ElAnt v3n2 - Wasps 1284-91 and the Portrait of Kleon in Wasps (Scholia [1995] preprint)

Volume 3, Number 2
September 1995


Ian C. Storey,
Classics Department, 
Trent University
Ontario K9J 7B8,
e-mail: ISTOREY@TrentU.ca


Abstract. The encounter between Aristophanes and Kleon described at Wasps 1284-91 is not the well-known attack before the boule in 426/5 BC, but a more recent confrontation, probably after the first production of Clouds at the Dionysia of 423 BC. Thus Wasps is Aristophanes' first production since his 'accommodation' with Kleon, and the depiction of Kleon is subtlely and carefully handled to ga in maximum effect from the audience's (and Kleon's) expectations.

I have two purposes in this paper: first, to review the interpretations of a well-known 'biographical' passage (Wasps 1284-91), and second, to investigate one implication of that passage as it relates to the presentation by Aristophanes of Kleon in Wasps. In the first part, I am not advancing any new interpretation of that passage; indeed I am content with the opinio communis with one variation for the date of the events in question. I am concerned with the expectations that the spectators (and especially Kleon) must have had when they came to watch Aristophanes' new comedy at the Lenaia of 422 BC. It is how Aristophanes responds to that expectation that provides the major thrust of this paper.

1. Wasps 1284-91: Problems and Observations

The passage is given in the text of MacDowell's edition ( 1 ) which I would translate as follows:

There are some who've been saying about me that I came to terms when Kleon was terrifying me with his attacks and when he ground me up with his abuse. Then when I was being flayed alive, those watch ing him shout so loud were having a good laugh, not that they cared for me at all, but only to know if I would produce a little joke when squeezed. Realizing this, I played a little trick, and so now, 'the stake has fooled the vine'.

Some general and particular observations will be in order. First, this is the antepirrhema of the second parabasis, responding to 1275-83, a problem in that the epirrhema has nine lines to the eight of our passage. Solutions are either to delete a line from the epirrhema (Bothe's removal of 1282 has found widespread acceptance), ( 3 ) to suppose that a line has been lost before 1284 (along with t he entire antode), or to postulate a lacuna within 1284-91.( 4 )

Second, as noted above, the entire antode has been lost after 1283, which would correspond with the ode aimed at Amynias (1265- 74). The subject of the antode and the reason for its loss must remain mysterious. It is possible that it attacked Kleon and 1284- 91 is a pendant to that attack,( 5 ) but on the parallel of the second parabasis of Knights (1264-1315) it is more likely that the antode contained a personal attack on an individual loosely parallel, but opposite, to Amynias (e.g., Kleonymos).

Third, the metre of the epirrhematic sections is a bit unusual, paeonic-cretic tetrameter plus one trochaic tetrameter catalectic, instead of the usual trochaic tetrameter, but Acharnians 978- 87/990-99 (likewise a second parabasis) provides a good parallel for this metre, as do several instances from the comic fragments.( 6 ) Fourth, all three extant portions of this parabasis indulge in large-scale personal humour (involving Amynias, Ariphrades and Kleon). As mentioned above, the second parabasis of Knights and the truncated third parabasis of Acharnians (1150 70) afford good parallels for this use of the later parabasis.( 7 ) Finally, the language is rich and metaphorical, and intended to recall the presentation of Kleon in Knights. I would call attention to:

(a) katadihllstlgghn ('I came to terms', 1284): recalling the metaphorical figure of Diallage at Acharnians 989ff. and Lysistrata 1114ff. The sense is not 'to make peace', but rather to 'come to an ag reement' with which each of two sides can live (cf. Wasps 472; Birds 1532, 1577, 1635).

(b) Opetstlgratten ('was terrifying', 1285): the key word used of Kleon's behaviour in Knights, with overtones of 'to create confusion', 'to stir up', 'to frighten'.( 8 )

(c) oknise ('ground me up', 1286): which continues the food metaphor that underlies so much of Knights.

(d) cpedeirOmhn ('I was being flayed', 1286): obviously appropriate to Kleon's occupation as a tanner, but used also at Lysistrata 158, 739 and 953 of sexual mistreatment of a male. Indeed van der Valk has argued that many of the verbs in this passage (knizw, 'grind'; and Opotarstlgttw, 'terrify') possess the overtones of homosexual abuse. In that case an important theme in Knights is recalled (e.g., Kleon as erastes tou demou, 'lover of the People', at 730ff.).( 9 )

(e) kekragOta ('shouting' 1287): the word, above all, that describes Kleon's distinctive vocal style (Kn. 274, 287, 863, etc.; Arist. Ath. Pol. 28.3).( 10 )

(f) qlibOmenoj ('squeezed', 1288): not only a metaphor from the wine-press but also of embarrassing physical chafing (Peace 1249, Lysist. 314, Frogs 5). See also van der Valk's interpretation.( 11 )

(g) OEpiqkisa ('played a trick': literally, 'played the ape', 1289): in Greek, the ape was a trickster not a clown, with generally negative overtones.( 12 ) It is interesting that the poet is using it of his own behaviour.

