"Wasps" (Greek: Sphekes, Latin: Vespae) was a comedic play of Ancient Greece. It was written by the famed playwright Aristophanes in 422 BCE for the artistic competition Lenea, where it came in second place. In categorization, it is usually placed under Old Attic Comedy, fitting to certain standard forms of the genre than governed plays at the time. Fitting in with the theme of political commentary that ran through Aristophanes' plays, Wasps was written as a satire of Athens' jury system.

As the play begins, Philocleon is a man obsessed with serving on juries as part of his civic duty (the generous pay of 3 obols at the time certainly helped, as well). His son Bdelycleon finds the passion of the father somewhat unnerving, and sets out to cure Philocleon of his habit. A short digression, here, to mention about the play of words involved in these characters' names. 'Cleon' was a well-known figure of the Greek political spectrum. He gained his repute and high esteem among the lower classes by having the payment for jury duty raised, opening up a whole new market for free males down on their luck to profit off the state by doing their civic duty. 'Philo' is the Greek word for 'love' (the root of many words), while 'Bdely' means to loathe. So the two main characters are Love-Cleon and Hate-Cleon. Clever clever, Aristophanes.

Moving on, Bdelycleon doesn't really get anywhere with his twelve-step program, so he has his father imprisoned at home. Philocleon's friends catch wind of this turn of events, and aren't too pleased. Played by the chorus, an integral part of all Old Comedies, they come to Bdelycleon's home dressed as wasps (why not?) to show their readiness to attack. These are all elderly men, mind you. Dressed as wasps. Threatening a beat-down. Well, in any case, Bdelycleon catches them and persuades them to put aside their.. mighty stings, or something, for a moment while he tries to convince Philocleon of the error of his ways.

From here on the play focuses on their debate, a satyrical condemnation of jury trials no matter which side you root for. Philocleon reflects on the irreplaceable joy of rampantly abusing power. Bdelycleon waxes eloquent in response about how that power is just all smoke and mirrors, politicians are the true puppetmasters behind the scene. This is enough to sway the wasp men, but not too effective on Philocleon himself. Power corrupts, and all that. So Bdelycleon hatches a different plan.

He proposes they stage a trial at home, with Philocleon playing his favorite roll as the juror. And who's on trial? Why, the family dog, of course, who has allegedly stolen a piece of cheese! Right. Philocleon is rather fond of Labes, their pooch, so he acquits, the first time he's ever rendered an 'innocent' judgement. "Ha ha!" goes Bdelycleon, he's tricked the poor elderly chap into abandoning his illustrious principles of power abuse for love of a dog. Time to party!

Having broken down his father's barriers and brought the man back into the world again, Bdelycleon is eager to show off. He arranges a grand social function, with everyone invited, including the wasps. Everyone has a wonderful time gorging themselves on food and wine, even Philocleon. In fact, he gets a bit carried away, sexually harrassing a poor slave girl and threatening tradesmen in a drunken rage. What's the solution to this dilemna? Everyone... starts dancing. Very rioutously. And thus, the play ends.

Ok, so the comedy was just a tad off-the-wall. It was good enough to have been imitated, however, one notable example being Racine's Les Plaideurs.

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