes it back into the annexe.
After the old man struggles to his feet and dusts himself off, Xanthias proceeds to bundle him off in
spite of his spirited resistance.
Father Help me Kleon! Fellow members of the jury, rally to my defence!
Xanthias Once we’ve got this door bolted you can holler all you like…from inside.
He pushes the old man into the house and pulls the door shut.
Son Shove a pile of the stones against the door…and insert the locking-pin in the bolt again.
(He keeps thinking up additional precautions)
…and set the big grinding-stone up against the door post...get a move on and roll it over!
Xanthias (while rushing to carry out the son’s muddled instructions, he suddenly stops)
Hey! Where did that come from? Just my luck! A bit of muck has dropped on me.
Son (unconcerned) It could be a mouse-dropping come from somewhere up there.
Sosias Mouse dropping, eh? No, I don’t think so. It’s just a stool-pigeon hiding under the roof tiles.
There he is!
One end of the father’s anatomy or another briefly pops up under the eaves.
Son (now having palpitations) Dear me, it’s too, too much! The man’s turning into a sparrow. He’s
about to fly away. Where, oh where, is my bird-net? Shoo, birdie, shoo! Back you go!
(To the audience) I tell you, I’d rather have been besieging <the Spartans in> Skione than keeping
watch here over this father of mine.
Sosias lobs a small stone inaccurately at the ‘bird’ and the father ducks back down out of sight.
Xanthias Well now that we’ve scared away this flighty fellow and there’s no way he’ll be slipping
past us unobserved, why don’t we turn in for forty winks?
Son Not so fast, you oaf! In a short while, his fellow-jurors will be coming to call for the ‘pater’.
Xanthias You mean so soon, in the wee, small hours?
Son Absolutely! By now, in fact, it’s already late for them to be getting up. Indeed, they’re usually
calling for him any time from midnight on, by lamplight. They summon him by humming some old
airs; one of those soppy, sentimental songs from the Persian War years.
Sosias They’ll be out of luck tonight. If we have to, we’ll put them to flight straightway with these
Son I don’t think so! This breed of old codger is like a nest of…wasps! For if they’re annoyed, they
each have a very sharp stinger sticking out of their abdomen with which they sting, and they attack
dancing and buzzing loudly like sizzling sparks.
Sosias No worries! Give me enough stones and I’ll scatter whole nests of jurors!
The slaves take up their positions again to guard the door and before long are fast asleep.
Parodos (Entry of the Chorus) 230-316
The indistinct sound of humming is heard from the darkness as the Chorus approaches. The tune is
some old Forces’ Favourite such as ‘There’ll be bluebirds’ or ‘Lily Marlene’. The members of the
chorus are service veterans, now in their dotage. They walk with the help of canes, and support one
another. Some small boys with torches are leading them along the unmade lane toward the house.
Their ‘waspishness’ is not immediately apparent because they are wrapped in worn cloaks. An ex-
Sergeant Major, the chorus-leader (A), addresses the troop, two of whom (B and C) interrupt him.
Chorus (A) Onward former soldiers, with lanterns to the fore!
You, Komias, are getting slow. You weren’t like that before.
You used to be athletic, and as supple as a rope,
But, now we watch you hobble, when once you used to lope.
All you former mess-mates are getting old and slow,
Still, keep your sticks in motion and steady as you go.
Just watch where you are going, so you don’t fall in a hole,
And listen to your names as…I start to call the roll.
Now pay attention if you will and everybody listen,
To make quite sure that we’re all here and nobody’s gone missin’.
There’s Haris, Strymodoros and here’s Harinadis too,
I thought I saw Euergides?
…he’s gone to find a loo.
Chorus (A) Is that the lot? Alas! Alack! I must confess the truth,
How few remain from that brave dawn when we were in our youth!
Chorus (B) Those serving at Byzantium can still recount the story,
How you and me on night patrol earned everlasting glory.
Chorus (C) Remember how the baker’s wife had lost her kneading-trough?
She didn’t spot us in the dark as with it we made off!
We chopped it up for firewood and cooked a tasty cock…
Chorus (A) ….But, we should not be loitering with Laches in the dock.
Chorus (B) That’s why our ‘keeper’ Kleon had warned us yesterday
That he would drag him into court and we would make him pay
For all the money that he stole and crimes he has committed
“Be sure to be on time,” he said, “with venom fully-kitted.”
He’s hoards of money hived away, or that’s what people say.
Chorus (A) So let us get a move on, men, for it will soon be day.
Keep a look out as you march; be careful not to stumble,
For, if you trip against a stone, you’ll take a nasty tumble.
Child Oops! Grandpa, watch out! Don’t step in the mud!
Chorus (A) Then, find a sharp stick on the ground and tease the lamp’s oily-wick a bit.
Child (aside) I think not, instead I’ll squeeze my ‘lamp-wick’ with my hand like this.
Chorus (A) (angrily) Who taught you to extend the wick with your finger, you empty head? Don’t
you know oil’s in short supply? You’re not the one bitten when the price is through the roof.
Child (defensively) Heaven help you, if you try reproving any of us with your knuckles again, for
we’ll put out the lamps and pack off home. Then, maybe, left in the dark without this (pointing to
the light!), you can churn through the mire, like marsh birds wading through mud.
Chorus (A) (menacingly) I’m used to teaching others, even bigger than you, a lesson, you know.
(His tone suddenly mellows in dismay and he looks up at the window suspiciously)
O-Oh!...I seem to be stepping in something squidgy here.
Chorus (B) It’s perfectly clear that Zeus is going to need to make water in no more than four days!
Chorus (C) It’s true! Look at this mildew forming on the lamps! When that happens, the <rain>-
god usually sends a really good downpour.
Chorus (B) Yes, and any fruit-bearing crop…unless it’s premature…requires watering to grow
…and the north wind to blow over it.
Chorus (A) What can be the matter with our colleague on the bench who resides at this address?
Why does he not show himself to the company? He was never backwards beforehand in coming
forward. In fact, he would often take the lead in leading us in some <old-time> tunes of Phrynichos.
Yes indeed, he’s a chap for a sing-song, if ever there was!
I’ve an idea, men. Why don’t we, while we’re standing here, serve him a song by way of summons?
It could be that when he hears our honeyed tones he’ll haul himself to the door out of sheer rapture!
Choral Song 273-89
Why ever does the old man not show himself outdoors or even answer our call?
Could it be perhaps that he’s mislaid his walking shoes?
Or, has he stubbed his toe somewhere in the dark, in which case his ankle could become inflamed
because he’s getting on in years. It could even lead maybe to swelling in his groin.
He was certainly by far the keenest stinger of us all,
And the only one who could never be talked round.
Instead, whenever any <defendant> groveled,
He used to lower his head <as if to butt>, and say this, “Don’t waste your time”.
It’s more than likely he is afflicted with a pain
On account of that impostor who slipped through our fingers the other day,
Insisting that he was pro-Athenian,
And claiming to have been the first to reveal the plot in Samos.
That’s why perhaps he’s lying abed in a fever.
That’s the kind of man he is.
But, noble friend, get out of bed and do not let it gnaw you,
Do not get in a stew over it.
‘cause there’s a man, a real fat bird who’s due for trial
One of those who sold us down the river, up in Thrace
<When in court he’s brought to book>,
His goose you will most surely cook.
Chorus (A) Issue a summons, boy!
Child Are you going to give me something in return, if I ask you?
Chorus (A) Most assuredly, my child! Tell me, won’t you, what treat can I buy you?
I expect you’re going to say chickpeas, that’s it isn’t it, my boy?
Child No, I’m not! Don’t you think, pappy, that dried figs would be a sweeter…
Chorus (A) (angrily) Certainly not! You could go hang first!
Child In that case, by god, I won’t light your way any more.
Chorus (A) You ask me for dried figs! Out of this paltry jury-pay of mine I have to provide the
daily bread for the three of us, along with any little extra tid-bit and the firewood to cook it.
Child (becoming anxious) You mean then, grandpapa, that if the magistrate does not call for the
court to sit in session today, we have no surer means at our disposal? Have you no other source of
hope? Would we be in straits as dire as…the straits of the Bosporos?
Chorus (A) (with histrionic gesture) Alas and alack! I know not, forsooth, whence our sustenance
Child (bawling) O miserable mother mine, wherefore didst thou bring me into the world?
Chorus (A) (in an undertone)…To put me to the trouble of feeding you!
Child So, art thou, my little bag, which I was holding, no more than a useless fashion-accessory?
Chorus (A) (shaking his head) We both have cause to lament!
The Chorus is stymied, but at this moment a voice is heard to cry from within.
Father (he intends to cry out from his captivity as follows, “I am dissolved in tears, comrades, on
hearing you once again through this hole in the wall,” but instead, he is overcome by the desire to
warble an old number from ‘Rose Marie’)
When I’m hearing you-oo-oo,
Through this tiny groo-oo-oove,
I am deeply moo-oo-ooved.
Would I could sing too-oo-oo.
What am I to do-oo-oo?
(He then adopts a mock-tragic tone to explain his predicament and pray for deliverance)
Because I wish again with you,
Some mischief at the courts to do,
These villains hold me under lock and key.
Great Zeus, who thunders upon high,
Incinerate me, so that I
Might turn to smoke and swiftly disappear.
Or make me like Proxenides,
Or Sellos’ son, you know that he’s
The kind of vine that always does a runner.
Bestow your grace, o Lord, on me,
Take pity on my misery,
And strike me with your fiery lightning-bolt.
At least when I’ve been barbequed,
I’d be served up just like ‘fast’ food
(And seasoned with a salty vinaigrette).
Or better still, turn me to stone,
Beside the courthouse, that’s the one
On which they count the votes for a conviction.
Symmetrical Scene A 334-402
Chorus (A) (loudly) Who is it who shuts you in, and bars your way, in the door-way, in this way?
Pray speak! - (in hushed tones) we’re here for you, you know.
Father It is my son - try not to shout - for that’s him asleep out front. Just keep your voice down!
Chorus (A) O foolish fellow, for what reason does he thus incline to act? What is his motivation?
Father Sirs, he wants to keep me out of mischief by preventing me from attending court. Instead,
he wants to keep me in fine style; a thing which I do not desire.
Chorus (A) Did he make so bold, this brute, this mock-Kleon, to imply in so many words, that you
have been rather forthright about today’s youth?
Chorus (B) The rascal would hardly have dared suggest as much, were he not party to some…
Chorus (C) So, it’s high time you came up with some fresh stratagem to get yourself down here
without this fellow getting wind of it.
Father Such as what? You come up with an idea. I’m so eager to get back through the court
cordon, with my (seashell-) ballot in hand, that I’d do anything you suggest.
Chorus (C) Is there not perhaps some little hole that you could worm your way through?
Chorus (B) Could you not then disguise yourself by dressing in rags like that clever schemer
Father Everything is sealed tight. There not a hole big enough for even a gnat to squeeze through.
You’d find bigger holes in a cheese. No, you’ll have to come up with something else.
Chorus (C) You remember that time once on active service when you stole those skewers of meat?
It was when we took Naxos. Remember how quickly you shinned down the walls with them?