Two passages have raised problems. First, in 1287, 'those outside watching him shouting had a great laugh', who are 'those watching outside'? Merry and MacDowell prefer something like 'bystanders', those who 'merely looked on to see the game'.( 13 ) More attractive is the explanation by Sommerstein that the setting is the magistrate's court and 'those outside' are spectators watching a legal proceeding taken by Kleon against Aristophanes.( 14 ) Note, however, that the poet has used the word qeemenoi, a favourite term for 'the audience'. Of the 14 uses in extant Aristophanes, apart from here and Frogs 132 (where it denotes the spectators at the torch-race), it always means the audience at the theatre. Thus Aristophanes is sketching the encounter between him and Kleon as a theatrical drama (like a comic agon perhaps) and engaging in his frequent habit of badgering the audience for their inability to appreciate and support him.( 15 ) This interpretation does not negate Sommerstein's suggestion of a legal context, but states only that Aristophanes is casting his depiction of that encounter in theatrical terms. It also makes it hard to accept Mastromarco's identification of the watchers as Aristophanes' fellow-poets upon whose support he counted in the crusade against Kleon and who were content to laugh at his misfortune.( 16 )

Second, there is the interpretation of the proverb in 1291 with which the passage closes. The scholia cite it as a paroimia, Otan OEzapathqI tij pisteUsaj, and for the stake to deceive the vine implies that the vine expected and counted on the support of the stake. Perhaps the English equivalent might be 'to pull the rug out from under'. But who imagined that they might count on whom? In short, who is the stake, and who the vine? The critics have offered a variety of explanations of this line:

(a) that the people (stake) have abandoned the poet (vine) after the truce by giving Clouds (a non-political play) a poor reception;( 17 )

(b) that 'Aristophanes is the 'stake', and the 'vine' is the Athenian Demus, which lost its support when the poet 'played the ape'.( 18 ) The poet will repay the audience's abandonment of him in his hour of need by withdrawing his championing of them. The people can no longer rely on him.

(c) that Kleon (vine) thought that he could 'count on' Aristophanes (stake) to abide by the truce that had been arranged, but the poet has fooled Kleon. Graves puts it well: 'The poet says in effect, "There was no real submission, only a hollow truce; now I am free again and ready for open war"'.( 19 )

(d) that the 'stake' represents Aristophanes who has deceived his fellow comic poets (both the tines 'some [people]', and the yenmpeloj, the 'vine') who had expected that his attacks upon Kleon were over.( 20 )

It will be my argument (section 3 below) that the thrust of this passage is to cap the caricature of Kleon in this play. Kleon is the principal subject here, not the people or the audience (or cert ain members of it). Interpretations (a) and (b) rely on too literal a reading of the audience-poet relationship, and do not do justice to the nan (lit., 'now') of 1291 (see section 2 below) or to the force of OExhpstlgthsen ('deceived'). I take the primary meaning to be (c), but as I shall show, it is quite likely that the trick was extended to cover public opinion as well.

2. The Event(s) Behind Wasps 1284-91

We can fairly elucidate from this passage the following details about what transpired between Aristophanes and Kleon:

(1) Kleon made a violent public attack upon Aristophanes, very possibly in a legal context.

(2) Aristophanes seems to have come off the worse, with the hint that spectators enjoyed his discomfiture.

(3) Aristophanes made a truce with Kleon. The obvious implication is that he agreed to leave Kleon alone in his plays.

(4) Aristophanes 'played the ape'. Clearly he did not live up to (3).

(5) Now he announces 'the stake deceived the vine'.

The most immediate question is whether (1) is identical with the celebrated attack by Kleon in the boule after the production of Babylonioi in 426 BC (Ach. 378-92, 503f. and the scholiast ad loc.).

Ockham's Razor might suggest that two references to an attack by Kleon on Aristophanes should be to the same event.( 21 ) On the other hand, the nan ('now') of 1291 seems to suggest that Wasps (perfor med at the Lenaia of 422 BC) is the explanation of the business of the stake and the vine. The scholiast (ad 1285) was in some uncertainty: 'It is unclear if he means after the production of Knights'. Four modern interpretations may be considered.

Halliwell assumes that the two events (the attack after Babylonioi in 426/5 BC and that alluded to in Wasps 1284-91) are the same.( 22 ) The result of Kleon's attack before the boule was a settlement or truce on the part of the poet, one that was maintained in Acharnians (425), but openly ruptured by the poet with his polemic against Kleon in Knights. Halliwell adduces as support the caution exp ressed by the poet at Acharnians 516, which fits well with katadihllstlgghn ('came to terms'), and the aorist tense of OExhpstlgthsen ('deceived', 1291), which, in his opinion, must indicate a past event (i .e. Knights) rather than the present play, Wasps. He must then turn nan into a non-temporal expression 'after all' and accept that Aristophanes is referring to an event two years in the past.

Slater ( 23 ) was worried about the force of OExhpstlgthsen ('deceived'), for Knights was hardly a deception but rather a straightforward and open attack on Kleon. He too prefers a past event and a non-tem poral sense for nan, and, like Halliwell, identifies the events of 1284-91 with the prosecution after Babylonioi. But the trick and the deception lie in Acharnians, where the poet insinuates himself into the character of Dikaiopolis and hides his own views (including an anti-Kleon attitude) beneath those of Dikaiopolis and Dikaiopolis-Telephos.( 24 ) Slater calls attention to OpO ti mikrOn ('a little trick', 1290) which he thinks fit Aristophanes' subtle insinuation into that comedy. He notes also that Lamachos at Acharnians 1178 falls victim to a cstlgrax (stake). Thus 'Acharnians is the real deception of Cleon'.

But the two-year gap is now three between deception and boast, and for Slater the comedian's offence in Kleon's eyes was becoming involved in the issues of the polis rather than what seems more natural, a personal and political attack on Kleon. Acharnians is not really very much involved with Kleon, who is of course mentioned from time to time, and at 517ff. where the demagogues are blamed for the war Kleon is noticeably absent. What we want is the resumption of an attack on Kleon, not the comedian's re-entry into political comedy.

Rosen prefers an altogether different approach, that there need be no real historical background to these lines.( 25 ) It is all part of the conventions of the iambic genre. Archilochos had his 'victim' (Lykambes), Hipponax his Bouplaos, and Kratinos his Perikles, and we need not take what the iambist says as historical fact. So too Aristophanes has his Kleon (and later Terence his vetus poeta, 'old poet'), and Wasps 1284-91 are merely the 'latest about Kleon and me'. Hence the indefinite tines of 1284, and for Rosen the whole matter is essentially a non-issue.

