'The Birds and Other Plays'
By Aristophanes (Author), David Barrett (Translator), Alan Sommerstein (Translator)
Five comedies from Ancient Greece that freely blend satire and slapstick
Offering a window into the world of ordinary Athenians, Aristophanes' The Birds and Other Plays is a timeless set of comedies, combining witty satire and raucous slapstick to wonderful effect. The plays in this volume all contain Aristophanes' trademark bawdy comedy and dazzling verbal agility. In The Birds, two cunning Athenians persuade the birds to build the utopian city of 'Much Cuckoo in the Clouds' in the sky, blockading the Olympian gods and installing themselves as new deities. The Knights is a venomous satire on Cleon, a prominent Athenian demagogue, who vies with a humble sausage-seller for the approval of the people; while The Assembly-Women deals with the battle of the sexes as the women of Athens infiltrate the all-male Assembly in disguise. The lengthy conflict with Sparta is the subject of Peace, inspired by the hope of a settlement in 421 BC, and Wealth reflects on the economic catastrophe that hit Athens after the war.
These lively translations by David Barrett and Alan H. Sommerstein capture the full humour of the plays. The introduction examines Aristophanes' life and times, and the comedy and poetry of his works, and this edition also includes an introductory note for each play.
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Aristophanes (Greek: Αριστοφάνης; c. 446 BCE – c. 386 BCE) was a playwright of ancient Athens.
About 11 of his works are known in full, and they are the only plays of the "Old Comedy" style to have survived. They are The Acharnians, The Birds, The Clouds, The Ecclesiazusae,The Frogs, The Knights, Peace, Plutus (Wealth), The Thesmophoriazusae, and The Wasps. These plays have been translated into many languages and continue to be staged or adapted for theatrical productions.
Aristophanes satirized the political and social issues of 5th-century-BC Athens, such as the ongoing Peloponnesian War, the structure of the city-state, the role of women in public life, the influence of philosophers (notably Socrates) in shaping public opinion.
Note: 'The Great Books of the Western World' recommends all the comedies of Aristophanes.