Father Yes, I recollect. But, why bring that up? The present situation bears no similarity. I could
nick things then, because I was young and fit. Nobody was standing guard over me and I was able
to make my getaway without any worries. While now, there are armed guardsmen guarding the
passes in military order. There are two of them there by the door. They’re on the look out for me, as
if I were a (desert-) rat which had made off with some meat - and they’ve got roasting spits!
Chorus (A) Well, you need to contrive a scheme pretty fast, and get a buzz on, for day is dawning.
Father In that case, my best hope is to chew through the net, by Gum!
…Excuse the pun, but I’m all out of teeth.
Chorus (A) Spoken like a man who has his salvation well and truly within his reach! More strength
to your jawbone!
The father makes a show of gnawing through the net over the window.
Father That’s got it bitten through, anyhow.
(The Chorus raise their staffs triumphantly as if on the point of cheering)
Whoa! Don’t start to cheer on any account! No, take care that ‘I-loath-Kleon’ doesn’t get wind of it.
Chorus (A) (in a loud whisper) Fear not, old chap!
Chorus (B) Don’t you worry a bit! If he so much as grunts in his sleep, I’ll make him live to regret
Chorus (C) I’ll make him fear for his life, so he realizes that he cannot desecrate the sanctity of…
god-given, judicial verdicts.
Chorus (A) Alright now, when you’ve secured the little cord from the window, loop it around
yourself and just abseil down. Put your faith in your lack of gravitas!
Father All well and good, but what if these two catch on and have me reeled in and pulled back
inside, tell me what you’ll do then?
Chorus (A) We will defend you from this high-handed fellow by summonsing him in a body. We
will act so as to make it impossible for him to restrain you.
Father (falteringly) Then, I shall trust to your advice and do as you say. But, remember this, “If I
should die…there is some corner of a local court…” So, you must gather up my remains, and then
with lamentations lay them to rest under the bar of the court.
Chorus (A) Don’t be afraid! No harm will come to you, noble friend; just let yourself down with
Chorus (B) (aside)…and with a prayer to your guardian angel!
Father (raising his arms in prayer) I call upon you, my local hero, lord Lykos, because like us you
always enjoy the tears and wailing to which those trying to gain acquittal resort. In fact, you have
gone and set up shop near the courts, with the avowed intent of hearing their commotion. You,
alone of the heroes, have shown yourself willing to take the part of someone in distress. Have pity,
then, and preserve him who shares a common fence with you…Then, I for my part will never piss
…nor may I so much as break wind…near your wind-break.
As the father ends his prayer, he finally begins to lower himself down from the window. But, before
he reaches the ground, his son, seemingly disturbed by the unaccustomed silence, suddenly wakes
with a start.
Son (to Xanthias) Hey, rouse yourself!
Xanthias (blearily) Er…what’s up?
Son Methinks I didst hear a little voice hereabouts.
Xanthias The old man may be trying to slide past us <once again>.
They look around suspiciously.
Son (spotting the father suspended in mid air) No, by Heaven, he’s sliding down instead.
Xanthias grabs his roasting spit and proceeds to threaten Philokleon’s rump with it.
Father You vile villain, you! What are you doing?
Xanthias You shall not descend, no sir! Back up you go the other way and quick about it!
He tries prodding him with the spit.
Son (to Sosias) Grab these fertility symbols, these birch twigs and beat him with them ‘til he beats a
Father (pleading with the audience) Is there anyone <out there>, planning to initiate proceedings in
court any time soon? Won’t you come to my ass-istance?
(He drops to the ground and is seized by the two slaves)
Messrs. Black (who blackens reputations), Brown (who noses around in other people’s business),
Grey (who lurks in the shadows) and Green (the ‘grass’)! When are you going to help me?
When, if not now as I’m about to be dragged inside?
Symmetrical Scene B 403-525
Seeing his plight, and anxious at the delay, the Chorus starts to become agitated.
Chorus (A) Tell me, why are we hesitating to employ that fierce rage, which <boils up> whenever
anyone has disturbed our swarm? Now is the time to activate that prickly passion…with which we
punish <the offender>… that sharp stinger with which we are equipped!
Chorus (A) Boys, cast off your cloaks and run as quickly as you can to Kleon. Cry aloud and let
him know what’s going on. Tell him to come here to deal with a man, an enemy of the state…
Chorus (B) …who is destined to meet a bad end.
Chorus (C) Tell him he is proposing the following decree -- an end to trial by jury!
Hearing the dread name of Kleon mentioned, the Son tries to remonstrate with them.
Son Good sirs! First hear the facts of the matter! Let’s not go flying off the handle.
Chorus (A) By Heaven, that is just what we shall do, fly…to heaven!
Son I still won’t turn him loose.
Chorus (A) Such behaviour is truly monstrous, the embodiment of Tyranny! O my city! O god
Chorus (B) …and any other of our toady-politicians who might happen to be around!
Xanthias Great Herakles! Do you see them, boss? They’ve got pricks.
Son: Indeed they do! That’s what did for Philippos, the pupil of Gorgias, at trial.
Chorus (C) …and we’ll finish you off with them too!
Chorus (A) Let each man direct his energy this way. Unsheathe your stings and launch your assault
upon the fellow…
(They take a step towards Xanthias who has hold of the Father, while the Son edges back behind the
pair)… swarming in tight formation…
(They take another step)… filling yourselves with impassioned rage. Make him appreciate in future
what sort of wasp-swarm he’s aroused.
Xanthias Heavens! Things are looking really bad now. We seem to have a fight on our hands, and
for my own part, I don’t like the look of those spiky things of theirs one bit.
Chorus (A) Then, let the man go! If you do not, I assure you, you will envy the tortoise his thick
Father (gleefully) That’s right, fellow-jurors, you irritable ‘wasps’! Now you’ve got your dander
up, fly right at them! Some of you poke their bottoms, others sting them round the eyes and fingers.
The Son realizes that reinforcements are called for, and calls for them.
Son Hey, Midas, Phryx, Masyntias hasten to our aid!
(At once the three slaves mentioned rush out onto the stage from the sides)
Grab a hold of this fellow and don’t let go, whatever happens! If you don’t keep hold of him, you’ll
be in fat fetters, eating nothing for your lunch.
Chorus (A) (to the slaves, dismissively) I’ve heard a lot of dead leaves crackle in my time and I
know an empty threat when I hear one.
Chorus (B) (menacing the Son with his sting)
If you don’t let this man go free,
You’ll get a present from a bee!
Father (struggling unsuccessfully to raise his hands in prayer) I call upon you, O Kekrops, Lord
and hero, Serpentine from the waist down. Do you watch with indifference as these barbarians hold
me pinned down, men who I myself taught to weep to the full measure?
Moved by the tragic spectacle the chorus-leader becomes philosophical for a moment.
Chorus (A) Old age involves a great many terrible ills, to be sure. Take now the example here of
these two, who are laying violent hands on their old master. They forget the old days. It was he,
who bought them the hard-wearing, leather jerkins,
Chorus (B) …the sleeveless work-coats,
Chorus (C) …and the protective headgear.
Chorus (A) And when winter came, who looked to the well-being of their feet?
[Chorus (all) He did!]
Chorus (C) So that they weren’t shivering every time <he sent them out to work in the cold>.
Chorus (A) Yet, <notwithstanding these past kindnesses>, these fellows exhibit no outward
indication of shame over his old slippers.
The audience is invited to consider the old man’s shabby footwear.
Father (addressing one of his captors) Will you not release me, not even now, you wicked, beastly
beast! Even remembering the time I caught you stealing bunches of grapes and how I dragged you
to the olive tree for the whipping of a lifetime? I performed heroically; you should be proud. But
now, it appears, you weren’t grateful.
Anyhow, let me go you…and you too, <let me scarper>, before <these men> turn my son to flight.
Chorus (A) It won’t be long before you both pay us a fitting penalty for these misdeeds, when you
will realize the kind of tetchy men you’re dealing with; men with right on their side and that fierce
look in their eyes that tells you not to mess with them.
Son O Xanthias, drive these ‘wasps’ away from the house, drive them away!
Xanthias Isn’t that what I’m doing?
Son (to one of the slaves) You there, use lots of smoke to get rid of them!
Xanthias Shoo, won’t you?...Get lost!...Disappear!
Son (to Xanthias) Use the stick to keep them off!
(To the slave) Try adding to the smoke with some noxious fumes from Smellarsios’ son, Aischines;
the one who’s always blowing his own trumpet!
Xanthias and the other slave try farting at the ‘wasps’ who discouraged by the noisome gases, call
off their assault and start to back away.
Xanthias There, didn’t I say we would scare you away eventually?
Son You would not have got shot of them so easily, if they had been nurtured on the piquant tang of
Chorus (A) It is all too obvious to us working men, how Tyranny has crept up on us on the sly
while we weren’t looking. If, at any rate, you rascally rogue, with your long locks and refined
manners, you are trying to exclude us from our legal rights without offering so much as an excuse
or even a specious argument, you are the very model of a modern…dictator.
Son Can’t we discuss this and have a frank exchange of views without recourse to violence and
raised voices like this?
Chorus (A) Negotiate with you? You enemy of the people! You lover of arbitrary rule! You buddy
of Brasidas! You who trim your tunic with <fluffy> woolen hems, while leaving your facial hair
Son I swear by Heaven I’d be better off getting rid altogether of this <aged> parent of mine rather
than have to take arms against a sea of troubles day in and day out!
Chorus (A) Oh, we’re only just getting going; you ain’t heard nuthin’ yet!
Chorus (B) (aside)…and we’ve got plenty more fine-sounding phrases where that came from.
Chorus (C) Yes, this is nothing to what you’ll suffer when the prosecutor showers you with these
self-same charges and declares you a subversive.
Son How I wish to Heaven I were rid of you! Or, is it <divinely> ordained that we spend the day
arguing and fighting?
Chorus (A) As long as there is breath in me, there will be no peace for any man who has set out to
set up a dictatorship over us.
Son: For you everything has to be about dictatorship and conspiracies, regardless of the seriousness
of the actual charge. These last fifty years one hasn’t heard so much as a whisper about such ideas.
But, now, in the market-place talk of dictatorship is always in the air; it’s in much greater supply
than salted fish. If one is out to purchase a <pricey> perch and isn’t interested in sprats, one hears
the man selling sprats nearby say, “This chap looks to be buying fish for a dictatorship!” If, on the
other hand, one suggests a bit extra, say an onion for garnishing some whitebait, the greengrocer-
woman looks askance and says, “Come on now! Is it an onion you want, or are you after a dictator-
ship? Or, perhaps your lordship expects Athens to provide you with a tribute of <tasty> relishes?”
Xanthias Here! That’s exactly what that tart told me yesterday! (All turn to stare at him) When I
went round to <her place> about noontime and told her to get on top and work her hips, she got all
steamed up and asked me if I wanted ‘Hippias in a dominant position’.
Son: These people must like the sound of the words. What’s more, if now I am trying to free papa
from his compulsive getting-up and going-out at break-of-day, malicious-slandering, vexatious-
litigating ways, and just want to live like a gentleman…like Morychos for instance, they’ll claim
I’m doing it because I’m a subversive with dictatorial tendencies!
Father And they’d be right, by God! For I would not accept to live in clover in exchange for the
way of life you are depriving me of at present. Not even sole or eels can compare with the delicious
taste of a crisp, little trial well-prepared and served on a plate….
