Empousa, Dionysus and the Mysteries: Aristophanes, Frogs 285ff

Classical Quarterly 41 (01):41- (1991)
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Abstract

In Frogs Aristophanes presents the comic katabasis of Dionysus, whose quest is to bring back the recently deceased Euripides and restore him to the Athenian literary scene. In the prologue Dionysus and his slave, Xanthias, seek out Heracles and ask his advice about the journey below. After some comic play, as they consider various short-cuts, Heracles finally gives Dionysus a serious lesson in Underworld geography . The various items on this itinerary – Charon, terrifying beasts, filth and excrement, sinners, μσται – are all encountered on Dionysus' journey, each transformed for humorous effect. Dionysus crosses the lake on Charon's barque, but is forced to row . At this point we have the introduction of the off-stage chorus that gives the play its name. In what appears to be a kind of false parodos Dionysus engages in a metrical tug-of-war with the frogs that finally spoils his rowing rhythm. After disembarking, he is joined by Xanthias, who was forced to walk around the lake, and they find themselves in the place of σκτος κα βρβορος , where they see the miscreants . In place of εις and θηρα μυρα δειτατα , our heroes are terrified by the figure of Empousa, who is seen by Xanthias alone . When Empousa is gone, there appears the chorus of initiates, whose song constitutes the parodos

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