But by far the strongest and most commonly held view is that the nan of 1291 should be taken as temporal and that 'now' means the production at the Lenaia of 422 BC (Wasps). Whatever the nature of the deception and the trick, they have to do with what the poet has done in this play. The aorist tense of OExhpstlgthsen ('deceived') need not be as much of a problem as Halliwell makes out, although a perfect would be more to the point and would not be unmetrical.( 26 ) The proverb may well have been most familiar in an aorist tense.

The events of 1284-91 must be later than Knights (as the scholiast wondered) since the implication of 1291 is that Wasps is breaking the truce that had existed. The truce can hardly be the result of the prosecution of 426/5 BC since Knights is an open assault on Kleon and hardly fits the notion of diallage. It follows that sometime between the production of Knights at the Lenaia of 424 BC and the production of Wasps the events (1)-(5) took place as outlined above. The actual details must remain unclear, although several scholars have speculated that here is where we might place Kleon's graphe xenias (charge of being an alien) against Aristophanes (S Ach. 378; Koster XXVIII 20, XXIX 14).( 27 ) But as Sommerstein warns us, this sort of detail in the ancient life is more likely to have been inspired by an allusion from another comic poet than from any real ancient historical source.( 28 )

With the encounter between Kleon and Aristophanes placed between Knights and Wasps, where does the first production of Clouds fit in? Hubbard, agreeing with much of this fourth interpretation, concludes that 1284, 'there are some who've been saying about me that I came to terms', was inspired by the first production of Clouds, i.e. a non-political play which took Sokrates as its target and not Kleon. On this interpretation, the encounter between Kleon and Aristophanes with its resultant truce belongs between Knights and the first performance of Clouds. But as Merry noted, the epirrhema at Clouds 575-94, clearly from the first production of the play at the Dionysia of 423 BC, shows no change in Aristophanes' open attacks on Kleon and goes to the point of accusing him of corruption and calling for his conviction. This is hardly a truce with Kleon. Others have noticed this problem. Mueller-Struebing concluded that this epirrhema must have been omitted in performance, Gilbert and Weyland that it must belong to the second production.( 29 )

Sommerstein wondered if the encounter should not then be dated after the first performance of Clouds. Thus Wasps would be the very first production since the 'truce' and the audience expectation wo uld be especially high. Mastromarco objects that since no comedies were performed between the first production of Clouds and Wasps, there was no opportunity for the rumour to arise that Aristophanes and Kleon were in a state of truce. But the tines are so vague that we need not assume their literal existence any more that we should wonder who are the subject of fasin ('they say') at Knights 1300 (the antepirrhema of the second parabasis of that comedy); Aristophanes could have set them up in his own mind. Also if there had been a recent public encounter between poet and demagogue, the atmosphere of ancient Athens was such that people would have been bound to talk without needing any explicit evidence such as the first production of Clouds. Mastromarco finds a further difficulty in the usual view of Wasps 1284-91 as an attack on Kleon on the grounds that at Wasps 1029-36 the poet claims that he has without interruption turned his attack on Kleon; such a truce does not square we ll with this claim. But if the encounter belongs between the first performance of Clouds and Wasps, then there was no public interruption, only popular talk andexpectation.(3)

I wonder if it was Clouds 575-94, rather than Knights, that set Kleon off, with its direct accusation at 591f., by name rather than as 'Paphlagon', of financial misdealing and all but lodging a form al graphe (charge). Kleon, once cleared in his formal euthynai (audit) at the end of the year, may have turned his attention on the comedian who, he felt, had gone too far this time in accusing him of embezzlement and bribery, and begun whatever was the action to which Wasps 1284-91 alludes. The modern equivalent would be a suit for slander/libel or for defamation of character, but as far as we know the dike kakegorias (charge of slander) dealt only with calling a man 'a father-killer', 'parent-beater', or 'a shield- abandoner' (Lysias 10). Kleon may well have resorted to other measures ( e.g., a graphe xenias, a charge of being an alien, if there was anything to that story).

3. The Portrait of Kleon in Wasps

My point of departure and underlying assumption will be clear, that the diallage between Aristophanes and Kleon must have involved something like a promise on the poet's part to lay off or to ease off on Kleon, perhaps especially in the area of public affairs. Whatever the actual date of the encounter (between Knights and the first performance of Clouds, or, as I prefer, after the first production of Clouds), I suggest that at the Lenaia of 422 BC there would be a considerable degree of expectancy among the audience (and particularly among Kleon and his supporters) as to how (if at all) Aristophanes would handle Kleon. I propose to examine the portrait of Kleon in Wasps against the backdrop of this sense of anticipation and to show exactly how the comic poet exploits it and plays with his audience.( 31 )

(a) The Prologue (vv. 28-41, 62f., 133ff.)