Son That’s true enough, for you are quite used to making a meal out of such matters. But, if you can
just stay quiet and hear what I have to say, I believe I can prove to you that you are completely
mistaken about these things.
Father Am I wrong to hear court cases?
Son: Not only that, but you do not realize that you are being made a laughing-stock by the very men
whom you practically worship. In fact, without noticing it you’ve become their slave.
Father Their slave! Stop talking drivel! I rule the world.
Son No, you don’t! Actually, you are a servant who thinks he is boss. If you don’t believe me, pater
dear, tell us just what you get out of exploiting the Greeks.
Father Gladly! And I’d like these gentlemen to rule on the question.
Son By all means! …Release him everybody!
Father …and bring me my sword, because if you get the better of me in debate I shall have to fall
Son All well and good, but what if you…how can I put it...fail to abide by the arbitrators’ decision?
Father Then, may I never again enjoy the undiluted blessing of jury pay!
Contest (Agon) 526-759
Father and Son square off opposite one another as if about to wrestle or box.
Chorus (A) (addressing Philokleon) Now is the time for <you>, our champion, to come up with
some novel argument that will demonstrate…
Son (airily) Someone bring hither my work-box, and quick about it!
… the sort of a man he is; if he’s going to continue spouting the same nonsense.
Chorus (A) … that will prove you do not talk in the rash manner of this popinjay here.
Chorus (B) You realize that this contest is an important one for you…
Chorus (C) …everything is on the line.
Chorus (A) If, heaven forbid, he should actually get the better of you.
One of the slaves reappears holding a writing box.
Son You can rest assured I shall have every word he utters recorded just as he says it. So, what do
you suggest, if this father of mine should fail to get the upper hand in argument?
Chorus (A) They will make fun of us on every street; “You totally useless bunch of old codgers,”
Chorus (B) We’ll be called wreathe-bearers!
Chorus (C) …or <disposable> receptacles for legal affidavits!
Chorus (A) Well (leaving all that aside), you who are about to…argue in defence of our entire
dominion, take courage then and flog him with the full force of your tongue.
Father That I will, and right from the off I’ll prove that our powers are second to none. For, what
living creature nowadays enjoys better fortune or is more blessed, is more indulged or more feared,
than a juror?…and that despite his advanced years! No sooner has he crawled forth from his resting
place than men of substance and of stature are lining the court-rail on the look out for him. At once,
one of them will rush to put his fleshy hand, which has embezzled public funds, in mine - they start
cringing and begging, in a piteous outpouring of sobbing - “Venerable Father, I beseech you, have
pity on me! Have you yourself never taken your cut as a public official or when purchasing supplies
for your company on military service?” …and this is a man who would not even know I exist, if I
hadn’t let him off that other time!
Son (addressing the amanuensis) Make a note of that bit about the <sobbing> suppliants for me!
Father Then, when my irritability has been quite assuaged by all this wheedling, I enter the court
and, once inside, immediately forget every last one of those many promises I made. I just sit and
listen to their rhetorical efforts to gain acquittal. What a show they put on! There isn’t a species of
flattery a juror hasn’t heard here. Some defendants actually break down in tears and bewail their
poverty, ‘til they reach the point in magnifying their actual misfortunes where they almost match
…my own! While others recount mythical precedents to us, or one of Aisop’s amusing tales, or tell
an anecdote to make me laugh and so forget my dudgeon.
Then, when these ploys have failed to win us over, the defendant wastes no time in taking his sons
and daughters, little more than toddlers, by the hand and dragging them onto the stand, - and I…just
sit listening, while they nod their heads together and yowl in his defence. At this, their father speaks
for them, addressing me as if I were a god, beseeching me in trembling tone to absolve him from his
guilt. “If thou delightest in the bleating lamb, hear my little boy’s bleat and be merciful!”
If, on the other hand, he suggests, you take pleasure in porking piglets, let my little girl’s squeal
persuade you! Whereupon we take our righteous indignation down a notch or two…but only in his
Does this not demonstrate the great power we wield and our ability to cock a snook at wealth?
Son ‘Cock a snook at wealth’ I like that! (with a nod to the amanuensis) I’m making that my second
note. Just remind me, will you, of the advantages you enjoy from exercising dominion over Greece.
Father Well then…We get to look at the private parts of young people undergoing examination
…and if Oiagros is accused and brought to trial, he doesn’t get off until he selects and recites <with
feeling> for us the finest lines from ‘Niobe’…and if a flute-player should win his case, by way of
recompense he’ll put on his mouth-band and play us jurors out as we leave the court…and if the
father of a young maid dies and leaves his child an heiress to his <nearest> living male relative, we
tell the will where it can go to weep along with the seal-case, which is attached so very officiously
to the seals, and we hand over the female to anyone who can suck up to us sufficiently to win us
What’s more, we do all this without any comeback. There’s not another organ of the state can say
Son Indeed, that’s a point well-taken! And you are to be congratulated with regard the examples
you’ve mentioned - though, it was naughty of you to tamper with shell-like seal of the young lady
Father There’s more! Whenever the People in Council are unable to decide an important issue, they
vote to turn over those <suspected> of malfeasance to the courts. That’s when Euathlos and that
ingratiating Kleonymos, mighty discarder of shields, insist they will not let us down and promise to
do battle on behalf of the proletariat. <Bear in mind> too, that no-one has ever carried a vote in the
people’s assembly without first proposing that the courts be discharged after deciding <only> one
case <in a day>.
Why, Kleon himself, who can tame his audience by the power of his voice, leaves none save us
unmolested. Instead, he holds us in his arms protectively and keeps pests away from us. You have
never done anything of the sort, not even for your own flesh and blood! While Theoros - a man
quite as worthy as Euphemos’ son - with sponge in hand, protects our walking shoes with pitch
from his basin.
Just imagine what benefits you are cutting me off from. Do they amount to the slavery and servitude
which you claim to be preserving me from?
Xanthias (dismissively) Talk away all you like! You’re going to have to pause for breath sometime
and when you do, what will come out in the wash for all to see will be the <ragged> arse of your
esteemed powers! (He turns and wiggles his bottom at the father insultingly)
Father (ignoring his insult) But, wait, I was forgetting the best bit of all. After being paid I head for
home and from the moment I get here everyone is overjoyed to see me…on account of the cash!
First it’s my daughter who washes and anoints my feet. She bends down to give me a kiss, all the
time babbling ‘daddy dear!’ in an effort to fish the three obols out of me. Next, the little woman,
trying to get on my good side, brings me a barleycorn biscuit, and then she sits down beside me and
presses me to eat. “Try a bit of this! Have a bite of this fruit!” I just love all that; as long as I don’t
have to depend on you…as well as your steward, who curses and mutters under his breath,
<wanting to know> when to serve my midday meal. At least if he’s slow to knead my bread for me
I’ve got these <three coins> here as my insurance, my protection “against the slings and arrows”.
And…if you don’t pour out wine for me to drink, I’ve furnished myself with this donkey-flask here,
filled to the brim with wine. So, I just tip it up and down it goes! This ‘ass’ just spreads its lips and
blows a great big, military-style raspberry at your <empty> wine-cup.
(He proceeds with a demonstration of the sound the donkey-flask would make)
So, do I not dominate a dominion to rival that of Zeus? I, who hear the very same paeans of praise
as he? If, for example, we raise a hubbub, each and every passer-by exclaims, “By Jove, what
thunder issues from the court!” And if I strike like lightning, the rich and very superior types smack
their trembling lips against the portent and shit themselves from sheer terror. In fact, you yourself
are terrified of me. Yes, you are, by Demeter…you’re terrified! But, strike me dead, if I’m scared of
The chorus burst into applause.
Chorus (A) Not never have we ever heard
A speaker speak a clearer word.
Chorus (B) So plainly was it set before yer,
Chorus (C) I’ve not heard better from a lawyer!
Father (jigging delightedly)
He thought he’d strip vines while no-one was watching,
He didn’t think I would be there to scotch ‘im?
He should have known better; debating’s my line,
For me it’s just like grabbing grapes off a vine!
Chorus (A) There’s nothing that he’s left unsaid.
Chorus (B) He hit each nail upon the head!
Such orat’ry, I swelled with pride.
Chorus (C) I pinched m’self; I thought I’d died.
And gone to judge among the Blest,
So sweetly were his thoughts expressed!
Father (turning to mock his son)
Yes, look at him, he’s on the ropes,
His face reveals his punctured hopes
His mouth is gaping open wide,
He knows today I’ll tan his hide.
Chorus (addressing the son)
You’ll have to find now a response pretty neat,
To get out of this hold and avoid your defeat.
You’ll not find it easy to soften our rage
You’ll realize soon we’re not on the same page.
You’d better start looking quite quickly to find a…
More freshly-cut stone that can serve as a grinder
To grind down our passion, or call it a day
Unless you’ve got something worth saying to say!
The Son adopts an oratorical pose.
Son It’s not easy to cure a chronic ailment, which has spawned <such litigiousness> in our state.
(He makes an expansive gesture toward the Chorus and the auditorium). It takes a fine judgement,
a cut above what slap-stick comics can muster…But, here goes!
“Our Father, son of Kronos, who art in Heaven…”
Father …not yet I’m not! And you can leave off calling me ‘father’ too! Because, if you don’t
move quickly to prove to me how I’m a slave, you’ll definitely come to a sticky end…even if that
means my having to distance myself from my kindred feelings.
Son Then, “harken, o loving parent, un-knit for a bit the furrowed brow!”
To start with, why don’t you make a rough calculation?... not with a calculator just using your
fingers…Reckon up how much tax comes in altogether from our <allied> states, and besides that,
how much income customs dues bring in, along with the various commissions charged on trial-
deposits, mineral rights, harbour dues, rentals and auctions. The total income from these sources
amounts to well nigh two thousand talents <per annum>. Then, subtract from this sum an amount to
cover the annual pay of six thousand jurors - as many, more or less, as the country could ever
accommodate! We get a figure of one hundred and fifty talents, wouldn’t you say?
Father That means our pay amounts to less than ten percent of the state’s revenues.
Son Precisely! Not even ten per cent!
Father In that case, where has the remainder of these monies been diverted?
Son To those very men who have been telling you, “I shall never betray the interests of the
obstreperous, Athenian rabble”, instead “I shall always fight over the oh-so-common man”. For it is
you, father dear, cooked to a turn by their blandishments, who elected these men to rule over you.
They are the same ones who extort bribes, fifty talents a time, from our <allied> states, intimidating
them with threats like, “Hand over the tribute you owe, or else I’ll overturn your state by my
You, meanwhile, are quite content just gnawing on the bones and sinews. As a result, our allies,
having cottoned on to the fact that the common people are garbage, growing thin on the roll of the
dice from the voting urn, and count for nothing, they consider <jurors like> you so much hot air,
while they load these <politicians> with gifts <of all kinds> - jars of preserves, wine, carpets,
cheese, honey, sesame oil, <soft> cushions, libation-cups, wool blankets, tiaras, precious necklaces,
metal cups and every life-prolonging luxury. And what do you get from those people, who after all
are our subjects only due to your ‘mighty endeavours by land and main’? Not one of them gives you
so much as a head of garlic to flavour your sprat paste!
