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Aristophanes: The Birds Paperback – July 2, 2010

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From the Back Cover

Translation in English with notes, map and introduction. One of Aristophanes greatest comedies. Considered by many to be his masterpiece, it is the story of birds taking control of the government, called in this translation Cloudcuckooland..
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Aristophanes (ca. 446-ca. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a prolific and much acclaimed comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and they are in fact used to define the genre. Also known as the Father of Comedy and the Prince of Ancient Comedy, Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries - Plato singled out Aristophanes' play The Clouds as slander contributing to the trial and execution of Socrates although other satirical playwrights had caricatured the philosopher. His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. It is possible that the case was argued in court but details of the trial are not recorded and Aristophanes caricatured Cleon mercilessly in his subsequent plays, especially The Knights. "In my opinion," he says through the Chorus in that play, "the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all." He is also known for some famous sayings, such as "By words the mind is winged."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 70 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453683925
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453683927
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,950,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erik on July 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
At all costs, please do not ruin your impression of Aristophanes by reading this translation of THE BIRDS. It is a stilted, wooden mess. I especially implore any teachers out there to not use this edition. Your students will hate Aristophanes and never forgive you. For a genuine translation of the play -- one that maintains its rhythmic humor and allows the characters to have personalities -- seek out R.H. Webb's translation in Bantam's The Complete Plays of Aristophanes.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
The problem with "The Birds" ("Ornithes") is that for once Aristophanes does not seem to be attacking some specific abuse in Athens. Still, we suspect that even this little fantasy is not simply escapist entertainment. Certainly there are those who see it as a political satire about the imperialistic dreams that resulted in the disastrous invasion of Sicily (which happened the year before his play was produced in 414 B.C.). Then again, this could just be Aristophanes bemoaning the decline of Athens.
Pisthetaerus ("Trusting") and Euelpides ("Hopeful") have grown tired of life in Athens and decide to build a utopia in the sky with the help of the birds, which they will name Necphelococcygia (which translates roughly as "Cloud Cuckoo Land"). Pisthetaerus and his feathered friends have to fight off those unworthy humans, malefactors and public nuisances all, who try and join their utopia. Then there are the gods, who come to make some sort of agreement with the new city because they have created a bottleneck for sacrifices coming from earth.
Because it is a more general satire, "The Birds" tends to work better with younger audiences than most comedies by Aristophanes. Besides, the chorus of birds lends itself to fantastic costumes, which is always a plus with young theater goers. In studying any of the Greek plays that remain it is important to I have always maintained that in studying Greek plays you want to know the dramatic conventions of these plays like the distinction between episodes and stasimons (scenes and songs), the "agon" (a formal debate on the crucial issue of the play), and the "parabasis" (in which the Chorus partially abandons its dramatic role and addresses the audience directly). Understanding these really enhances your enjoyment of the play.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Birds is considered one of Aristophanes' best plays - a worthy work that is still funny, entertaining, and thought-provoking after nearly 2,500 years and also now of great historical value. Though not Aristophanes funniest or most bitingly satirical work, it may have the best story and is likely the most imaginative. The plot is typically absurd but very creatively so, the amazingly thought out setting is truly remarkable, and the characters are very memorable. The play is also a powerful reminder of the easily overlooked fact that Aristophanes was an excellent poet; it has some of his best - and funniest - songs. He was also of course a brilliant satirist, and this is a preeminent example. His methods are as always diverse, including slapstick, but there are serious themes beneath the silly surface. The Birds is indeed a subtle religious critique and a nuanced look at all forms of tyranny as well as resistance. It also deals with issues of escapism - perhaps a clever and even half-mocking self-reference - and the concept of utopia. Simply put, it is essential for anyone interested in Greek comedy.
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