The Wasps

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The Wasps is a comedy stageplay in two acts, written by the playwright Aristophanes and first performed in 430 BC. The play's name comes from a group of anthropomorphic wasps who represent the chorus in the story.


The Wasps is widely considered to be a criticism of the jury practices of ancient Athens, where Aristophanes resided, due to its negative portrayal of jurors as well as court practices in general. The story also condemns Cleon, a demagogue who ruled Athens at that time, and had previously persecuted Aristophanes over alleged anti-Athenian bias in his (lost) play, The Babylonians.


The story takes place entirely within a household somewhere in Athens, which is covered entirely in netting and other traps to prevent something inside from escaping. Two slaves - Sosias and Xanthias - explain to the audience that their master, Procleon, is so obsessed with attending jury duty that he has been locked up by his son, Anticleon, for the sake of his health.

After Procleon attempts to escape through the chimney and then strapped to the underside of a donkey with his head stuffed in its bottom, a group of anthropomorphic wasps arrive and attempt to attack Anticleon with their stingers, before eventually coming to a compromise, allowing Procleon to remain at home and organise show-trials for household utensils and even two anthropomorphic dogs who accuse one another of stealing cheese from the pantry.

When Procleon is finally convinced to relax for the rest of the day, he causes mayhem after becoming drunk, and finds himself being put on trial the very next day for his acts of foolishness.


  • Anticleon - a young, wealthy Athenian
  • Procleon - Anticleon's decrepid father
  • Sosias - a household slave
  • Xanthias - another household slave
  • The Wasps - representing the jurors of Athens
  • First Dog - a talking dog
  • A reveller
  • A baking-woman
  • A citizen

See also[edit]