Father No, indeed they don’t! In fact, I myself actually had to send out for three cloves of garlic
to…Eucharides [Harrods]. But, I’m all agog to hear you demonstrate my enslavement, as you call it.
Son Haven’t I done that? Is there any servitude greater than to have all these <vultures> occupying
the offices of state and drawing salaries; and not just them but their lickspittle <personal advisors>
as well? While you’re quite content, provided one of them hands you your three obols… which I
might add is money you have fully earned by the sweat of your brow, rowing, and serving in the
infantry and laying siege to towns.
Add to all this the fact that you run hither and thither at their bidding, something which really gets
my goat. When <for instance> that ‘not-so-young’ sodomite, Chaireas’ son, spreads his legs like
this, comes over all affected, wiggling around as if he hadn’t a bone in his body…
(The Son demonstrates what he means)
…and tells you to be in court on time the next morning, “Otherwise,” he says, “anyone of you who
turns up after the start of the session, won’t be getting his three obols”. He himself, however, gets
his prosecutor’s fee, twice what you receive, even if he comes late. What’s more, if one of those on
trial makes him an offer, the two of them in collusion make a big show out of the case and in the
manner of two men sawing a log one tugs you, while the other in his turn…lets things ride! All the
while, you are staring ahead with a vacant expression, fixated on the paymaster-general and you
don’t notice the perpetrator getting away with it.
Father Do they really fool me like that? Oh dear, are you serious? You are getting me all confused,
and you are starting to convince me more and more. I really don’t know whether I’m coming or
Son Think for a moment, how you…indeed all citizens, could enjoy the <state’s> wealth but for the
fact that you are kept corralled, as it were, by these politicians, the men who are for ever ‘siding
with the People’. From the Black Sea to the Western Mediterranean, no city has greater power than
yours, yet the only benefit you get out of it is this measly pittance and even this is measured out to
you drop by drop, like olive oil through a strainer, always <just enough> to sustain life, because
they want to keep you hungry…and I’ll tell you why that is. It’s to make you recognize who your
trainer is, so that he just has to whistle and you start snarling at one of his enemies, and set upon
them viciously. If they really wanted to afford a living wage to the common man, it would be easy
enough. There must be at least a thousand cities which are contributing tax to us at present. If one
were to assign <the income> from each one of them to support twenty men, then twenty thousand
ordinary folk could live the life of Riley, eating the most expensive meat, dressed in the finest
clothes whatever; a life of milk and honey. You’d deservedly be enjoying the benefits due from
your homeland and the victory of Marathon. But now, instead, like olive-pickers, you defer as one
to the person holding the purse-strings.
Father Help! What is this sort of numb feeling that is coming over me? My hands can’t feel to hold
my sword and now I’m going weak in the knees.
Son But, whenever they themselves get the wind up, they are ready to make you a gift of Euboia,
undertaking to provide everyone with fifty bushels of corn. They never actually doled it out <of
course>…except for the five bushels they allocated the other day…which was barley…which you
received a quart at a time…and that only after proving your entitlement!
This is why I was keeping you a prisoner all this time; out of a desire to put you out to grass and to
stop these people making a laughing stock-out of you with their ranting. Now, too, I am ready and
willing, all above board, to provide you with whatever you want…unless that is <you want> to go
on drinking the paymaster’s ‘milk’.
Chorus (A) (addressing the Son) It was a wise man who said, “Don’t make up your mind until you
have heard both sides of the argument”, because it now seems clear to me that you are well ahead in
the scoring. As a result, my ire is now almost extinguished and I am ready to throw in the towel.
Chorus (turning to the Father) So then, you who share our age, and participate in our rites…
Accept the logic of his words, and don’t be an idiot.
Don’t be obstinate and play it too tough.
Would that I had someone looking out for me, a relative,
Someone who could set me straight like that.
In your case now, one of the gods has shown up in person
To take the matter in hand and clearly has your interests at heart.
So you ought <to step up and> accept what’s on offer.
Son And you can rest assured that I’ll be a real father to him, providing all the basic essentials a
senior citizen requires…a lump of salt to lick…a soft, woolen overcoat …a sheep’s-skin cape…a
hooker to massage his hips…and prick.
(He pauses and glances across at his father who, for once, is standing quite still with a forlorn
But, <I see> that he remains silent; not so much as a peep out of him. For myself I cannot <fathom>
Chorus He’s beating himself up over the things to which hitherto he’s been passionately devoted.
For, he’s just now come to realize and count as errors everything that he was unwilling to accept
when you were insisting on it. Now, perhaps, he’s beginning to take your arguments on board and
really coming to his senses, and won over by you will alter his way of life in future.
Father (declaiming despondently) O woe, O woe is me!
Son (turning to look at him) What is it? What are you upset about?
Father Do not, pray, make such promises
As these which you made to me!
Those are the things I long for,
And ‘tis there I wish to be…
Where the herald announces…
“Would anyone who has yet to vote, kindly get on and do so!”
Would that I
were standing by
the voting-urns right now,
Among the last
my vote to cast…
I must get there somehow.
“Quicken <my limbs>, my soul…!”
(He looks around him hopelessly) What’s become of my soul?
“Stand aside o’ershadowing…”
(As he struggles to reach the light of understanding, it suddenly dawns on him, and he is
Then, don’t let me <sit> on the jury any longer,
If it means catching Kleon embezzling!
Episode I 760-862
Son I implore you, father, please be guided by me.
Father What is it you want me to do? Tell me to do anything you like, except for one thing.
The son crosses to his father to comfort him.
Son What thing is that? Tell me!
Father Not to sit on juries; I’d sooner die than agree to that.
The son sees his father’s anguish and paces up and down for a short while in thought.
Son In that case,…since you derive so much pleasure from doing it, don’t go <to the law courts>
anymore, stay right here at home instead and sit in judgement on the household staff.
Father That’s ridiculous! What am I to judge about?
Son Why, precisely the same matters that you are used to. If our Ewe-lamb (the maid) <has been
caught> leaving the door ajar on the quiet, you would vote to lay a singular penalty on her! After
all, you were used to imposing penalties all the time in the courts. Only now, you’ll be acting more
sensibly. If it looks like being a warm day, <the defendant> would literally feel the heat in court. On
the other hand, if it’s snowing, you can plump yourself down in front of the fire. When it rains, you
stay in. And…if you don’t wake up before midday, there’s no presiding law-officer to bar your way
at the gate.
Father This sounds good!
Son Added to that, if some speaker drivels on for ages, you don’t have to wait, famished, growing
irritable and ready to take a bite out of the defendant.
Father Well, how will I be able to reach the right verdict, like I did before, while I’m still chewing
Son Oh, you’ll do it far better! For don’t people say that, “The jurors eventually concluded that the
witnesses were lying - by chewing it over?”
Father I’m almost convinced, you know. But, you haven’t told me yet how I’m going to get paid.
Son By me!
Father That suits me! It means that I’ll be getting paid individually and not together with anyone
else. ‘Cause you know, that Lysistratos who goes round playing jokes on people, he pulled a fast
one on me the other day. He and I took a drachma between us, and he goes to the fish-sellers to get
it changed into obols. Then, he comes and puts three grey-mullet scales <in my hand> and I gobble
them up <with my lips> thinking I was getting obols! Only then do I catch the smell of them and
spit them out in disgust. After that, I started to drag him across the coals!
Son What did he have to say about it?
Father He said I must have the stomach of a cockerel. “At any rate, you don’t ’alf make money
disappear quickly!” quoth he with a guffaw.
Son You can see, can’t you, how much you would benefit in this respect as well?
Father It’s a not-inconsiderable benefit.
(He thinks for a moment) Fine then, let’s put your scheme into operation.
Son Wait here, then, and I’ll go and fetch <all the various things we will need to set up a court>.
He leaves the stage accompanied by one of the slaves.
Father (soliloquizing) Would you look at that! It’s fulfillment of the prediction. For, I had heard it
said that one day the people of Athens would conduct trials in their own homes. Every man will
convene his own small-scale mini-court for himself in his own ‘court’-yard. There’ll be one in front
of every door, just like having a shrine of Hekate.
The son reappears followed by a succession of servants carrying the necessary items.
Son Here we are! Wouldn’t you say that we’ve got everything <we need> here? Or, at any rate,
everything I referred to and more besides.
(He directs a slave to place a chair for his father near the annex)
We’ll hang this potty on a peg beside you, to be near at hand in case you want to relieve yourself.
Father That, I must admit, is a considerate thought and one that serves an old man’s requirements.
You’ve found a sure antidote to a never-ending…need.
Son (motioning to a slave to set down a brazier) And here we’ve got a fire with a bowl of lentil
soup by it, to slurp should you feel hungry.
Father That’s a bright idea too! ‘Cause even if I come over feverish, I’ll be able to stay home
swilling my soup and still pick up my wages. But, why have you brought out the caged bird for me?
Son That’s so, if you happen to doze off while the defendant is pleading his case, the cock here
above you will crow and wake you.
Father There’s one more thing I’d like; everything else is fine.
Son What’s that?
Father Could you, perhaps, bring forth the shrine of the hero Lykos?
Son (surprised) But, here’s his knob!
(indicating the door-knob) …and look, there’s the lord himself!
His father turns to look where he is pointing and gets a fright when he is confronted by the slave’s
toothy jaws leering down on him.
Father O lordly hero! How really difficult you were to see!
[Sosias] For us Kleonymos is hard on the eyes in the much the same way.
[Xanthias] He doesn’t have his ‘equipment’ with him either, even though he is a hero.
The slaves exit.
Son Well, the sooner you get seated, the sooner I can call the first case.
Father (hastily recovering his seat again) Get on and call it then, I’ve been sitting here for ages.
Son (turning away from his father to talk to himself) Let me see now. What’s the first case I can call
for him? What misdemeanour has been perpetrated by a member of the household staff?
(Turning to address the ‘jury’ as prosecutor) Just the other day, a cooking pot suffered first degree
burns due to the negligence of Thracia.
Father Hold it right there! My word! You very nearly gave me a heart attack. Do you intend calling
the case with no court-railing? Of all those things which we hold sacred, that was revealed unto us
Son Good heavens, you’re right, we don’t have one.
Father No matter, I’ll run indoors right away and fetch it myself.
He hurries off.
Son It’s a fine thing isn’t it, this manic attachment to one’s own place?
The slave Xanthias rushes back in.
Xanthias (angrily) Devil take it! There’s no point keeping a hound like this one here.
Son What’s all this about?
Xanthias It’s Labes…the dog! Just now he darted through into the kitchen, pinched a fat slice of
Sicilian cheese and ate it whole.
Son This criminal offence will have to be the first case I bring before father. You stand by to act as
Xanthias No, no, I can’t do it. The other dog says that, if someone brings a charge, he’ll undertake
Son Then, go and bring the both of them here.
Xanthias That’s what I’ll do then.
The slave leaves as the Father reappears holding a low lattice-work screen, which he stands at the
front of the stage as a symbolic barrier.
Son What’s all that paraphernalia?
Father It’s Hestia’s room-divider.
Son Isn’t it an offence against religion to bring the goddess’s <fire> screen out here?
Father Oh no! On the contrary I am showing my piety by starting with her, as in due course I
intend <to rub down the defence> and give them a drubbing <for their offence>!
