Ancient Athenian Drama

Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazousai (Festival Time)

5th century BC, Ancient Greek.

But it doesn't include the chorus, who are all men dressed up as women.

'How many concealments of identity, do you think?' asked Quintin.

'Let me see,' replied Miranda. 'Euripides gets his father-in-law to dress as up a woman, and then pose as one.'


'Then, his father-in-law having been exposed as a man, they re-enact a scene from one of Euripides' plays in which his father-in-law, still in female clothes, takes on the part of Helen, and Euripides the part of Menelaus.

'Two, three.'

'Well, four, five, really,' said Miranda, 'because it is an actor pretending to be Euripides pretending to be Menelaus, and another actor pretending to be his father-in-law pretending to be Helen.

'So when that fails,' she continued, 'and the father-in-law is still in deadly peril from the women, they try playing Perseus and Andromeda instead, to try to get him away, so that's six, seven, eight, nine. But hang on, we haven't finished with Helen yet. A male actor would be playing Helen in Euripides' play that they are making fun of in this play by Aristophanes, so an actor rehearsing that play in this play is an actor playing a father-in-law disguised as a woman playing an actor playing a woman who may or may not be Helen of Troy, since this particular Helen has been living in Egypt all through the Trojan war, so maybe she's not all that she seems either.

'So how many is that?'

'I've lost count. But it doesn't include the chorus, who are all men dressed up as women, or the third actor who plays different parts as the play unfolds, or the second actor playing Euripides posing as a female brothel-keeper at the very end of the play. I hope the chorus girl was all she seemed.'

Story fragments retold from: Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae. The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C Stevenson. Web Atomics

See for yourself

Aristophanes – Wikipedia

Greek Drama – Wikipedia

Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae – Wikipedia

Dionysia – Wikipedia

The Thesmophoriazusae – English translation, Internet Classics Archive (download the text-only version)

Concealed identity

Elizabeth Line

artwork, pastel drawing, fragment

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