The prologue is one of the most important components of an Aristophanic comedy, for here the tone is set for much of what follows, and it will be seen that the comedian treads a fine line, leaving t he audience (and Kleon) wondering just how far he will go.

vv. 28-41: This is the second of the three dreams of the slaves which form a marvellous sequence, each one involving a political allegory, a public setting, and the metamorphosis of a demagogue, an d each turning on a typically outrageous Aristophanic pun. Here the slave dreams that he is on the Pnyx watching a crowd of sheep with walking-sticks and cloaks being harangued by a monstrous sea-monster with the voice of a blazing sow. Kleon is not named, however, unlike Kleonymos, Alkibiades and Theoros in the other dreams, but remains the fstlgllaina pandokeUtria, followed by the mention of bUrshj saprstlgj, in case anyone had missed the point. There is of course good dramatic value in leaving Kleon unnamed and in letting the audience do the work with appropria te self-congratulation, but I wonder if this isn't a feint by the poet -- 'after all I didn't mention Kleon by name' -- but still getting in the familiar jibes about Kleon's demagogic control of the assembly (sheep to his monster) and his distinctive voice. If so, it is a most clever opening to a play that will have much to do with Kleon.

vv. 62f.: Here a classic case of praeteritio ('and we won't make mince-meat of Kleon again'). Here the poet is clearly laying a false trail, lulling the audience (and Kleon) into unsuspicion. The clever spectators who know better than to believe much of what a comic poet says or promises,( 32 ) will be on their guard and not be disappointed. He cannot resist one sting, 'if Kleon did do well, thanks to luck,( 33 ) we will not make mince-meat of him again'; the image of muttwteUsomen takes us back significantly to the world of Knights.

vv. 133ff.: Here the comedian strikes. Almost as an afterthought he gives the names of his characters, 'and the old man's name is... Philokleon, that's right by Zeus, and his son up there is Bdelykleon'. Not in all plays are the names given so early; here they come at the end of the opening scene with devastating force. Note the use of the name again at 137 (instead of something like des pOthj) to keep this creation well before the audience. As the play progresses, the audience will realize the affinities between Bdelykleon and Aris tophanes (crystallised at 650). 'Loathe- Kleon' is in effect Aristophanes.( 34 )

(b) The Parodos (197, 242, 342, 409)

v. 197: Technically the parodos will not begin until v. 230, but I include this line with it ('Fellow-jurymen, Kleon, help!') in that it clearly introduces the ch orus and leads into Bdelykleon's description of them at 214ff. and their actual appearance at 230. Aristophanes has altered radically his dramatic approach from that in Knights, by giving Kleon (or here his devotee) a sympathetic chorus. It raises a larger question of where the audience's sympathies are at this point, with Philokleon, with the son, or suspended. Choruses of course do not hav e to be sympathetic from the audience's standpoint, but we should observe the difference from the vigorous assault at Knights 247ff. The next year in his Marikas (performed at the Lenaia of 421 BC) Eupolis will split his chorus, with the penetes supporting Marikas/Hyperbolos and the plousioi opposing (and very likely supporting an antagonist). Aristophanes has given Kleon's side the support of the chorus.

vv. 242-44.: Notice the description of Kleon, 'patron', a nice anticipation of themes in the agon (esp. 596ff.) and note especially the very neat anticipation of the Kleon-Laches scene in the trial of the dogs. Those who know Aristophanes well will detect his prejudice against the abuse of the legal system by demagogues (see Ach. 676-718), but on the whole the reference is topical rather than attacking.

v. 342.: 'The wretched fellow, this Demologokleon, has dared to say this'. On one level this is a pun on Bdelykleon's name, with 'Demologo-' substituted in the first part. Several critics have seen also an insult to Kleon by applying the first element to Kleon himself.( 35 ) This is certainly possible and fits well with my conception of the subtlety of the caricature of Kleon in this comedy, but the joke is brief and soon over, and the audience could never really be sure if this was a slap at Kleon.

vv. 409-11.: Here the chorus detaches the sub-chorus of boys and sends them with the instruction, 'Run, shout, tell this to Kleon, order him to come against a traitor'. Sommerstein makes the good point that the audience, especially after the earlier invocation (197) which produced a chorus but no Kleon, will be expecting the appearance of Kleon, and again they will be disappointed.(36) This summons has an almost exact parallel at Frogs 569f. where the wronged bread-wife calls the shade of Kleon to her aid.

In this section the allusions to Kleon are brief and set in the context of a supportive chorus. The poet can hardly be accused of attacking Kleon and the difference from Knights is pronounced. The possibility that Kleon will appear is raised twice, and as we shall see, will in fact prove true, but in a most unexpected way.

(c) The Agon (596f., 757-59)

Kleon is remarkably absent from the agon, again in contrast to Knights where he is front and centre and a participant in two confrontations (303-460, 756-941). Any spectator who expected from 197 and 409 that Kleon might be an active participant in the agon will be disappointed. It is equally intriguing that no word against Kleon is put in the mouth of Bdelykleon; yet at 650f. a close identity has been established between the comic poet and this character.

vv. 596f.: This is the only mention of Kleon in the formal agon, as the climax of the demagogues mentioned at 590ff.-- note the emphatic 'himself' at the start of 596:

'As for Kleon himself, the Sultan of Scream, we're the only ones he doesn't take bites out of; in fact he protects us, holding us in his arms and chasing the flies away.'

This is of course a marvellously back-handed compliment, but couched in dramatically positive terms. The excellent coinage Dkekrax_damaj picks up the voice-theme that dominates the caricature of Kleon, while peritregei is used of eating delicacies (picking up the pun on dAmon/dhmOn at 40) and of eating away at something (cf. Frogs 367 where cpotregei is used of the demagogue 'eating away at th e poets' pay'). Echoes from Knights are clear: the imagery of food and eating, the business of the flies (cf. Kn. 60), and the larger image of the demagogue fawning over the people. This is all subtle and cleverly calculated.

vv. 757-59.: The agon ends with a puzzling passage, one that is not always well handled by the translators and commentators. The old juror concludes his mock-tragic lament with the declaration:

'By Herakles, may I never among the jurymen convict Kleon of theft.'

