GRC20290 The Comedies of Aristophanes

Academic Year 2021/2022

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. Peace
7. Birds
8. Lysistrata
9. Women at the Thesmophoria
10. Frogs
11. Revision


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 a commentary on two passages from the plays from a choice of four (30%) and by an end-of-trimester essay (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
Assignment: 1,000-word commentary Week 7 n/a Graded No


Essay: 2,000-word essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a 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?

Students receive summative feedback on their assignments via Brightspace.

Name Role
Ms Eleanor Kellett Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 Wed 13:00 - 13:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 3, 5, 8, 10, 12 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 2, 4, 6, 9, 11 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 3, 5, 8, 10, 12 Tues 14:00 - 14:50
Tutorial Offering 4 Week(s) - 2, 4, 6, 9, 11 Tues 14:00 - 14:50