Aristophanes, Or Bust
Aristophanes, Or Bust
A TheaterManiac, age 23, is on a boat crossing the River Styx, rowed by Charon. He passes the cast of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, in the midst of a heated discussion of 19th-century English poetry. The boat approaches Aristophanes, who speaks entirely in quotations from his satire The Frogs.

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ARISTOPHANES: Hallo! you there, you deadman, are you willing to carry down our little traps to Hades?

THEATERMANIA: Hey, Aristophanes. There seems to be a little confusion. I'm here to interview you about the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Frogs.

A: Pay me two drachmas, or it's no use talking.

TM: That's a little unethical, don't you think?

A: One and a half.

TM: Well, okay. So, how do you feel about Nathan Lane freely adapting your script?

A: O hang the fellow!
He thought to scare me off,
The jealous dog, knowing my plucky ways.

TM: In his defense, you haven't actually seen the production yet. Besides, wouldn't you say that imitation is the highest form of flattery?

A: I'll tell you by-and-by
My own poetic worth and claims;
But first of all I'll try
To show how this portentous quack
Beguiled the silly fools.

TM: Listen, I'll admit that Lane doesn't have much experience as a writer, but you can't call Stephen Sondheim a "portentous quack!"

A: Well, he's the sole
Good thing remaining, if even he is good.
For even of that I'm not exactly certain.

TM: How can you say that? Don't you agree that Sweeney Todd and Assassins are terrific shows?

A: Tales of vice
The sacred poet should hide from view,
Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth
On the public stage to the public ken.

TM: What about how Sondheim and another of his Frogs collaborators, Burt Shevelove, paid homage to the comedies of the Roman Plautus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?

A: A bright idea.
I'faith, I'm nowise indisposed for that.

TM: What advice would you give to writers who would adapt your plays?

A: On then, wrangle in every way,
Argue, battle, be flayed and flay,
Old and new from your stores display,
Yea, and strive with venturesome daring
Something subtle and neat to say.

TM: And to the actors?

A: Sing if ever ye sang of yore,
When in sunny and glorious days
Through the rushes and marsh-flags springing.

TM: Will you attend The Frogs on opening night, and do you plan to bring a date?

A: I will; and thus I'll do it.
I'll choose the man in whom my soul delights.

TM: Who's it going to be?

A: My choice is-
Aeschylus.

TM: I'll be going by myself.

A: O you're jesting,
I shall not let you off: there's such a lovely
Flute-girl all ready, and we've two or three
Dancing-girls also.
Young budding virgins, freshly tired and trimmed.

TM: Thanks! By the way, have you heard that the Aquila Theatre is planning to present a musical adaptation of another of your comedies, The Clouds?

A: Nay, that's too much.

TM: But weren't most of your comedies sung anyway?

A: That is right, Mr. Busybody, right!
For the Muses of the lyre love us well;
And hornfoot Pan who plays
On the pipe his jocund lays;
And Apollo, Harper bright,
On our Chorus takes delight;
For the strong reed's sake
Which I grow within my lake
To be girdled in his lyre's deep shell.
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.

TM: Indeed!