Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in European Studies Journal 17:2 (2000) & 18:1 (2001), pp. 25-40 (special double issue: “Performing the Politics of European Comic Drama,” ed. S. Carlson and J. McGlew).


In Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae, the women of Athens, infuriated by Euripides' too-accurate portrayals of lustful and treacherous women, are plotting against him. Euripides and his kinsman come up with a plan to dress the kinsman in women's clothes and send him into the women's meeting as a spy. In order to dress the kinsman up, they stop at the house of Agathon, a notoriously effeminate tragic playwright, and ask to borrow some of his women's clothing and personal grooming items. The "robing scene” with Agathon has often been taken to be a straightforward, if devastating, mockery of a historical figure's peculiarities. The figure of Agathon in this comedy, however, serves a far more complicated function: he is a site for the investigation of identity, and in particular for the degree to which the self has an essential and stable nature.

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