It begins with Dionysus’ trip. At first it is described as an attempt to save the tragedy but latter it turns into an attempt to save Athens. His trip assumes a double function and purpose. The first one, the salvation of the theatre is easy to be identified. Meanwhile the salvation of Athens is a hidden purpose. Aristophanes elects a tragedian poet to save the city because he thinks that generally the art and particularly the tragedy are able to do a lot of things to benefit the city, even to save it. The frogs which sing with a beautiful voice symbolize the value of the poetry because this is the only reason of their song. This fact gives the meaning to the comedy title.
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“The Frogs” is one of the most popular comedies of Aristophanes and of the Greek Antiquity. It tells the story of Dionysus, the god of the theatre, who traveled to Hades with his slave Xanthias to bring Euripides back from the hereafter. After they found the shorter way to arrive to Hades they went there. Once arrived to the river Charon, Dionysus heard a chorus of croaking frogs that were singing very beautifully. It is important to mention that this is the only scene in the comedy that features the frogs (Aristophanes, pg. 254). After the trip, Dionysus finally found Euripides, but he was in the middle of a conflict with the great Aeschylus to decide who the “Best Tragic Poet” was. The two poets competed with each other having as a judge, Dionysus. The competition included some activities. One of them was the verses recitation from their plays. At the end of the competition came the winner who was Aeschylus. At that point Dionysus found it difficult to decide which from them he had to take with him. To make up his mind and end the debate between the two poets, Dionysus decided to take with him the one who would give the best advice about saving the city (Athens). Aeschylus was the one who gave the best answer so the god of the Underworld allowed him to return to life in order to succor Athens in a moment when it really needed this. As main character of this comedy we can mention Dionysus, Xanthias, Aeschylus, Euripides and the chorus of frogs. To be able to analyze the comedy it is important to enter into the reality of the time when the play was written. In 405 B.C Athens was passing through the most difficult period of all its history. The Peloponnesus war was ending and the destiny of the city was unpredictable. It was at the point to lose its sovereignty on the Greek world and as a result it was passing through strong conflicts and an under pressure situation. Greek Democracy was replaced by oligarchy and the politic situation was much tensioned. The two greater tragedians of that era, Sophocles and Euripides, were dead. In other words it seemed that Athens was losing its politic and cultural splendor. All leaded to think that the future would be bad comparing to the past.
This was the atmosphere where Aristophanes wrote his nostalgic play where the only way to give to Athens again its splendor, is to bring the dead people back to life. In other words Aristophanes wants to tell that the old path is the one which has the potential to make Athens as it was in its most successful years. It is clear that behind the comedy is hiding a political theme. The old way in the play is represented by Aeschylus and Euripides. The play suggests a peaceful war end and also suggests that men of known integrity are the ones who should be in the ruling positions in Athens. We can say that “The Frogs” contains solid and serious messages regarding peace and state organization. This message is not always easy to be identified in the comedy. Dionysus trip at first is described as an attempt to save the tragedy but latter it turns into an attempt to save Athens (Aristophanes, pg. 354).
In other words his trip assumes a double function and purpose. The first one which is the salvation of the theatre is easy to be identified. Meanwhile the salvation of Athens is a hidden purpose. Why does Aristophanes elect a tragedian poet to save the city? This happens because he thinks that generally the art and particularly the tragedy are able to do a lot of things to benefit the city, even to save it. After reading and analyzing the comedy we are able to find the meaning of the title. It was often considered strange because in the play there is only one episode where the frogs are present. Even if a single episode may appear not relevant, in reality it may become a symbol of the entire story. The significance of all the other events takes the meaning from this symbol so the single episode acquires importance. The frogs which sing with a beautiful voice symbolize the value of the poetry because this is the only reason of their song. Following this interpretation becomes clear that the title is meaningful because it underlines the power of the poetry which, according to Aristophanes, may bring even to the salvation of Athens.
Aristophanes. The Frogs. Stilwell, KS. Digiread Publishing. 2005.