‘My Kids for Sale’ : The Megarians’s Scene in Aristophanes’ Acharnians (729-835) and Megarian Comedy


Aristotle and the Attic comic playwrights repeatedly refer to a kind of comic drama produced at Megara in their days. The Megarian’s scene in Aristophanes’ Acharnians (729–835) is a parody of that Megarian genre. Aristophanes incorporates into the action of this scene a number of motifs, which find parallels in characteristic routines of Megarian farce or other types of Doric comic theatre (Spartan and Sicilian). These motifs include the tossing of fruit to characters on stage and possibly also to the audience; the theft of fruit; obscene word-plays (such as the pun on choiros, “piglet” and “vagina”); hungry and voracious personages; and the selling of one’s own children in exchange for food. Possibly there was a common heritage of such comic material, shared by the various local forms of Doric comedy. The parody of Megarian farce in the Aristophanic scene is part of a broader scheme underlying the composition of the Acharnians. Aristophanes consistently correlates the world and representatives of war with tragedy, while Dikaiopolis and his peace are associated with the most rudimentary forms of comedy. Within this scheme, the Megarian’s scene, which introduces the second part of the play, corresponds to Dikaiopolis’ phallic ceremony in the first half. Both these episodes can be read as a kind of proto-comedy and thus mark the inauguration of the hero’s peaceful universe as a return to the roots of the comic event.