Classical Drama and Theatre
Return to ChaptersComparison between how many times Aristophanes cites or quotes Euripides and his references to the other tragedians demonstrates well his fixation on Euripides. Sophocles, for instance, is cited by name in Aristophanes' comedies only about ten times, and while Aeschylus' name occurs more than thirty times, it is usually in some favorable way, most often as one of the great "old-time playwrights." On the other hand, Aristophanes uses Euripides' name, most often in vain, no fewer than fifty-four times—more than the other two combined!—and in most of the eleven surviving comedies. In other words, to judge from what survives of Aristophanes' corpus, he could hardly bear to stage a play without at some point using—or more precisely abusing—Euripides by name. In addition, Euripides appears on stage as an actual, speaking character in three of Aristophanes' extant plays. So it is really no exaggeration to say that Aristophanes was obsessed with the infamous tragedian and his edgy, modern theatre, no doubt, a reflection of the wider Athenian public's fascination.
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