Two ways of taking the lines are possible: (1) a negative wish based on nun = 'given what you say' or 'if what you say about demagogues is true', meaning something like 'I don't want to find myself on a jury convicting Kleon for theft', i.e. his sympathy for Kleon remains as well as his desire for jury-duty,( 37 ) or (2) a threat as the scholiast assumed, again based on nun = 'in that case', and well rendered by Rogers in his notes 'just don't let me ever convict Kleon for theft', i.e. his passion for jury-duty remains but his partisanship for Kleon has vanished.38 I prefer the former as it retains the more subtle approach by the comic poet, allowing his character to maintain his sympathy for Kleon and the audience to understand the deeper and subtler truth. The joke at 'Demagogo-Kleo ' at 342 is a good parallel here.

(d) The Trial-Scene

We expect Kleon; we have seen him summoned as early as 197. Both the protagonists bear his name in part. Our expectation will be fulfilled, but in a most unusual fashion, in what is probably the most brilliant single scene in extant Aristophanes. The way has been prepared with the allusion to Kleon and Laches at 240 in a legal context, and the dog-metaphor at 704f., but it is worth observing how Aristophanes sets up the scene.

Out of the arrangements for the domestic court comes the news at 836-38 that 'the dog Labes has just dashed into the kitchen, seized a Sicilian cheese, and wolfed it down' and at 841 that 'the other dog says that he is ready to prosecute if someone brings an indictment'. MacDowell thinks that a good portion of the audience would have identified Laches with Labes and that 'kUwn ['dog'] stands for Kleon'. The identification would be clearer if we could be certain that Kleon and dogs were associated in Athenian thought. To be sure, at Knights 1014ff. he is Kerberos in the mock oracle and Kerberos also at Peace 313; the adjective karcarOdouj ('jag-toothed') used at Knights 1017 recurs at Wasps 1031, and is used almost exclusively of dogs.( 39 ) Demagogues are known to have claimed the ro e of 'watchdog of the People' (Plut. Dem. 23.5, [Dem.] 25.40, Theophr. Char. 29), and if Kleon did use this expression, then many in the audience could well have caught on to the Labes of 835 and the Dog of 841.

I leave aside the issue of whether Wasps reflects a real legal encounter between Laches and Kleon in 423/2 BC. This has been sufficiently thrashed out by the critics.( 40 ) The reference to a 'Sicilian' cheese clearly marks out some condemnation (if only in popular imagination) of his conduct in Sicily some years previously. However, it is most unlikely that this was still a live issue in 423/2 , since any misconduct would have been dealt with in Laches' euthynai (audit) after his generalship. What is more important is how the comedian has turned this piece of contemporary business into a brilliant piece of theatre and imagery.

At 894-97 all becomes clear with the indictment:

'Hear ye now the charge_Dog of Kydathenaion has charged Labes of Aixone with wrongdoing in the matter of the Sicilian cheese, in that he devoured it all, by himself. Penalty: a collar of figwood.'

And on this reading of the charge enters with formal introduction the Dog from Kydathenaion. We can only imagine the effect of Kleon's long expected entrance. It may be too much to expect that a dog's mask carried some caricature of the real Kleon -- the matter of portrait-masks in Knights is still a matter of debate, but Sommerstein cites evidence for the distinctive dark eyebrows of Kleon, which could be worked in even on a dog's mask.( 41 ) In any case the actor could imitate the infamous voice -- see 921, where the proverbial 'the case just shouts for itself' gains an added point if the Dog h as been shouting, and reproduce gestures that would recall the Paphlagon/Kleon of Knights. We have no way of knowing what visual and aural details would have driven home the canine caricature of Kleon.

The humour of the scene is subtle and underplayed, rather like the joke at 596f. At 909 the comedian again links Kleon with the Demos (here included by the sailors' cry); the 'very terrible things' that Labes has done are explained at 914-16:

'. . . and he didn't give me any when I asked. And who will be able to do you a good turn without tossing me, the Dog, something?'

Rather that the overt and frontal accusations of theft and dishonesty that pervade Knights, the humour is sarcastic and subtle. The best example is perhaps Knights 927-30:

'Punish him for this reason -- after all one bush cannot support two robbers (the Greek proverb had OEriqstlgkouj, 'robins') -- so that I am not barking for no purpose. If you don't, I shall never bark again.'

both for the throwaway admission ('thieves') and for the much more understated variation on Knights 339-41 ('PA: I shall burst with rage. SS: I won't let you. SL: Please, please let him burst!') .

With that the role of the Dog ceases as Bdelykleon takes over the defence of Laches, and the scene moves toward the judgement and the tricking of Philokleon. But in this scene Aristophanes has brought Kleon on stage (against his 'promise' at 62f. but anticipated at 197 and 409), combining all the elements familiar from his earlier plays: thieving politician, exploiter of the People, frequent and feared opponent in the law courts, his physical and vocal peculiarities, the dog-metaphor made concrete, political foe of Laches. And all this without mentioning Kleon's name once in the entire scene.

Thus in the part of the comedy before the parabasis Aristophanes has, I suggest, exploited the expectation about what will be done to Kleon this time. In the first 1000 lines he has been careful and subtle in his humour, employing false directions, creating a character and a chorus sympathetic to Kleon in whose mouths comments about Kleon are to be taken both ways, and avoiding any real and de veloped caricature by name. The two major caricatures (the dream at 30-41, and the trial of the dogs) are done anonymously and in a realisation of animal imagery. Mentions of Kleon by name are not many and are always ambiguously worded. At all times Aristophanes would have a defence against retaliation by the politician.

(e) The Parabasis (1029-37)

It is here that the mask is dropped, that the poet comes out in all his colours and resumes the crusade against Kleon. The image employed is that of the poet-Herakles attacking a horrible and dangerous monster (1029-35):( 42 )

'When he first began to put on plays [lit., 'teach'], he says that he did not attack mere mortals, but with the passion of a Herakles he went after the greatest monsters, standing boldly from the firs t against the very Jagtooth, from whose eyes shone the terrible rays of Kynna, and about whose head a hundred heads of accursed flatterers hissed. It had the voice of a torrent bringing destruction, the stench of a seal, the unwashed balls of Lamia, and the asshole of a camel.'

