But Euripides wrote tragedies – sad plays. Aristophanes wrote comedies – funny plays. Most of Aristophanes’ plays are political satire. They make fun of the politicians of Athens. Or they make fun of philosophers.
Sometimes Aristophanes’ plays make fun of politics in general. Other times he makes fun of specific politicians for saying something dumb. Or maybe they said something Aristophanes disagreed with. You might say Aristophanes was the Daily Show or Colbert or SNL of his time. But he only produced plays a few times a year, not every day.
Lysistrata and Frogs
Another play, the Frogs, was a sad commentary on the deaths of Sophocles and Euripides, and on how hard it was to use art to make peace. Aristophanes’ play Wasps makes fun of the Athenian jury system.
Winning first prize
Like the tragedies, Greek comedies were performed in a competition. This contest was itself part of a religious festival. Aristophanes often won these competitions, so the judges must have thought his plays were good.
Greek Theatre, by Stewart Ross (1999). Easy reading.
Greek and Roman Theater, by Don Nardo. For teenagers.
Aristophanes I: Clouds, Wasps, Birds, translated by Peter Meineck (1998). All Aristophanes plays have a lot of dirty jokes in them, and these are no exception. Be warned. Lively, and suitable for play production.
Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays, by Douglas M. MacDowell (1995). Explains the meaning of the jokes and political commentary in the plays. For adults.