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Lysistrata/The Acharnians/The Clouds Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442878
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

Aristophanes was born, probably in Athens, c. 449 BC and died between 386 and 380 BC. 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 honored 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, and The Wasps/The Poet and the Women/The Frogs.

Alan H. Sommerstein is head of the classics department at Nottingham.


Alan H. Sommerstein is head of the classics department at Nottingham.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Alan Sommerstein went to some length to translate the puns and plays on words (as further explained in the endnotes), which results in a very active play, and, for the careful reader, wit in nearly every line. He also uses the endnotes to explain further the Greek personalities mentioned in the plays, which adds to the understanding; my recommendation would be to read the play straight, then read the associated endnotes, then reread the play in question.
This translation captures the humor of the original, which ranges from low-brow slapstick to witty one-liners to political asides--a union of vaudeville, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Russell. However, what Sommerstein utterly misses is the form of ancient Greek comedy. The lyric choruses are rendered in choppy iambic lines, with many of them set to tunes from Gilbert & Sullivan. Aristophanes meant to use vulgarity in the acting, not in the lines of the Chorus.
Two stars for verbal wit, two stars for completeness of endnotes, and one star for my love of "Lysistrata", minus one star for excessive use of campy tunes.
(For those of you who do like his translations, or those just looking for the other eight plays, they are contained in two more volumes. Sommerstein collaborated with David Barrett in the volume Knights/Peace/Birds/Women's Assembly/Wealth, while Barrett translated Wasps/Women's Assembly/Frogs. Barrett takes less care with the translation of humor, but does not destroy the credibility of the choral lines.)
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Davies on November 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Brilliantly written and translated (quite a feat considering the many word-plays in ancient Greek...), this book (or any of Arsitophanes' plays for that matter) is a 'must read' for the humourist and the classisist combined. When the King of Syracuse asked Plato what he should read to understand how the average Athenian thought, he was instructed to read Aristophanes. You will be fascinated to see just how 'modern' the humour is, or, as the introduction explains, how 'ancient' our modern comedy is.

'The Clouds', inlcuded in this volume, is the imfamous play that Plato criticised Aristophanes over after the death of Socrates: he claimed that the parody of his teacher helped those who secured Socrates' death. I'd like to think Socrates did not concur. It has been reported that he bowed in good humour after witnessing the performance. Also, 'Lysistrata' is often used as a proto-feminist story - although it is much more interesting than that. Ancient Greeks have, as one of their chief virtues and downfalls a drive to be self examining and critical. It gives todays social relativists plenty of ammunition. Those that use it as an anti-war/peace-at-any-cost story, when it is actually against civil war, have not studied Aristophanes enough, or are prepared to ignore what doesn't work for their cause...
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir VINE VOICE on November 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have used this book repeatedly for my classes on women in antiquity, mostly out of habit. Professor Sommerstein's translation is extremely readable, but he is such a gentleman that the really flagrant double entendres of the Greek in "Lysistrata" and the "Acharnians" often pass unnoticed, or must be teased out of the text; and because they have often been rendered into a Scottish dialect, they must be explained. And when humor has to be explained--especially Aristophanic humor--it loses something of its ribaldry in the process of explanation. Nevertheless, the book makes for reading that is painless, pleasant, and usually terribly polite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Mease on July 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this collection to be on par with the other two volumes in the Penguin Classics library: filled with excellent and genuinely funny translations. This book, like the 'Frogs, et al.' features extensive end notes (which are very well done, but still sadly not footnotes). The 'Frogs, et al.' book has a better introduction, but this one is sufficient.
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By LikaD on April 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved the collection of these plays. Read all of them in a two days - couldn't do anything besides reading! Lysistrata was a bit cheesy, sort of like Juliette by Marquis de Sade.
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