Even here Kleon is not mentioned by name, but the epithet 'jagtooth' is used of him as Kerberos at Knights 1017 and the pun on Kynna/kyn- will make the identification clear, especially in light of the previous scene. The 'voice of a torrent bringing destruction' harks back to his 'voice of the Cyclobore' at Knights 137.

The monster seems to be a mix of Kerberos (three times elsewhere used of Kleon -- Kn. 1017, 1030; Peace 313), the many-headed hydra, the Typhon from Hesiod (Theog. 860ff.), and certain unpleasant creat ures (the seal, the camel, and the Lamia).( 43 ) The metamorphosis of Kleon into the 'voracious sea-monster' of the prologue and into a dog in the trial-scene is neatly continued here.

(f) The First Symposium (1219-48)

The larger question of the unity of Wasps and whether these final scenes have any thematic relevance to the rest of the play are still a matter for debate and outside the scope of my paper.( 44 ) I would observe that although the play has a strong political theme (both in terms of Kleon and the jury-system), the theme of the generations (father/son reversed in this case) is equally important. One concomitant of this is the antithesis of the oikos/polis themes which are crucial in the playing out of the drama.( 45 ) Note the trial of the dogs in which the public sphere (jury-service) is conduc ted at home, but also how the subject of the first case is a thinly disguised political allegory. Again we tread the same ground as in Knights, where the state and the household merge. In the episodes that follow the parabasis we enter another domestic situation, this time the symposium, and again we find another strongly political context, one that depends upon Kleon. The scene from 1122-219 is almost free from political and personal allusions -- the one exception being the brief hit at Androkles and Kleisthenes at 1187 -- but like 760-890 before the trial of the dogs it is a prelude to the political symposium that follows.

Lines 1219-48 present the first of two imaginary symposia brought.( 46 ) Of the five named sympotai (Theoros, Aischines, Phanos, Kleon, Akestor), Phanos and Theoros are linked with Kleon (Kn. 1256; Wa sps 42, 418f., 599) as political characters of the same stripe. Aischines is a favourite target of the 420s with some known public service.( 47 ) Whether or not they were an actual group or just indic ative of high society (Kleon's father, after all, belonged to the liturgical class ( 48 )), the comedian turns this domestic situation into one more attack on Kleon.

One must note the irony in Bdelykleon's opening words (1224): 'And I am Kleon', especially in light of the earlier identification between him and the poet (esp. at 651f.).( 49 )

There is excellent fun to be had in turning the Harmodios-song, honouring one who killed a 'tyrant man', into an attack on Kleon. There is further and subtle irony in the fact that Kleon had a marriage-connexion with the family of Harmodios, which he may have exploited in his political career.( 50 ) Tyranny and accusations of treason and tyranny are an important theme in Wasps (see 288, 345, 417 , 463-507; see also Kn. 448, 786, 1044), and the poet follows up this parody of the Harmodios-song with a parody of Alkaios' lines (fr. 141) against the tyrant Pittakos. That this is spoken by Philo kleon, his eyes now open to the reality of Kleon, neatly turns the earlier charges against Bdelykleon back on a more appropriate target.

The next sympotes, Theoros, is linked elsewhere with Kleon in the play, especially at 42ff. where we may note the close association of 'and Theoros seemed to me to be sitting on the ground near it' (= Kleon as sea-monster) with the description here, 'when Theoros, sitting by Kleon's feet, shall take his right hand and sing'. And again at 596ff. the mention of Kleon is followed immediately by an unflattering allusion to Theoros, as if the latter follows the greater demagogue automatically in the popular mind. Three neat references to these two thus help tie the play together. Aischines is less firmly associated with Kleon, but the ironic cn_r sofOj kae mousikOj (1244) reminds one of the qualifications for a would-be demagogue at Knights 183ff.; the contrast with the noble Harmodios and Admetos is pointed and intentional.

With this scene we return to the second parabasis which at 1284- 91 caps the picture of Kleon. Before this we meet Amynias (an aristocrat fallen on hard times, a member of a family with horsey interests), the family of Automenes (familiar from the epirrhema of the second parabasis of Knights), and the missing antode which may have attacked Kleon but which is more likely to have attacked some counterpart to Amynias (Kleonymos perhaps). Finally the comedian breaks through in his own person -- there have been first person singulars at 1265, 1268, but these are not immediately distinguished from the voice of the chorus. This intrusion of the comedian himself is a little unusual for the second parabasis. One might see Aristophanes as the first person behind Knights 1274- 89 in view of the words 'I would not have mentioned a friend' and the possibility that Ariphrades is a rival comic poet,( 51 ) but the the personality of the poet is far from apparent and the plural meq' Omin returns at 1289.

