Home  |  Theatre Links  |  Advertise Here  |  Email Us

The Frogs

A synopsis of the play by Aristophanes

This article was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 21.

THE FROGS was probably produced at the Lenaean festival in Athens in January, 405 B.C. where it took first prize. It scored such a hit that it was staged a second time, probably in March of the same year, at the Great Dionysia. It is typical of the lyrical-burlesques of Aristophanes.

Dionysus and HeraclesTHE god, Dionysus, as a theater goer, bemoans the lack of good contemporary dramatists. This lack, he feels, reflects on his own honor. After some consideration he resolves to go with his servant, Xanthias, to the afterworld and bring back the Prince of dramatists, Euripides. With this plan in mind he procures a lion skin and club and disguises himself to represent the recklessly brave Heracles, thinking thus to fortify himself against the dangers of the journey. He makes a final call on the immortal Heracles to ask directions and then sets out.

Dionysus himself is ferried across to Hades by the boatman, Charon, through a chorus of croaking frogs who seem to be pretty well posted on the doings of mortals. Since Charon disdains to ferry Xanthias across the lake the latter has to walk around and meet his master at the entrance to Hades. No sooner are the two inside Pluto's realm than the inhabitants, spying the club and lion skin, decide their chance has come to get even with Heracles for certain misdeeds of that reckless hero on his own visit to the nether world. Dionysus in great alarm insists that his servant change costumes with him, an incident which gives rise to banter of the type indulged in by two modern stage comedians in a musical show. The change is scarcely accomplished, however, when the maid of the lovely Proserpine appears to bid the supposed hero to a banquet. Dionysus insists on reassuming the lion skin that he may accept the invitation, but no sooner has he done so than two indignant eating-house keepers assail the supposed Heracles for damages done on his previous visit. At this point, Dionysus in terror reveals his actual indentity.

The news spreads that Dionysus is in Hades and almost at once loud quarreling is heard. The disturbance turns out to be Aeschylus and Euripides disputing the place of honor as King of Tragedy, a position which Aeschylus holds and Euripides wants. It is finally agreed that since their plays were written for performance at the Dionysian festivals, Dionysus shall decide their dispute. A trial is held and in the end the matter is settled by weighing the verses from each poet's writings in the scales. Aeschylus as the writer of heavier verses is declared the winner. But the trial has changed Dionysus' mind and he departs for earth taking Aeschylus instead of Euripides, leaving Sophocles meanwhile to hold down the place of honor.

Aristophanes' Plays  |  Biographies/Studies


Aristophanes' Plays


Related Sites

Aristophanes Index

Related Dramatists

Dario Fo

Home  |  Theatre News  |  Theatre Links  |  Advertise Here  |  Email Us