GRC20290 The Comedies of Aristophanes

Academic Year 2022/2023

Aristophanes (447–385 BC) is one of the greatest of all comic dramatists, and an unequalled source of information about politics, personalities, morality, literature, and everyday life in Athens. His eleven surviving plays include such classics as Frogs, Birds, and Lysistrata.

This module will examine the social, political, and theatrical context of the original performances in 5th-century Athens, and study a selection of plays in detail.

The module requires no knowledge of Greek, and the plays will be studied in translation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

• synthesize information about the social and theatrical context of Aristophanes’ plays;
• demonstrate critical understanding of Aristophanes’ plays as works of literature;
• contribute constructively to group discussion;
• answer questions on specific points in the prescribed plays;
• construct relevant and analytical essays.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative Lecture List

1. The Festival of Dionysus in Athens
2. Introduction to Greek Comedy
3. Acharnians
4. Clouds
5. Wasps
6. Birds
7. Lysistrata
8. Women at the Thesmophoria
9. Frogs
10. Assemblywomen


There will be five tutorials in small groups, in alternate weeks starting in either Week 2 or Week 3.

Prescribed Texts

The prescribed text of the eleven plays is the translation by Alan Sommerstein and David Barrett (Penguin Classics, three volumes).

Indicative secondary reading

Bowie, A.M., Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual and Comedy (Cambridge, 1993).
Davidson, J.N., ‘Dover, Foucault and Greek homosexuality: penetration and the truth of sex’, Past and Present 170 (2001), 3–51
MacDowell, D.M., Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays (Oxford, 1995)
Revermann, M., Comic Business: Theatricality, Dramatic Technique, and Performance Contexts of Aristophanic Comedy (Oxford, 2006)
Robson, J., Aristophanes: An Introduction (London, 2009)
Silk, M.S., Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford, 2000)
Taaffe, L.K., Aristophanes and Women (London, 1993)
Wright, M., The Comedian as Critic: Greek Old Comedy and Poetics (London, 2012)

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. The lectures give basic information about the Greek theatre, and discuss the main issues in the interpretation of the plays. The tutorials look at the plays in more detail, and allow students to express their own views and ask questions. Achievement of the learning outcomes is tested by tutorial attendance and contribution (30%) and by an end-of-trimester examination (70%). 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Tutorial attendance and participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Examination: Essay and comment questions 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on tutorial attendance and participation will be sent to students through Brightspace. Students may request feedback on the exam from the module co-ordinator.

Name Role
Ms Eleanor Kellett Tutor