Obviously I do not agree with those who wish to exchange 1265- 91 with the lyric at 1450-73.( 52 ) The latter, as MacDowell rightly observed caps the play as a whole, summarizes the re-education of Phi okleon, and gives Bdelykleon, who will be absent for the final scene, a proper and fitting send-off. In the same way 1284-91 cap the caricature of Kleon in the play, and after the antepirrhema the jokes against Kleon cease. Although I interpret the main force of 1291 as 'I have pulled the rug out from under Kleon', it is clear from the subtle and careful portrait of Kleon that he has created in the play that audience expectation was very much a factor in the comedian's dramatic creation. He has 'played a trick' not just on Kleon, but also on those members of the general public who thoug ht that he might just abide by the truce that was made. To those he replies in the first parabasis ('I have never ceased to attack Kleon') and again here at the end of the second. When compared with the open and direct hostility in Knights ('a bad and stupid play . . . Aristophanes has spoiled everything by losing his temper' [53]), the caricature of Kleon in Wasps is nothing short of brilliant because of its essential understatement and subtle directing of the audience. The stake has indeed fooled the vine, and the rug been thoroughly pulled out from under Kleon.( 54 )


1 D. M. MacDowell, Aristophanes: Wasps (Oxford 1971). Other texts and commentaries referred to by the author's name are: V. Coulon, Aristophane: Les Guepes (Paris 1924); C. E. Graves, The Wasps of Aristophanes (Cambridge 1894); G. Mastromarco, Commedie di Arisofane (Turin 1983); W. W. Merry, Aristophanes: The Wasps (Oxford 1898); B. B. Rogers, The Wasps of Aristophanes (London 1915); A. H . Sommerstein, The Comedies of Aristophanes 4: Wasps (Warminster 1983); W. J. M. Starkie, The Wasps of Aristophanes (London 1897); J. Van Leeuwen, Aristophanes Vespae (Leiden 1893).

2 The text has only two real problems of reading: (i) the unmetrical and ungrammatical kak_staij in 1286, where Briel's kak_saj is generally accepted, and (ii) certain variants in 1287.

3 Accepted by MacDowell [1], Sommerstein[1], and Mastromarco [1].

4. Coulon [1], following van Leeuwen [1], assumed a lacuna after kae in 1286.

5 This was Bergk's explanation, brought to my attention by the hand-written notes of A. B. Cook (1893) in a text of Wasps.

6 G. M. Sifakis, Parabasis and Animal Choruses (London 1971) 35f.

7 Although not formally parabatic, Birds 1470-93, 1553-64, 1694-1705 fulfil the same function, to fill the breaks in the action with songs of personal abuse. On these see T. K. Hubbard, The Mask of Comedy: Aristophanes and the Intertextual Parabasis (Ithaca 1991) 176-82.

8 The Aristophanic uses of this word are well explored by L. Edmunds, Cleon, Knights, and Aristophanes' Politics (Lanham 1987) 1-20.

9 M. van der Valk, 'Observations in connection with Aristophanes', in KOMOIDOTRAGEMATA (Amsterdam 1967) 128-31.

10 I disagree with those critics (e.g., Graves [1] 212) who take the participle kekragOta as referring to Aristophanes ('seeing me scream so loudly'); in any context involving Kleon krstlgzein ('scre am') surely will denote the demagogue. The MSS variant OEktOj OEgslwn msga kekragOta m' oflorin qeemenoi shows that Graves' view was an ancient interpretation.

11 Cf. above. J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse2 (New Haven 1990) 188, 203 sees only the sense of 'squeezed' = defecation here.

12 MacDowell cites Ach. 907; Kn. 887; Peace 1065. See the excellent summary by J. Taillardat, Les Images d'Aristophane (Paris 1965) 228.

13 Merry [1] 88f., MacDowell [1] 300.

14 Sommerstein [1] 223f.

15 Cf. the parabaseis of Acharnians to Peace and also the opening of the monologue at Wasps 54ff.

16 G. Mastromarco, 'Il commediografo e il demagogo', in A. H. Sommerstein et al. (edd.), Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis (Bari 1993) 341-57. I cannot go into great detail with Mastromarco's interpretation, but it will be seen that I disagree with his identification of the tinej and the 'spectators' as other comic poets, with his interpretation of the proverb (see (d) below), and with his datin g of the events in question.

17 Hermann, cited by Mastromarco [15] 348 n. 15.

18 Starkie [1] 380f., followed by Rogers [1] 203, and Merry [1] 88f., the latter with some hesitation.

19 Graves [1] 213, followed by MacDowell [1] 300 and Sommerstein [1] 234.

20 Mastromarco [15] 347-54, following an interpretation of this passage by Edmunds [9] 57 who did, however, accept explanation (c) of these lines.

21 The details and result of this charge by Kleon have become a critics' battleground, with the following (among other) points often in dispute: (a) What was the exact charge made by Kleon? (b) Was it successful? (c) Was it launched against Aristophanes or Kallistratos, the actual producer of Babylonioi? More recently, E. Bowie, 'Who is Dicaeopolis?', JHS 108 (1988) 103-05 has argued that at Ach. 378ff. Dikaiopolis represents not Aristophanes, but Eupolis. On his theory, both Aristophanes and Eupolis produced controversial plays at the Dionysia of 426 BC, and both were assailed by Kleon. Bowie's thesis has been picked by N. R. E. Fisher, 'Multiple Personalities and Dionysiac Festivals in Aristophanes' Acharnians', G&R 40 (1993) 31-47 (and will be again by K. Sidwell in a fo thcoming piece in BICS). Against Bowie see L. P. E. Parker, 'Eupolis or Dicaeopolis', JHS 111 (1991) 203-08, and my own refutation, 'Notus est omnibus Eupolis?', in A. H. Sommerstein et al. (edd.), Comedy, Tragedy and the Polis (Bari 1993) 373-96 (esp. 388-92).

22 F. S. Halliwell, 'Aristophanes' Apprenticeship', CQ 30 (1980) 33-45.

23 N. W. Slater, 'Aristophanes' Apprenticeship Again', GRBS 30 (1989) 67-82 (esp. 76).

24 For the most recent study of the character of Dikaipolis and the persons behind the comic mask see Fisher [20].

25 R. M. Rosen, Old Comedy and the Iambographic Tradition (Atlanta 1988).

26 Coulon [1] follows Richter and Blaydes in reading the perfect OExhpstlgthken ('has deceived'). Edmunds [9] 57 takes the aorist as a gnomic aorist.

