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Comedy as criticism of official policy

Slashing satire directed against the mass of ordinary citizens seems to have been unacceptable1 in Athenian comedy, but fifth-century comic productions often criticized govermental policies that had been approved by the assembly by blaming political leaders for them. The strongly critical nature of comedy was never more evident than during the war years. Several of the popular comedies of Aristophanes2 had plots in which characters arranged peace with Sparta , even though the comedies were produced while the war was still being fiercely contested. In The Acharnians 3 of 425 B.C., for example, the protagonist arranges a separate peace treaty4 with the Spartans for himself and his family while humiliating a character who portrays one of Athens' prominent military commanders of the time. The play won first prize in competition for comedies that year.

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