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. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Greek by David Barrett and Alan H. Sommerstein.
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. This volume also includes an introductory note for each play.
Aristophanes (c.445-386 BC) was probably born in Athens. Little is known about his life, but there is a portrait of him in Plato's Symposium. He was twice threatened with prosecution in the 420s for his outspoken attacks on the prominent politician Cleon, but in 405 he was publicly honoured and crowned for promoting Athenian civic unity in The Frogs. Aristophanes had his first comedy produced when he was about twenty-one, and wrote forty plays in all. The eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes are published in the Penguin Classics series as The Birds and Other Plays, Lysistrata and Other Plays, The Wasps and Other Plays and The Frogs and Other Plays.
If you enjoyed The Birds and Other Plays, you might like Aristophanes' The Frogs and Other Plays, also available in Penguin Classics.
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Little is known about Aristophanes' life (c. 445BC-c.386BC), but there is a portrait of him in Plato's Symposium. His first comedy was produced when he was 20 and he wrote 40 plays in the course of his life. David Barrett has translated a number of ancient Greek texts for Penguin Classics.