It is a sustained concern for Aristophanes studies to assess the political commitments expressed in the comedic poet’s dramatic corpus. Though generally synoptic in describing his critique of democracy, political interpretations of Aristophanes’s plays diverge in justifying that critique as affirmative of democratic principles. This essay argues for considering the Aristophanic critique as external to democratic principles, on account of its assertion of the demos’s basic incapacity for legitimate and effective rule. The essay concludes by identifying where engagement with the Aristophanic critique of democracy may clarify and challenge theories of artful discourse and political community supported by public and counterpublic studies.

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