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an introduction to the play by Aristophanes

PLUTUS differs widely from all the other works of Aristophanes, and, it must be confessed, is the least interesting and diverting of them all. In its absence of personal interests and personal satire, and its lack of strong comic incidents, it approximates rather to a whimsical allegory than a comedy properly so called.

The plot is of the simplest. Chremylus, a poor but just man, accompanied by his body-servant Cario--the redeeming feature, by the by, of an otherwise dull play, the original type of the comic valet of the stage of all subsequent periods--consults the Delphic Oracle concerning his son, whether he ought not to be instructed in injustice and knavery and the other arts whereby worldly men acquire riches. By way of answer the god only tells him that he is to follow whomsoever he first meets upon leaving the temple, who proves to be a blind and ragged old man. But this turns out to be no other than Plutus himself, the god of riches, whom Zeus has robbed of his eyesight, so that he may be unable henceforth to distinguish between the just and the unjust. However, succoured by Chremylus and conducted by him to the Temple of Æsculapius, Plutus regains the use of his eyes. Whereupon all just men, including the god's benefactor, are made rich and prosperous, and the unjust reduced to indigence.

The play was, it seems, twice put upon the stage--first in 408 B.C., and again in a revised and reinforced edition, with allusions and innuendos brought up to date, in 388 B.C., a few years before the Author's death. The text we possess--marred, however, by several considerable lacunœ--is now generally allowed to be that of the piece as played at the later date, when it won the prize.

This article is reprinted from Aristophanes: The Eleven Comedies. Trans. Anonymous. London: The Athenian Society, 1922.


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