But, get started with the trial because I’m looking to impose some penalties <in short order>.
Son Fair enough! (He has a sudden thought) Let me just fetch the trial list and the indictments.
He sorts through the bric-a-brac and points out some articles to a slave.
Father (impatiently) Oh, do get on with it! You are trying my patience. You’ll make me a wreck
with your adjournments. I’m anxious to be ploughing a <worried> furrow through the brows of
As the slave hangs some wooden chopping boards on the wall.
Son There we are!
Father Call the <first> case!
Son (nonchalantly) I shall do just that.
Father (excitedly) So, who is the first defendant?
Son Oh bother! How vexatious! (He heads toward the house). I seem to have forgotten to bring out
Father (throwing up his hands in despair) Hey! Where do you think you’re off to?
Son (innocently) <Why, I’m going> to fetch wine-jars <to record the verdict>.
Father Oh no, you’re not! (darting over to the well) I’ve got these <two> water-pots here.
Son They’ll do nicely! In that case we have everything we need…except that is, of course, for the
Father (pointing to the potty provided for him) But, what is this chamber-pot here, if it isn’t a
Son Indeed, yes! You’ve come up with fine solutions, all entirely typical of our innovative, native
wit. (A thought occurs to him) But, <hold on a minute>! (Addressing the slaves) One of you go
inside quickly and fetch a match, some myrtle wreathes and frankincense so that we may first offer
up prayers to the gods.
Chorus (A) In recognition of your prayers and libations, we will also add our blessing, because, in
the best traditions of your race, you have put an end to hostilities and reached a compromise.
The slaves remerge with the items they were ordered to fetch.
Son Now, let us begin with a reverential silence!
(He proceeds to light the incense and pour a libation while the chorus intones)
Chorus O ruler of Delphi, lord Phoibos Apollo,
We pray you that only good fortune will follow
The plan which this man has worked on so hard
For devising a law court out here in his yard,
That we all may adapt his invention to suit
And so put an end to our daily commute.
All hail to the healing god!
Son (intoning) O Lord and Master,
Thou who dwellest here in our neighbourhood,
And who art the bulwark of my entrance porch,
Do thou receive, o Lord,
This revised liturgy,
(Just now instituted for my parent)
And do thou abate this overly cantankerous
And unrelenting character of his,
By mixing a glob of honey into his
Usual pint of bitter <to turn him into>
A sweet amontillado.
Henceforth, may he deal more kindly with his fellow-man,
And sympathize with those who are prosecuted,
- Shedding a tear when they supplicate unto him -
Rather than with those who prosecute against them.
Do thou also cause him to relent
And forsaking all peevishness,
Soften his prickly irritability.
Chorus (A) Amen to that! And may we add,
In view of what has just been said,
That these developments will surely move all
And meet with very definite approval.
We feel for you as if you were our brother,
Ever since we found that you were like no other,
At least out of the younger generation,
Someone who deeply cares about our nation.
<All hail to the healing god!>
Episode II 891-1008
There is the sound of dogs barking off-stage and then Xanthias and another slave lead on two men
wearing dogs-head masks. One, evidently a bull mastiff, is straining at the leash, while the other, a
more docile ‘dog’ is attempting to lift a leg by the doorpost and has to be dragged forward whining.
The Son now calls the session to order.
Son If there is any member of the jury in the entrance, let him come inside, for once the speeches
have begun, no-one shall be admitted.
Father So, who is the accused?
Son This is the man.
Father (gleefully) I’m sure he’ll be convicted.
Son (in sonorous tone) Hear ye now the indictment!
Xanthias Mr Barker, of the borough of Kydathenaion, does hereby charge that:
Labes “the dog”, of the borough of Aixone, has committed the following offence,
namely that he did entirely consume the Sicilian cheese…all on his own.
As a punishment he shall wear a dog-collar made of im-peach-wood.
Father (rising to object) No, if he should be convicted once and for all, he’ll die…like a dog.
Son And is the accused, this Labes, here present?
Father That’s him, the rogue! How furtive he looks! He thinks he’ll get round me with his sly grin.
But, where’s prosecuting counsel, Mr Barker of Kydathenaion.
The prosecutor jumps forward.
Barker Woof, woof!
Son He’s present.
Xanthias This one here’s another Labes! Useful, huh! Only when it comes to making a noise and
licking the bowls clean!
Son Kindly, be quiet and sit down!
(Addressing the prosecuting dog ‘Mr Barker’)
Won’t you take the stand and make the case for the prosecution.
The dog jumps up onto the well-head.
Father Just a tick, while I pour out some of this <soup> and get it down me.
Barker (the dog gets up on his hind legs and turns to address the father and his fellow jurors. His
voice is loud and rasping, his style Churchillian)
Members of the jury, you have heard the charge which I have drawn up against this one. He has
committed surely the most heinous of crimes, both against myself and against the ‘salt-of-the-earth’
old-salts. He has Mad’off with a quantity of cheese, which he has taken to his corner and dealt with
in the most Sicilian fashion, doing away with it under cover of darkness…
Father It’s obvious that he did it! I swear this disgusting creature here just let one off in my
direction; a really foul, cheesy one!
Barker …What is more, he refused me a share when I asked him <for a bit>. Yet, who, <except
me> will have the strength to look after your welfare, if no-one tosses a scrap to me too…your
Father He didn’t offer me…I mean, he didn’t offer the general public, a share either! The man has
been flagrantly grabbing some hot goods alright…hotter than this soup anyhow!
Son For goodness’ sake, father, don’t prejudge the case. Wait, at least, to hear both sides.
Father But, it’s an open and shut case, my dear innocent. The facts howl for themselves!
Barker Do not, then, let him go free, for he is furthermore a man who, of all dogs, is most prone to
consuming things on his own. It was he who circumnavigated the Sicilian cheese-board and chewed
the rind off all the big cheeses he found there.
Father Yes, while it grates on me that I don’t have even a little ‘grated cheese’ to be grateful for!
Barker These are the crimes for which you must punish him,…there can no more be two robbers
on the same ticket, than two robins in the same thicket… so that my barking will not have been in
vain and to no purpose, for if you do not, then I shall not bark in future.
He resumes his seat.
Father (applauding) Bravo! bravo! He laid to his charge a whole heap of villainies. What a
thieving rascal the man is! (consulting the caged bird) Wouldn’t you say so, old cock? …There, I
swear he tipped me the wink!
(He begins to squirm in his seat, but meanwhile the Son has gone over to the door of the house)
Mr Presiding Officer…where’s the man got to? ...could you let me have my potty?
Son You’ll have to get it down yourself, I’m busy calling the witnesses.
(loudly) Will the witnesses for the defence present themselves!
(As if reading from an imagined list) Pot…Pestle…Cheese-grater (Mme)…Griddle (Mrs)…Kettle
(Miss)…also sundry casserole-pots of blackened character.
(Returning to his spot, he finds his father pre-occupied.)
Have you not taken your seat yet? Are you still piddling away?
Father (nodding toward the defendant) I think he’ll be pissing his pants today!
Son I do wish you would stop being such a curmudgeon and so hostile, especially toward
defendants. You’re continually putting the bite on them.
(to Labes the dog) Mount the stand and your defence!
(The dog gets up but remains silent with a hangdog look) Has the cat got your tongue? Speak up!
Father It looks like he can’t find anything to say <in his defence>.
Son It’s not that. I think he’s suffering from the same problem that Thucydides had come down
with that time when he was arraigned, a sudden paralysis affecting his jaws.
(to Labes impatiently)
Stand aside! And don’t get under my feet! I’ll handle the defence.
(he takes Labes place and begins to declaim)
Gentlemen of the jury, it is far from easy to speak in defence of a dog so thoroughly discredited, but
I shall do so nonetheless, for he is a capable animal and keeps the wolves at bay.
Father But, he’s still a thief and a trouble-maker for all that.
Son Not so! He’s actually the best sheep-dog around, capable of watching over large numbers (idly
surveying the auditorium) of sheep.
Father What good is that if he wolfs the cheese?
Son Well, he fights for you and guards the door and there are other things he’s very good at too. So,
if he got carried away and carried something away, cut him a little slack. He’s not fully house-
trained after all!
Father I could wish he hadn’t been taught to read and write either; then he would not have been
able to render false accounts to us.
Son Good sir, hear now the witnesses for the defence. Will Mme. Cheezegrateur kindly take the
stand! (to the first witness)…and please speak up!
You were responsible for making disbursements, were you not? Please answer clearly! Did you, or
did you not, distribute to the troops whatever came in?
(He leans over to catch the witness’s inaudible reply)
She states that she did dispense everything…bit by bit.
Father She says that, but she’s lying, I warrant it.
Son My good sir, have some pity on the downtrodden! Labes here will eat any scraps and bones
<that come his way> and he’s always on the move. But, look what the other dog is like! He’s a
purely domestic animal; he hangs around the house and demands a share of whatever anyone brings
in…and if he doesn’t get it, he bites!
Father Oh no-o-o! My resolve is being weakened somehow. What’s happening to me? I must be
going down with something. He seems so-o-o convincing.
Son Come now, father I implore you. Have pity on the fellow! Don’t be the cause of his undoing!
(He has a sudden inspiration) Where are the children?
(Two or three ‘puppies’ bound onto the podium)
Up on the stand, you poor things! Beg with whimpers, beseech with tears!
The ‘puppies’, instead of staying put, start whining and jumping up at Philokleon.
Father Get down…down…down…I said, get down!
Son (thinking his father means him) I shall step down. Even though many <defence attorneys> have
taken these words of dismissal the wrong way, I shall, nonetheless, step down.
Father Damn it! No good comes of supping soup. Look at me! My resolve is practically washed
away by tears. It can only be because I’m full of soup.
Son Isn’t he going to get off then?
Father It’s hard to tell. <It could go either way>.
Son Come now, Dad! Why not turn over a new leaf! Take this voting-pebble and head straight to
the second urn right away. Don’t think about it, father, just vote for his acquittal.
Father I simply cannot…I lack the training for it.
Son Not to worry! I’ll show you the quickest route…this way!
He leads his father around the back of the well until they reach one of the water-pots.
Father Is this the first urn?
Son Yup! That’s the one!
Father This ‘ere <pebble> belongs in here then!
Son (aside) Ha! I tricked him. He has unwittingly cast his vote for…acquittal.
(Resuming his role as presiding officer) Now, I shall tip out the ballots.
Father (eagerly) So,…what’s the result?
Son It looks like…yes, Labes, you have got away with it!
(Philokleon drops back into his chair and slumps in a swoon)
Father…father! What’s wrong? Oh, dear! (to a slave) Bring some water!
(to another slave) You there, help him up!
The slave helps him sit up while the other hauls up some water for him to drink with one of the
Father Tell me again! Has he really been acquitted?
Son Yes, he has, indeed!
Father In that case, life has lost its meaning.
Son Don’t take it to heart, old chap! Up you get now!
He begins to lead his father toward the house.
Father How am I going to be able to look myself in the face after allowing a defendant to go free?
What is to become of me? Ye gods, whom I hold so dear, forgive me! I didn’t mean to do it. It’s not
like me at all.
Son Don’t get all worked up about it, father! I’m going to take good care of you. I’ll take you with
me everywhere, to dinner, to drinking parties…and to see comedies. I’ll take care of it so that you
live out your days in pleasure.
