Home > Uncategorized > August Wilhelm Schlegel: Aristophanes, tragedian of peace

August Wilhelm Schlegel: Aristophanes, tragedian of peace

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

German writers on peace and war

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August Wilhelm Schlegel
From Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature
Translated by John Black

With the exception of [an] attack on Cleon, and with the exception also of the attacks on Euripides, whom he seems to have pursued with the most unrelenting perseverance, the other pieces of Aristophanes are not so exclusively pointed against individuals. They have always a general, and for the most part a very important aim, which the poet, with all his turnings, digressions, and odd medleys, never loses sight of. The Peace, the Acharnae, and the Lysistrata, with many turns, still all recommend peace…

Peace begins in the most spirited and lively manner…War, a desolating giant, with his comrade Riot, alone, in place of all the other gods, inhabits Olympus, and there pounds the cities of men in a great mortar, making use of the most celebrated generals for pestles. The Goddess Peace lies buried in a deep well, out of which she is hauled up by ropes, through the united exertions of all the states of Greece…

Acharnae…Dikaiopolis, the honest citizen, enraged at the base artifices by which the people are deluded, and by which they are induced to reject all proposals for peace, sends an embassy to Lacedaemon, and concludes a separate treaty for himself and his family. He then retires to the country, and, in spite of all assaults, encloses a piece of ground before his house, within which there is a peaceful market for the people of the neighbouring states, while the rest of the country is suffering from the calamities of war. The blessings of peace are represented most temptingly to hungry stomachs…

Lysistrata…According to the story of the poet, the women have taken it into their heads to compel their husbands, by a severe resolution, to make peace. Under the direction of a clever leader they organize a conspiracy for this purpose throughout all Greece, and at the same time gain possession in Athens of the fortified Acropolis. The terrible plight the men are reduced to by this separation gives rise to the most laughable scenes; plenipotentiaries appear from the two hostile powers, and peace is speedily concluded under the management of the sage Lysistrata. Notwithstanding the mad indecencies which are contained in the piece, its purpose, when stript of these, is upon the whole very innocent: the longing for the enjoyment of domestic joys, so often interrupted by the absence of the husbands, is to be the means of putting an end to the calamitous war by which Greece had so long been torn in pieces.

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