Places: The Frogs

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: Batrachoi, 405 b.c.e. (English translation, 1780)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Satire

Time of work: Fifth century b.c.e.

Places DiscussedUnderworld lake

Underworld Frogs, Thelake. The god Dionysus, in whose honor all the Greek plays were performed, is sad that two of the great tragic writers–Aeschylus and Euripides–have died. He does not like the work of their survivors and descends to Hades to bring one of them back to earth to write plays for him. To reach Hades, he must row the ferryboat of Charon across a large lake. (This body of water is known as the River Styx in other Greek stories.) Throughout his journey across the lake, he is tormented by the croaking of a swarm of frogs, played by the members of the play’s chorus.


Hades (hay-deez). To the Greeks, Hades was an underworld to which all mortals went after they died. Not a place of punishment, it is an open area, except for the palace of Pluto, the god of the underworld. Dionysus goes to Pluto’s palace, but does not enter. After a number of farcical episodes in front of the palace, Euripides is finally allowed to hold a contest between Aeschylus and Euripides to determine which of them will accompany him back to earth. Each poet recites lines, which Dionysus judges using a huge scale. Aeschylus wins and as the play ends everyone enters the palace for a banquet.

BibliographyBowie, A. M. Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual, and Comedy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Presents criticism and interpretation of the mythic and ritualistic content of Aristophanes’ comedies. Drawing from examples such as Dionysus’ and Heracles’ presence in The Frogs, Bowie considers the importance of mythology in Aristophanes’ comedic plays in particular and in Greek drama in general.Dover, Kenneth, ed. Introduction to The Frogs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Dover’s essay and commentary, which accompany Aristophanes’ original text, offer a comprehensive overview of the structure and significance of the play.Harriott, Rosemary M. Aristophanes, Poet and Dramatist. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. Offers criticism and interpretation of Aristophanes’ poems and plays. Sets The Frogs in the context of such other works as The Clouds (423 b.c.e.), The Knights (424 b.c.e.), and The Birds (414 b.c.e.).Littlefield, David J., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Frogs”: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. A collection of analytical papers examining Aristophanes’ The Frogs in terms of style, characterization, dramatic theory, symbolism, and structure. Provides a spectrum of interpretations on the work’s position in literature from classical times to the present.Whitman, Cedric Hubbell. Aristophanes and the Comic Hero. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964. Explores Aristophanes’ construction of heroes in his comedic plays and provides an overview of Aristophanic comedy. Considers the dramatist’s lampooning of such contemporary figures in Greek society as the playwrights Euripides and Aeschylus in The Frogs.
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