Hyperbolos <that political firebrand> is not going to be able to pull the wool over your eyes and get
away with it!
But, come let’s go indoors.
Father (meekly) Well, alright then, if that’s what you want.
Exeunt all save the members of the chorus.
Off you go wherever you wish, then, and enjoy yourselves!
(Turning to the audience)
In the meantime, you people, “you numberless multitude”, pay careful attention to the following
message, it’s important. Don’t drop the ball because you took your eye off it…that would be the
mark of an inept audience, quite unlike yourselves.
The Chorus exits, leaving the chorus-leader to come forward to address the audience alone.
Chorus (A) Now, listen up folks! Let me have your undivided attention, for, at this point in the
production…always supposing you are up to hearing the unvarnished truth…the author has a bone
he wants to pick with theatre-audiences. It is his opinion that he is not getting his due for the many
fine works which he has created for them in the past. Admittedly, some were written anonymously,
in concert with other writers, not openly. His modus operandi resembled the ingenious method of
Eurykles <the ventriloquist> for making public his predictions; he entered into the bellies of others
and made the comedy flow out in a stream! But, later on, he boldly stepped into the spotlight and
hitching his star to his inspiration, relied on his own abilities rather than what other people thought
comedy should be.
Having achieved, as a result, a unique standing in your eyes and become a celebrity, he points out
that he didn’t let it go to his head…completely and become so full of himself as to serenade his way
round the gymnasia, cruising for a pick-up, and he insists that at no time did he ever let himself be
talked into ridiculing some young man by a miffed admirer. He justifies this on the perfectly
reasonable grounds that he did not wish to make the Muses with whom he was intimate look like
they would do almost anything for money.
He maintains, besides, that when first he ventured upon social satire, he did not lay into ordinary
folk, but instead took on the really big beasts, driven by a Herculean sense of outrage. Right from
the outset he took a bold stand against the saber-toothed tiger himself, whose eyes burned bright,
like the destructive Dog-star, with the luster of the ‘Bitch’s’ lust for lucre. The Beast was constantly
surrounded by an entourage of a hundred, howling apparatchiks. The sound of his voice was the
destructive roar of a torrent in spate. He had the stink of a seal, his balls were no cleaner than the
hideous Lamia’s and his arse would have done credit to a camel. Yet, he avers that far from turning
coward at the sight of the Beast and allowing himself to be bought off, on the contrary, he took up
arms against it on your behalf and continues to do so still.
What’s more, he adds that last year, in addition to <performing> this <service>, he took on the cold
sweats and the hot fevers which gripped fathers by night and choked grandfathers to death; the night
-terrors which those of you unversed in legal affairs took to bed with you, who made up a string of
summonses, witness statements and prosecutors’ affidavits enough to make many of you leap out
bed in fright and go running to seek Legal Aid. Yet, having found such a one to protect you from
harm and to purge the land <of monsters>, you utterly betrayed him last year when he sowed new
varieties of wit only to have you blight them through your inability to appreciate them.
Nevertheless, he’s prepared to swear by Dionysos, god of the theatre, over as many cups of wine as
you like that you’ve never yet heard comedy of a better calibre than the works he has written. You
should be ashamed of yourselves for not having recognized good stuff when you saw it. Discerning
critics think no less of the writer, if in an effort to surpass his rivals in inventiveness he sometimes
comes a cropper.
So, for the future, gentlemen, pay more attention to writers who try to devise something original;
show them your appreciation and keep their messages safe. If you put their thoughts, along with the
<usual> dried peel, in your clothes-chests, your cloaks will exude <fragrant> wit throughout the
The Chorus files back in to join their leader on stage.
Choral Ode 1060-90
There was a time once, we recall,
When on the battle-field,
The enemy would hesitate
To meet our bold advance.
For they would quickly realize
Each could his weapon wield,
Just as we had the night before,
When leading Eros’ dance.
But, that is all behind us now;
And seems so long ago,
Reluctantly we must accept
That those brave times are gone
Our manly strength and stamina
Have vanished like the snow
And hairs which blossom on our heads
Are whiter than the swan.
Yet even for us relics now
There’s something to be said
We may not have the strength we had
When we were in our prime
But we’re not like the youth today
With curls around their head
Who lounge about and primly pose
Like pansies all the time.
Chorus (A) With regard to my physical appearance, should any of you in the audience, be surprised
to note my narrow, waspish waist, and wonder as to the significance of this prick of ours, I’ll have
no trouble telling him that, “it don’t take a genius to know this.” We, who have this abdominal
member, are the only truly, native-born species, indigenous to Attika; a race of real men.
This state owes us a great debt, for when the barbarians attacked, and set the whole city on fire in an
effort to smoke us out, wanting to forcibly exterminate our wasp-nests, we swarmed out at once,
armed with shield and spear, to do battle with them. We had fed on the bitter nectar of rage and, as
we stood shoulder to shoulder, it showed in our faces. It was impossible to see the sky through the
missiles which rained down on us and yet, as evening came on, we repulsed the enemy. The gods
were with us, for before the battle <Athena’s> owl had flown along our lines. Then, we pursued
them spearing them in their baggy britches as if they were so many tuna fish and they took to their
heels stung from chin to brow. This is why, still today, it is commonly said among barbarians
everywhere that for courage there is nothing to compare with an Attic wasp.
Choral Ode 1091-1121
It’s for certain that in those days I was formidable, and feared wherever I went;
I annihilated all opposition, sailing over there in my triremes across the sea
For in those days we did not concern ourselves with fine oratory
Nor did we care about impeaching anyone on specious grounds.
That’s how we came to capture so many Persian towns
We only cared about who would feather his oar the best
And bring in the tribute, for each young politician to feather his nest.
Chorus (A) From whichever way you look at it, you’ll find that we closely resemble wasps in
everything, from our behavioural traits to our pattern of life. For a start, there’s no other creature
which is more quick-tempered or more fractious when aroused. Besides, we go about things in just
the same way that wasps do. For instance, we form up into swarms as if in wasp-nests, some as
juries where the <chief> archon sits, others in the presence of the eleven <commissioners> and
others yet at the Odeion. Here, packed tightly together up against the walls, stooped toward the
ground, we can barely move, like grubs in cells. And we display great resourcefulness as regards
the rest of our way of life, for we gain our livelihood from stinging all and sundry.
There are, however, drones sitting amongst us, who have no sting, and who, staying home without
expending any effort, consume the tribute we’ve toiled to produce. This is the toughest thing for us
to endure, that someone who never served in the forces, takes home the same pay as us when he has
taken up neither arms nor oar for his country, nor yet earned for it so much as a blister. So, I think
in future, no citizen whatsoever should take <home> the <juror’s> three obols, unless he has a
Episode III 1122-1264
The Father and Son re-emerge on stage, followed by a slave carrying a cloak and a pair of sandals.
Father No, I’m not going to take this cloak off, not while I live and breathe. It was my sole
salvation when I was standing in the battle-line, that time when the Perishin’…north wind was
assailing us in full-force.
Son Apparently, you insist on looking a gift-horse in the mouth!
Father I absolutely do! ‘cause it never does me any good in the end, and ‘cause I had to give back
my three obols that other time when I’d stuffed on grilled whitebait…I owed that much to the [dry]-
Son But, come on, at least try it on! Haven’t you agreed, once and for all, to put yourself in my
hands and let me look after you?
Father (grumbling) Well, what d’you want me to do?
Son: Take off the old, worn cloak and try this wool over-coat, in the well-worn manner.
The slave holds out to him a large white, woolen mantle, which he tentatively feels.
Father This must be why one fathers and raises sons… this one here is trying to suffocate me now!
Son Come on, less song and dance! Just take the coat and put it on!
The slave makes as if to put it on him.
Father For heaven’s sake, what is this dreadful monstrosity?
As the slave tries to put it round him again, he wriggles out of it.
Son Some call it a Persian cloak; others refer to it as “rugged-Kashmir”.
Father I think I’ve seen some local rugs just like it!
Son I’m not in the least surprised that you don’t recognize it, for you have never visited Sardis.
You’d know what it was, <if you had>. Don’t you recognize <its excellence> now <that I’ve told
Father Now I…definitely don’t, although…it does look to me a lot like that horse-blanket which
Son Oh dear me, no! These coats are woven in Ecbatana, in Media.
Father Evidently the median weave in Ecbatana utilizes <ox>-gut!
Son My dear innocent, wherever did you get that idea? No, this <kind of> garment is woven by
foreign <hands> at great expense. This one here, at any rate, has used up a king’s ransom in
Father So, perhaps, instead of a Kashmir, it would be more correct to call it a ‘mere-cash’ coat?
Son Don’t be silly now! Come on, and stay still while it’s being put on.
The slave tries to wrap the great cloak around the old man once more.
Father Ah! goodness me! I can feel <the dragon’s> hot breath on me.
Once again he slips out of the cloak’s warm embrace.
Son Are you not going to put it on?
Father No, I jolly well won’t!
Son Oh, you are being silly!
Father: If you really want to <suffocate me>, just suit me up in an oven-dish [baking foil], why
Son Right, c’mon, let me wrap it round you myself.
Father (resignedly) Alright then, go on! But at least, be sure to have a meat-spoon standing by.
Son What ever for?
Father So you can scoop me out before I’m completely boiled to a hash.
Bdelykleon succeeds in swamping his father in the great cloak, so that only his head and feet are
left protruding. He surveys the result critically.
Son Right then, take off those confounded old walking-shoes! Hurry up and put on these Lakonian
Father (striking a pose) Never would I endure to put on the jackboot of the oppressive
His son nevertheless makes him remove his shoes, while the slave holds a buskin ready for him.
Son Get on with it, and put your foot into one of these, Sir! Put your best foot forward, and step
upon Lakonian soles.
Father (mishearing) You want me to step upon Lakonian soil! Be fair now, that’s enemy territory.
But, he reluctantly puts a foot in the first buskin.
Son That’s right! Now the other foot!
Father That’s not going to happen. One of the toes on this foot is allergic to Lakonians.
(He stomps about with a boot on one foot and a sandal on the other.)
Son There is no other alternative.
Father Poor me! Now, I won’t be able to get a chilblain commensurate with my age.
He reluctantly puts his foot into the other buskin.
Son Hurry up and get it on!
Now then, walk this way, like someone ‘well-heeled’ (he demonstrates). Put a bit of a swagger into
it; give yourself airs.
Father (adjusting his boots) There! Watch my manner now and tell me which wealthy patrician my
style of walking most resembles.
He proceeds to strut up and down with the coat billowing around him.
Son What you most resemble? ...What you most resemble is a gumboil in gumboots.
Father But, I’m doing my best to make my backside bounce around.
His son shakes his head in despair.
Son Let’s move on! Will you know how to engage in serious conversation when in the company of
clever and educated men?
Son What subjects would you talk about, then?
Father I’ve got plenty of topics of conversation. First off, I’d relate the story of how Lamia loosed
off a fart to get out of a tight corner…then, there’s that one about Kardopion doing his mother a…
Son Let’s skip the mythological stories, shall we! Try instead a story about ordinary people, and
let’s make it the kind of story that one can tell at home.
