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Is The wasps’ Anger Democratic?

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Chapter Summary

Aristotle defines anger, orgê, as "a desire, accompanied by pain, for perceived retribution because of a perceived slight that was directed against oneself or those near to one, the slight being uncalled for." The goal of this chapter is to determine whether Aristophanes' Wasps can be used as evidence that anger played some role in the Athenian courts and, further, whether that anger worked in a democratic way. At first glance, Aristophanes' Wasps seems to fit this model perfectly. It presents a chorus of dicasts and their principal representative Philocleon as strongly motivated by anger. They are also beholden to their champion Cleon, who employs dicasts and their anger to promote his ostensibly democratic political agenda. But Aristophanes clearly sees this model as a perversion. The dicasts are not justified in their anger, and Cleon is not pursuing a truly democratic agenda but rather hoodwinking the dicasts into attacking innocents.

Keywords: anger; Aristophanes; Athenian courts; Cleon; democratic way; dicasts; orgê; Philocleon; Wasps



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