27 MacDowell [1] 299, A. H. Sommerstein, The Comedies of Aristophanes 1: Acharnians (Warminster 1980) 2f. and 24 nn. 7 & 8, Sommerstein [1] 233f., Mastromarco [15] 349f.

28 Sommerstein [26] cites the business about Aigina at Ach 652f. as well as Eupolis 392 ('foreign poets').

29 Hubbard [7] 137-39; Merry [1] 89; the others are cited by Mastromarco [15] 350 n. 20.

30 A. H. Sommerstein, 'Notes on Aristophanes' Wasps', CQ 27 (1977) 261-77; Mastromarco [15] 350f.

31 Sommerstein [29] has done some work along this line, but only with v. 409 and the hint that Kleon will soon appear. I am expanding this approach to include the total picture of Kleon in the entire play.

32 M. Heath, 'Some Deceptions in Aristophanes', in F. Cairns & M. Heath (edd.), Papers of the Leeds International Latin Seminar 6 (Leeds 1990) 229-40, takes the extreme position that nothing said by a comic poet would be taken seriously by the audience.

33 The reference behind olamye is unclear. It can hardly be Kleon's success at Pylos (so Graves [1] 86), over two years in the past. Mastromarco [1] 36-41 suggests Kleon's actions concerning Ski one; Rogers [1] 13 the preparations for the upcoming campaign in Thrace. Reiske (ap. Rogers) thought that 'Kleon' was another name for the comedy, Knights, but the wording 'shone, thanks to luck', seems excessively modest for Aristophanes.

34 On this point I disagree with K. J. Reckford, Aristophanes' Old-and-New Comedy (Chapel Hill 1987) 217-81, who in his analysis of Wasps allows the rapprochement between poet and Bdelykleon, but is constantly trying to separate them, lest the comedy become a personal and political satire. I find Aristophanes as much in league with Bdelykleon as he is with Dikaiopolis in those infamous scene s from Acharnians (370ff., 510ff.). Note also the fine encomium given Bdelykleon at 1464-73.

35 MacDowell [1] 180, Sommerstein [1] 177; Hubbard [7] 133 n. 42.

36 See n. 30.

37 This is how Sommerstein [1] 75, 205 and D. Barrett, Aristophanes: The Wasps, The Poet and the Women, The Frogs (Harmondsworth 1964) 65 understand the passage.

38 So MacDowell [1] 235, Rogers [1] 119f., and D. Parker in W. Arrowsmith, Aristophanes: Three Comedies (Ann Arbor 1969) 59. Two translators turn the threat into a positive wish (as if the me were completely absent): M. Hadas, The Complete Plays of Aristophanes (New York 1962) 165, and P. Dickinson, Aristophanes: Plays 1 (Oxford 1970) 194.

39 MacDowell [1] 243f. On the dog-metaphor see R. A. Neil, The Knights of Aristophanes (Cambridge 1901) 141; A. H. Sommerstein, The Comedies of Aristophanes 2: Knights (Warminster 1981) 198.

40 See the discussions by MacDowell [1] 164, Sommerstein [1] 171f., G. Mastromarco, Storia di una commedia di Atene (Florence 1974) 61-64, and A. W. Gomme, A Historical Commentary to Thucydides 2 (Oxford 1956) 430f.

41 Sommerstein [38] 154f .

42 On the importance of the Herakles-theme in early Aristophanes see the study by D. M. Welsh, 'IG ii.2 2343, Philonides and Aristophanes' Banqueters', CQ 33 (1983) 51-55. That Aristophanes saw h imself as a Herakles on the comic stage gives an added punch to 758f. See also Hubbard [7] 118 n. 8 for the comments of several commentators on clex_kakoj, kaqart>>j as used of Herakles.

43 One of the referees for Scholia draws my attention to 'the bestial image of the demagogic tyrannical soul in Plato Rep. 588c- e'. The previous sections of Plato's dialogue contain some fascinat ing correspondences with Wasps, e.g., the analogies in terms of fathers/sons (548f., 553, 558-61, 569-75), the repeated image of the corrupt leaders as drones (552c, 554d, 564b-565c, 573a; cf. Wasps 1102-21; esp. 1114-16 and Rep. 564b), and the motif of sleep and dreams (571f.).

44 The most recent study is that of Hubbard [7] 126-39, especially 126 n. 29 for a bibliography of the studies attacking and defending the unity of the play.

45 One of the referees observes that imprisonment was normally a state prerogative.

46 For a study of the second symposium (not a political group) see I. C. Storey, 'The symposium at Wasps 1299ff.', Phoenix 39 (1985) 317-33, and the follow-up by A. H. Sommerstein, 'Phrynichos the dancer', Phoenix 41 (1987) 189f.

47 See Sommerstein [1] 185.

48 J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families (Oxford 1971) 318-20.

49 For other points of similarity between Bdelykleon and Kleon see Hubbard [7] 133, esp. n. 42.

50 Davies [47] 145, 320, 476f.

51 See Sommerstein [38] 210f. and Hubbard [7] 85.

52 Mueller-Struebing, Textor, Zielinski (cited by Coulon [1] ad hoc). Recent critics who make this exchange include C. F. Russo, Belfagor 28 (1968) 317-19, and (unfortunately for many readers in translation) D. Barrett [36]. MacDowell [1] 319 summarizes the case well for the traditional order.

53 G. Norwood, Greek Comedy (London 1931) 207f. 54 This paper was first presented in October 1992 at a research seminar at Memorial University (St John's, Newfoundland) and at Dalhousie University (Halifax). I would thank both audiences for th eir encouragement and their suggestions, as well as the editor and referees of Scholia.

Ian C. Storey
e-mail: ISTOREY@TrentU.ca

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Electronic Antiquity Vol. 3 Issue 2 - September 1995
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ISSN 1320-3606