Great Books: Wasps, by Aristophanes

Wasps is another comedy with a father-son relationship, like Clouds. This time it's Procleon, the father, who is the target of reform efforts by his son, Contracleon. Anyone noticing the political overtones yet? If so, congratulations - you are well educated.

Procleon is addicted to serving on juries. In Athens juries were made up of large groups of men over thirty who were paid a small fee. Contracleon, his son, first tries to lock him in the house to keep him from going to court. Eventually he convinces him that as a jurist he is being exploited by those who run the courts and persuades him to sit on a 'jury' at home, judging domestic disputes between dogs who have stolen cheese. The next step is to get Dad some decent clothes and take him out to meet some people, but Pater (<----deliberate irony) doesn't play along with the plan, and the reform efforts end in disaster.

Now, the references to dogs stealing cheese above might suggest that this is a bit surreal. This did not come as a surprise. I was prepared for the orating dogs. When, in the first act, a group of old men (Procleon's fellow jurors) threw off their cloaks to reveal yellow and black wasp costumes complete with gigantic stings (possibly, a helpful footnote explains, a combination sting/phallus) - in sum, when that happened, I prepared myself for the worst. Talking animals wasn't the worst. The cheese grater on the witness stand I handled with equanimity. There are also a lot of very bad puns. I rolled with the punches.

What really blew my mind was the crab people. From out of nowhere at the end of the play some fucking crab people come on stage, throw a few jokes out, then the play's over. Crab people? What the hell? Don't try to tell me Matt and Trey got crab people from Aristophanes. I won't believe it.

....walk like crab, talk like people....

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