Father Sure, I know loads of stories suited to the home, why there’s that one that goes like this,
“Once there was a mouse and a gerbil…”
Son “What an uneducated boor you are!” Theogenes said to the pig-farmer…and that though he
was being sorely abused. Are you really going to discuss mice and gerbils with men of substance?
Father Well, what subjects am I supposed to talk about, then?
Son Matters of weight! …About how you accompanied Androkles and Kleisthenes on their state,
Father But, I never went on any mission, not ever…except once to Paros. I remember I got paid
two obols for that.
Son Well, then you should talk, for example, about what a splendid fight Ephoudion was putting up
against Askondas in the all-in wrestling, at a time when he was already pretty old and his hair was
turning grey. <You can mention> his exceedingly broad rib-cage, his <huge> hands, his fine thighs
Father Spectacles! Enough, already! How could he have wrestled wearing spectacles? That’s
Son That’s how men of culture are accustomed to converse. Anyhow, give me another example.
Say you are having drinks with a group from out of town, which of your heroic exploits from your
youth would you decide to narrate?
Father (excitedly) Oh, that one!...you know…the most courageous of all my achievements, that
time when I uprooted the stakes of Ergasion.
Son (despairing) Heaven help me! Stakes! You mean vine-props?
(He tries another approach)
No, <I meant something like > how you once hunted wild boar or hare; or, an occasion when you
took part in a torch-race. Some dashing exploit recollected from your youth.
Father Some dashing exploit from my youth, eh? I know! That time when I dashed after Phaÿllos
the runner, I was pretty big for my age and he didn’t get away. I caught up with him…by a couple
of votes, on a charge of running off at the mouth.
Son Give me a break!
(He decides to persevere)
Look, come over here and learn how to recline and converse at society parties.
Father How should I recline? Go on explain!
Philokleon adopts a foetal position.
Father You mean like this?
Son No, I don’t!
Father Well, how?
Son Unbend your knees and just ooze into the cushions in a supple manner.
(Philokleon imitates a squid spreading himself over the cushions)
Then, say something complimentary about the bronze tableware…gaze at the ceiling…express
admiration for the flute’s counterpoint.
(He clicks his fingers to summon a slave)
<Pour> water for our hands! Bring in the <first > course!
(The slave pretends to carry out these instructions)
We eat our meal…rinse our hands and now we make our libations.
Father By the gods, I swear this is a feast…for the imagination!
Son The flute-girl has piped up again…and here are your drinking partners…Theoros, Aischines,
Phanos, Kleon…is that another foreigner by your head, the son of Akestor? With these men for
companions you must make sure you can match their drinking songs neatly.
Father Certainly. <Neat drink is my mother’s milk! A neat rhyme is second nature.> Not even a
highland shepherd would yodel better.
Son Let me be the judge of that. Assume for the moment that I’m Kleon and I sing the opening of
the Ballad of Harmodios, then you take up the tune.
“No man was born in Athens ever…”
Father …“as a thief at least, none was so clever!”
Son Is that what you’ll do? You be done to death by the outcry. He will swear to destroy you…to
exterminate you…and to drive you from the land.
Father If he makes any threats, then by heaven I swear I’ll answer him with a different song.
“You there, fellow, with your eye on the pinnacle of power,
You’ll overturn the city’s equilibrium yet, for its fate lies in the balance.”
Son Well, what <will you sing in reply>, when Theoros who is lying at your feet, has taken Kleon’s
hand and sings,
“My partner, keep in mind Admetos’ tale
And in the cause of good men never fail!”
How will you cap this couplet?
Father I’ll give a lyrical reply.
“You cannot be a fox’s brother,
And play each side against the other.”
Son Next, it’s the turn of Aischines, son of Blowhard, to carry the song. He’s an educated man and
musically-talented, and he responds by singing,
“Along with the Thessalians,
<You brought> money and a good living
To Kleitagora and me…”
Father ...“you certainly brought back a lot <of benefits>,
But I did not get any!”
Son You seem, at any rate, to have passed this <particular test> reasonably well, so it’s time we
were off to Philoktemon’s for a supper-party.
(He calls to the slave)
Boy! Boy! (an elderly slave appears) Kroisos, get us a packed supper ready to go.
(to his father again) It’s been ages since we’ve been on a binge!
Father Not a good idea! <Too much> drink is bad for you. Wine-bibbing can lead to hammering on
doors, assaulting people and throwing things around, all of which can incur a hefty fine for being
drunk and disorderly.
Son Not if one is in the company of well-bred gentlemen. For either, they would beg off the injured
party, or, you yourself might tell some witty tale, one of Aisop’s amusing stories or an anecdote of
Sybaris, something you picked up at the drinking-party, to make him see the funny side of the
situation, so he goes off and leaves you in peace.
Father (skeptically) In this case, I can see I’m going to need to learn a lot of such stories. At least I
don’t want to be paying fines for any damage I’ve done.
Son Come on then, let’s be on our way. ‘Let nothing more detain us’!
Second Parabasis 1265-91
Although I wouldn’t want it said,
That I have got a bigger head
And think myself a cut above the rest
At least I’m brighter for a start
Than Ameinias, the son of Fart
Who’s always fond of saying he’s the best.
He ties his hair up in a bun,
To make it clear he is the son,
The noble son, born of a noble farter.
When with Leogoras he dines,
His fondness for the vintage wines
Leaves even Antiphon a non-starter.
When on a diplomatic embassy,
To Phartalot in Thettaly
He found he had to mingle with the poor
Now, there is no one who surpasses
At mixing with the lower classes,
No one, that is, who can both ‘mix and pour’.
How blessed art thou among men, Automenes!
We have to declare what a hero you are,
Because of the wonderful sons you have fathered
Who each in his field is an unrivalled star.
The first you produced was a man of huge talent,
A lyre-virtuoso who’s second to none
We’re all his admirers and make up a group
Of groupies he gropes every time he goes on.
The second you spawned is quite frightfully clever,
A thespian he; yes, an actor of note!
The third son, however, who’s called Ariphrades,
We’re sure that on him you especially dote,
For his talents are special, innately self-taught.
He needed no teacher for one skill he knows;
He’s remarkably artful at using his tongue,
On the girls in the brothels, whenever he goes.
Here there is a gap of ten lines in the text.
There are those who were claiming that I had come to an understanding with Kleon, when he was
laying into me and was trying to make life difficult for me, and chided me for my failings and who,
at the time when I was being flayed alive, used to roar with laughter at the sight of me bawling my
head off. They had no concern for my feelings at all; they only wanted to find out if his pressure on
me would at some point squeeze out a…witty remark! That’s why, when I saw how things were, I
played a little bit of a naughty trick…lo and behold the supporting pole has let down the vine!
Episode IV 1292-1449
Old Slave [Kroisos] Yow! You tortoises are lucky; you’ve got a <thick> hide! And doubly lucky
for having a roof over your backs! You’ve presciently protected your rib-cages, by roofing over
your backs with tiles, while I’ve been done to death by <his> walking stick and tattooed <with
Chorus (A) What’s this yelling in aid of, boy? - I guess ‘boy’ is the right word to use of someone
who gets a beating, in spite of his years!
Old Slave Is it any wonder I yell? The old man was an intolerable pain in the neck and the biggest
boozer of the entire company - though all Phrynichos’s cronies were there; Hippyllos, Antiphon,
Lykon, Lysistratos and Thouphrastos. He far surpassed the lot of them…in loutish behaviour! As
soon as he had stuffed himself with a sufficient quantity of the good things in life, he leapt to his
feet and started gamboling around, broke wind and began braying loudly like a small donkey that
has made a beast of itself on best barley-corn. He called out, “Boy, boy!” and proceeded to hit me
with all the vigour of a much younger man.
Then, Lysistratos told him what he thought he looked like, “You resemble, old chap, an immature,
young man that’s just come into some money…or, an ass that’s has got loose and got into the corn
But, he bellowed back at him and compared him to a locust, <or a cricket> which has shed the bare
essentials of its inadequate covering, and to a Sthenelos in modern dress. The others all applauded;
all that is except for Thouphrastos who puckered his lips <in a gesture of disdain>…as if he could
have done better!
The old fellow asked him, “What makes you so stuck up? Why do you make yourself out to be
sophisticated; for ever trying to amuse and suck up to anyone who’s doing well for himself?”
In this way, he continued to insult them gratuitously one after another, making crude jokes at their
expense and besides telling boorish stories which were totally unsuited to the occasion. After that,
when he was completely sozzled, he heads for home, assaulting anyone he happens to meet on the
way…(the voice of Philokleon is heard singing rowdily)…and look here he comes now, tripping
over his own feet! So, I’m off out of here, before I get knocked about some more.
The old slave hobbles off and Philokleon enters performing a drunken dance, nowadays known as a
zeïbekikos (ζεϊµπέκικος χορός) while waving his stick in the air. He is accompanied by a half-naked
flute-girl who is holding aloft a torch. When he grows tired, he notices a group of people lurking in
the shadows - he pauses to hiccup before addressing the girl.
Father Hold the torch up, can’t you?...oh, give it here! I’ll make one of these fellows dogging my
heels sorry for himself!
(He turns to brandish his stick wildly at a little knot of men who have emerged on to the stage.)
Go to blazes, you miserable curs! Otherwise, I’ll cook your goose with this ’ere firebrand.
The men shrink back in fright, but push one of their number forward to speak on their behalf.
Angry man Tomorrow, you’ll jolly well repay us all for this <outrageous behaviour>,
notwithstanding the fact that you’re a juvenile. We are going to bring a class-action suit!
Father Oo-ooh! I’m scared! You’re going to sue me? How awfully quaint of you! Don’t you
understand that I cannot bear even the sound of the word ‘suit’? Ugh! <I’m going to throw up>!
(He prances around as if he’s just stepped in something unpleasant. Then he leers at the flute-girl.)
This is what I fancy!
(He attempts to grope the flute-girl - then proceeds to threaten the group again with his torch.)
Sod Justice! <Be off> won’t you, out of my way, and go find a juryman!”
(After driving off his pursuers, he clambers up onto the well-head still holding the torch)
Climb up here, won’t you, my fragrant little figlet? Grab hold of this rope with your hand!
(He proffers the well-rope, but when the girl goes to take it he substitutes his property-phallos)
Get a grip, but watch out because the rope’s rather worn!
(He turns to address the audience)
Even so, it’s not averse to a bit of rubbing!
(The girl loses her grip)
Did you notice how opportunely I got you away? Just when you would have had to give my fellow-
revelers some real blowing! So, why not repay the favour to this cock here, eh? But, you won’t pay
me back, that’s for sure. You won’t even take the matter in hand; instead you’ll tease it and open
your mouth really wide. You’ve pulled that trick on many others before now.
But, if on the hand, you behave like a good girl, when my son passes on, I’ll buy you for my own,
(He leers at the girl’s bottom) my little porker, and keep you as my concubine. At present, you see,
I don’t hold my money in my own name, because I’m still…an adolescent. What’s more, I’m kept
on a pretty tight leash, for my dear son supports me and he’s a pain in the ass. In fact, he’s more
than that; he’s a parsley-monious, pennycress-pinching tight-wad! He’s afraid, you see, that I could
turn out to be a spoiled brat, and I’m his only-father…Speak of the devil, here he is!
(Bdelykleon appears at the edge of the stage, obviously searching for something.)
