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Frogs by Aristophanes

Dramatis Personae

 

XANTHIAS: a slave.

DIONYSUS: the god, appearing in human form.

HERCULES: the legendary hero.

CORPSE: a dead man being carried off to Hades.

CHARON: the ferry man transporting the dead to Hades.

CHORUS OF FROGS

CHORUS OF INITIATES

AEACUS: a gatekeeper in Hades.

SERVANT

FIRST HOSTESS (PANDOKEUTRIA)

SECOND HOSTESS (PLATANE)

SERVANT OF PLUTO

EURIPIDES: the playwright

AESCHYLUS: the playwright

PLUTO: king of Hades

VARIOUS ATTENDANTS

 

[The play opens on a street leading to Hades, with a door in the

centre of the backstage area. Enter Dionysus, appearing as a

middle-aged man with a noticeable paunch, wearing a yellow tunic

and over that a lion skin. Heís carrying a huge club, one commonly

associated with Hercules. On his feet he wears soft leather lace-up

boots. Behind him comes his slave Xanthias, riding on a donkey and

carrying a huge amount of baggage. Xanthias notices the audience]

 

XANTHIAS

Look, master, an audience! Shouldnít I speak up?

Tell them one of those jokes they always fall for?

DIONYSUS

Oh, all rightósay what you like. Only no jokes

about how youíre dying to piss. I canít stand thoseó

theyíre all so stale.

XANTHIAS

What about my other jokes?

DIONYSUS

Go aheadójust nothing about your bladder,

about how itís going to burst.

XANTHIAS

What? You mean I canít tell

that really funny one . . .

DIONYSUS

I suppose soó

but donít say anything about the bit.

XANTHIAS

What bit?

DIONYSUS

The bit about how you need to shift your load                                         10

to take a piss.

XANTHIAS

Not even this oneó

ďHere I am transporting such a load

if I get no relief I may explode.Ē                                                                                 [10]

DIONYSUS

No! Please, please, don't tell them that oneó

not unless Iím sick and need to throw up.

XANTHIAS

Then whatís the point of my being here like this?

Why do I get to carry all the heavy baggage

if I canít tell the usual porter jokesóyou know,

and Lycias, too, in all their comedies                                                          20

provide the slave who carries all the bags?1

DIONYSUS

Just donít. Those jokes are all so feebleó

when I have to watch a play and hear them

by the time I leave Iíve aged at least a year.

XANTHIAS [striking a heroic tragic pose]

Alas, for my neck beneath this triply damned yoke.

I suffer all this pressure and canít tell my joke.                                                       [20]

DIONYSUS

Itís an outrage, sheer insolence, that I,

Dionysus, son of Winejar, have to walk like this,

sweating along so he can ride at ease

without a care and carrying no load.

XANTHIAS

What!?                                                                                                              30

Arenít I carrying the load?

DIONYSUS

How can you be?

Youíre riding on your ass.

XANTHIAS

Iím loaded down.

All this stuff . . .

DIONYSUS

What do you mean by that?

XANTHIAS

What I just said carries lots of weight.

DIONYSUS

Isnít the donkey carrying our load?

XANTHIAS

No, no way. Not the load Iím holding.

DIONYSUS

How come?

How can you be carrying anything at all

when someone else is carrying you?

XANTHIAS

Iíve no idea.

But my shoulderís falling off.                                                                                    [30]

DIONYSUS

All right, then.

Since you claim the donkeyís useless to you,                                           40

why not take your turn and carry it?

XANTHIAS

What a wretched life!

I should have gone away to fight at seaó

then Iíd be free, and Iíd have told you straight

what you could do with that ass of yours.2

DIONYSUS

Get down, you useless idiot! Weíre thereó

by the door Iím aiming for, my first stop.

[Dionysus knocks very aggressively on the door and calls out in an

imperious tone]

 

Hey, in there! Doorman! Iím summoning you.

 

[The door opens and Hercules steps out, wearing a lionís skin and

carrying a club. Heís amazed that someone is dressed up to resemble

him]

 

HERCULES

Whoís banging on this doorósmashing at it

like some wild centaur. My god, whatís this?

[Hercules inspects Dionysusí outfit and starts to laugh uproariously]

 

DIONYSUS

Hey, my boy . . .

XANTHIAS

What?

DIONYSUS

Didnít you see?

XANTHIAS

See what?                                                                                                         50         [40]

DIONYSUS

How scared he was of me?

XANTHIAS

Yes, by god, he was,

scared youíre nuts.

HERCULES [doubling up with laughter]

By holy Demeter,

I canít stop laughing. Iíll try biting my lip.

No, no use. I canít stop laughing at him.

 

 

Frogs by Aristophanes - an excerpt

2The fight at sea refers to the Athenian naval victory of Arginusae (406 BC). Athenian slaves who had fought were freed (this is the first of a number of references to this action).

1Phrynichus, Ameipsias, Lycias: comic poets, rivals of Aristophanes.

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