The literary debate between Aeschylus and Euripides in The Frogs

Question: Summarize the literary debate between Aeschylus and Euripides in “The Frogs” or The literary debate between Aeschylus and Euripides in The Frogs


Dionysus’ journey to the underworld bringing a poet back to Athens is the center of the satirical drama “The Frogs” by Aristophanes (446 – 386 BC). The last section of the competition between the two late poets of Athens, Euripides, and Aeschylus, helps Dionysus better understand what his city-state needs. A concise analysis of the literary debate will help us to support Dionysus’ choice.

The quarrelsome preliminary stage of the contest

Three chairs are on the stage. Pluto sits on the central chair, Dionysus on his left and Aeschylus on the right. Euripides touches Aeschylus’s chair and says he will not let go of Aeschylus with Dionysus because he is better than Aeschylus. Euripides has continued calling him “the creator of barbarism, a proud loudmouth, / a restless, carefree, blocked face”. Angry, Aeschylus says Euripides is a “bubble collector, creator of a monk and so on. Dionysus warns them not to debate in an aggressive way. Aeschylus jokes that this is not a competition on equal terms because his poem has not died with him though he is not alive. Through this, the playwright upheavals the universal tendency of human beings of superiority, from their own perspective.

Declaration of the Rituals for literary debate

Dionysus announces that he would judge the competition with integrity and urges the Chorus to sing the music. The chorus also announces the rules of the debate. Then each poet prays – Aeschylus to Demeter and Euripides to Sky, Smarts, and Pivot to the Tongue. Thus, Aristophanes is the originator of the literary debate in the history of world literature.

 Evaluation of general issues

The general evaluation of the contest starts with the chorus’s declaration about the sharp arguments between Euripides and Aeschylus. Euripides tries to expose his rival as the charlatan and quack. He also satirizes his obnoxious use of words. Aeschylus in his defense questions Euripides what qualities of a poet should be admired. He responds with ‘skill and good counsel’ because they make people better. Then Aeschylus tells him that he has ruined people. Aeschylus defenses objection against his obnoxious use of language in the following manner:

“Great thoughts / and ideas force us to produce

expressions that are equal to them”.

So, evaluation of general issues of the poets’ literary work through a contest is a proper token of modern literary criticism.

Prologues and lyrical qualities

In the literary competition between Euripides and Aeschylus in the hades, the prologue and lyrical qualities of the poet are mocked in a pungent way. Euripides begins by examining one of the prologues of Aeschylus –a line from the Oresteia.  He also condemns by saying all of Aeschylus’s lyrics have the same pattern; he cites a few examples from the Myrmidons and Ghost Riders. Such evaluation and criticism are some of the pivotal features of literary satire or criticism.

Weighing of the Verses

In the weighing of verse, there are a number of series, and each time Aeschylus goes lower but in the final weighing he is victorious with lines of,

“Chariot upon chariot, and corpse upon corpse”

He laughs that Euripides could put his whole family and book altogether against him and he would still lose. This stage of competition can be compared with all the literary criticism of the modern and post-modern periods of English literature.

Appreciation of the political sagacity of the poets

Dionysus is really helpless and confused to select one bringing back to human society for the protection of Athens. But the time comes to him since Euripides fails to be perfect regarding political urgency and Aeschylus wins because he shows sufficient wisdom and intelligence to protect the demos of Athens. By the final stage of the contest, it is proved that Aeschylus is chosen as he has a proper interpretation of life. Finally, Dionysus changes his previous longing and proclaims that he is choosing Aeschylus as the chorus says while on his journey to Hades.

“Grant fine idea that will bring fine blessings”


The choice of Aristophanes certainly reflects his views on the need for Athens. The scholar James Redfield writes, “The conflict between Aeschylus and Euripides is a poetic manifestation of the contradiction between old and new politics, and the victory of Aeschylus is a rejection of a new way of life, a return to the old moral center.”

Click here: for all notes of the Drama


Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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