…And it looks like he’s out to get us. Here, quick as you like take this torch and stand still where
(The flute-girl takes the torch and holds it aloft in statuesque pose like ‘Columbia’.)
I, meantime, will try some juvenile badinage on him…just like he used on me one time in the run
up to the Mystery rites.
Bdelykleon spots the pair by the well.
Son Ah, there he is in person! (He approaches them) You beaver-chasing old reprobate, where do
you think you are running off to? It looks as though you are headed for an early grave, at any rate.
As Apollo’s my witness you are not going to get away with this <disgraceful kind of> behaviour.
Father You’d be in a pretty pickle if I sued; it would leave a sour taste!
Son You go and abduct your fellow-guests’ flute-girl and you have the temerity to taunt me?
Father Flute-girl? What flute-girl? What are you babbling on about? It must be the onset of
Son You did, by god! That’s her, the Dardanian girl, standing right there.
Father Of course it isn’t! This is a sacred flame burning in the market square?
Son This is a holy firebrand?
Father Of course it is! Can’t you see the hole…and she’s been branded?
Son Then, what is this dark spot in her middle?
Father That’s probably just some pine-pitch oozing out of the burning torch.
Son Then, I suppose this isn’t her ‘what-not’ behind here?
Father That’s just a knot in the wood sticking out of the torch.
Son What knot? What rubbish!
(He grabs hold of the girl)
Come along with me, you!
Father Hey, hold on! What are you up to?
Son It’s my view, you’re done with and impotent, so I’m taking her off your hands and taking her
Father (becoming belligerent) You just listen here! When I was a delegate to the Olympic Games
once, Ephoudion was fighting Askondas… and doing pretty well for an old guy. Well, the older of
the two gave the younger of the two a blow with his fist…
(He delivers an unexpected punch to Bdelykleon’s midriff)
…and floored him.
(His son doubles up and the Dardanian ‘statue’ runs off, while he dances around jabbing the air)
In this regard, just watch out you don’t land yourself <two> black eyes.
Son (straightening up again) Yup! You certainly have learned your Olympian lessons pretty well.
Unannounced a female bread-seller bustles onto the stage.
Myrtia (she calls to a tall, wan figure who enters slowly in her wake) come…come and act for me!
(She goes down on one knee to implore the ‘ghost’) I am begging you, by the gods. This here is the
man who ruined me! He assaulted me with his torch, and knocked ten obols-worth of loaves out of
<my bread basket> here (brandishing an empty basket)…then there’s my ‘extra profit margin’ of
four <obols> on top.
Son (to his father) Do you see what you’ve gone and done? Your wine-drinking has led to no end
of trouble and <will involve you in> lawsuits.
Father Oh no, it won’t! A few, clever tales will deal with these problems. I know how I can make
this woman change her tune.
Myrtia I swear by the two Goddesses, you’ll not get away with ruining my merchandise; or my
name’s not Myrtia, daughter of Ankylion and Sostrate.
Father: Listen, my good woman! I’d like to tell you a tale which will amuse you.
Myrtia It certainly won’t amuse me, my friend!
Father Aisop was walking home from a dinner one evening when he was set upon by an impudent
bitch barking at him drunkenly. Whereupon, he told her, “You dog, you…! I think you’d be well-
advised to trade in that vicious tongue of yours and buy some <more> wheat-flour.”
Myrtia Make fun of me as well, would you? I summons you, whatever your name is, to appear
before the market-inspectors for causing damage to my merchandise. I have Chairephon here as my
witness <to the summons>.
Father Is this really he? (He peers at him suspiciously) Fancy you, Chairephon, acting as witness to
a woman! You look like a pasty-faced <Euripidean heroine>, Ino, with her, Myrtia, clinging to your
The bread-woman turns to stalk off, speechless with indignation. ‘Chairephon’ follows.
Won’t you just listen and see if you can appreciate this? Lasos <of Hermione> was once competing
in a poetry competition with Simonides <of Keos>, <some woman told him he had no chance
against the likes of Simonides>, and Lasos said… “I’m not bovvered!”
Son (looking toward the side of the stage) By the look of it, there’s someone else coming to
summons you … at any rate, he’s got a ‘complaint-witness’ with him.
A squat, rather tubby man stumbles on to the stage, leading a donkey.
Injured man (clutching his head) Oh-h-h! What a misfortune!
(He stops when he catches sight of Philokleon) You old codger! I’m issuing a summons to you for
Son Gross bodily harm! No, <I beg you> in heaven’s name, don’t do that. I’m prepared to pay you
compensation on his account. I’d be more than glad to do so, if you’ll just name the amount.
Father (coming between them) I’m quite ready to reach a settlement with the fellow by myself,
because I must admit I did ‘salt and batter’ him a bit. (He addresses the man in a concerned voice)
Why don’t you come over here? (He lays a hand on his shoulder) Would you let me pay in cash an
amount that I deem fit for the crime, so we can be pals from now on, or will you settle on an amount
Injured man (somewhat mollified) You come up with the amount. The last thing I need is a court
case with more fuss and bother.
Father (as if they are bosom buddies already) <Did you hear the one about> a citizen of Sybaris
…how he had a fall from a chariot and cracked his head badly …it was pretty nasty. He was no
expert on horses, you see. Afterwards, a friend of his came and looking down at him said, “We
should all stick to what we’re good at”. So, why don’t you just run along now and see a doctor?
Injured man This is exactly in keeping with the rest of your behaviour. (He turns to address the
donkey) You just remember how the <rogue> answered me! (He starts to leave).
Father Don’t go! Listen to this! A woman from Sybaris…once sent a <piss> pot flying…
He gives the man a hefty kick and sends him flying.
Injured man (appealing to the donkey again) This is what I’m talking about, see!
Father …and the <piss> pot appealed to his companion to witness <the occurrence>, but the
woman from Sybaris added, “As Persephone is my witness, you’d be much better off forgetting
about making appeals for witnesses like that and going quickly to buy a bandage instead.”
Injured man Just carry on with this insolence, until the magistrate calls your case!
The man limps away with his donkey in tow.
Son I’ll not leave you here any longer, as Demeter is my witness! I’m going to grab hold of you
He grabs hold of the old man.
Father Hey! What’s up?
Son I’ll tell you what’s up. I’m carrying you inside away from here. If I don’t, there soon won’t be
enough witnesses to go round for the people wanting to issue summonses.
Father They do say that at one time the people of Delphi…
Son: “I’m not bovvered!”
Father …brought a <false> charge against Aisop for stealing a holy grail and he related to them
how, “Once upon a time the beetle…
Son Give me a break! I’ve had it up to here with these beetles of yours!
He drags his father, still complaining, inside the house.
Choral Ode 1450-73
I certainly envy the old fellow his happiness. I applaud the degree to which he has changed from his
frugal ways and pinched lifestyle. Now, instead, by learning still more things, he’ll surely undergo a
considerable transformation as regards luxuriousness and softness. He might not have been willing,
perhaps, for it’s never easy to break away from personality traits which have become ingrained, and
yet…many people have discovered this for themselves. They have altered their ways as a result of
knocking up against the better judgment of others.
The son of ‘I-love-Kleon’ will depart having earned high praise from me - and from those who
have any understanding of the matter - for his good sense and his filial affection. For no-one of my
acquaintance was ever so considerate; his demeanour so entranced me and carried me away. For, in
his desire to deck out his sire with the mantle of respectability, he brought to bear overwhelming
Xanthias By Dionysos I swear, some unlucky turn of Fate has trundled into our household troubles
which seem to admit of no solution. For the old man, having started on the booze after a long <dry>
spell and hearing party music, has become so enthused by his new pastimes that he intends to spend
the rest of the night dancing those old-style numbers that Thespis used to dance in competitions and
he declares that, in a short while from now, he is going to compete in dance with the contemporary
tragic-actors to prove that they are behind the times.
Philokleon’s voice is heard off-stage bellowing.
Father Who stands guard upon the outer door?
Xanthias Lo and behold! Here’s comes the pest now!
Father Let the bolts be drawn back! (He springs on to the stage)
(aside) Do you see that! That’s how the figure begins.
Xanthias Perhaps more like …that’s how senile dementia begins.
Father (proceeding with his demonstration)…One bends from the waist with a swinging motion …
(the effort begins to take its toll of the old man’s strength)…the wind-pipe wheezes somewhat...and
the vertebrae vibrate!
Xanthias Take something for it!
Father (crouching down and shielding his face with one arm)…Phrynichos is crouching down like
a cock <about to spring>!
Xanthias (glancing warily at the spectators) You’re going to be pelted in a minute.
Father …<kicking out> a leg up, up and away! (He groans)…that’s a pain in the arse!
Xanthias You should see yourself!
Father …the hip-socket rotates around the balls of my joints with ease. (He comes to rest) Not bad,
Xanthias: Certainly not good, I warrant; more like symptoms of madness.
Father Come now, let me make an announcement and issue a challenge to anyone who thinks he’s
a good dancer and who would like to compete as a tragic-actor, let him come out here and have a
dance-off against me.
Is there anyone?
(He waits for someone from the audience to volunteer)…What, nobody?
Xanthias: That chap over there seems to be the only one!
Father Who is the unlucky man?
Xanthias One of Crab’s sons, Mesatos.
Father Oh, him! He’ll go down a treat! I can beat him with my moves like a ‘rapper’, ’cos he ain’t
got no kinda rhythm.
Xanthias You’re a lost cause.
(a second volunteer emerges) Here comes another Crust-asian to dance; it’s his brother.
Father Well, that takes care of dinner!
Xanthias No, I don’t think so. Nothing but crabs! Because, look! Here’s another of the Crab family
Father What on Earth is this scuttling on? (Grimacing) Is it a scorpion or a scolopendra?
Xanthias This is the runt of the litter so to speak. It’s Hermit Crab the one who writes tragic-
Father Crab, you old carbuncle, what a fine brood you’ve fathered! It’s like a flock of starvelings
has just alighted.
But, be that as it may, I must get down to competition against them. Meantime, you can heat up
some salted water, ready <to cook them in> when I win.
Chorus (A) Come on, let’s all give them a little space, so that we can watch them perform their
pirouettes without getting in their way.
Philokleon and the crabs form a line and begin to dance a syrtaki.
Ahoy there, siblings of the deep!
Who wide-eyed on the beaches leap.
Set your many legs in motion
On the bottom of the ocean.
Relations of the prawn and shrimp
Come show us how crustaceans limp
How Phrynichos would envy you,
To see what you three crabs can do!
And as you lift each leg up high
The audience exclaim, “Oh my!”
Twirl about and circle round,
Let the whirlpool suck you in
As you flail with arm and leg.
A tragic actor (Karkinos/Crab) enters the orchestra, moving sideways and using extravagant arm
Now look, here comes their father, the first sea lord himself
Delighted in his own dear sons, onto the stage he crawls.
They whirl around like dervishes or buzzards in the sky
And raise their legs incautiously - which shows they’ve got some balls!
But now it’s time, start moving off, if you would be so kind,
For this is something no-one yet has ever done before
He’s trumped a tragic-rival and left the chorus standing,
His comic turns have triumphed and he’s shown us all the door.
The Chorus follows the dancers off the stage leaving Philokleon to continue his virtuoso act alone.