Why Should I Buy This Book?
Greek Classics have long been the bedrock of a proper and
thorough education. Reading about the tracks and lives of our ancestors
cannot help but uplift us in our current life's path as it arms us with
lessons of the past. Tomes have been written on the subject, but to put it
in very modern, even economic terms, a recent article in the NY Times put it
into such a perspective with an article on what books one finds on the
shelves of the world’s most successful CEO’s. The article points out that
one doesn’t find “how-to-business books” on their shelves, but rather works
of philosophy, poetry, Greek classics, and other books of general knowledge.
Birds has long been hailed as one of the finest masterpieces
written by Aristophanes (ca. 456 BC – ca. 386 BC), the greatest of all
classical Athenian comic dramatists. First performed in 414 BC, at the
height of the Peloponnesian War, which pitted Athens against Sparta, the
play celebrates the extraordinary character of Athens in a manner that
is at once robust, lyrical, satiric, and full of ironic resonance. In
the play, two Athenians, Pisthetairos and Euelpides, seek to escape the
aggressively quarrelsome climate of Athens by hiking up into the
mountains to seek advice from the birds about where they might find a
more peaceful place to live, a city where they can relax and enjoy life.
But once they begin interacting with the birds, the Athenians cannot
resist persuading the creatures to organize themselves into a city
state, so that they can exert pressure on the gods above and men below
in order to gain power over them (for example, by controlling the gods’
access to human beings). The impromptu scheme escalates, and by the end
of the play, Pisthetairos has supplanted the gods and now rules
everything, an occasion which they all celebrate by eating a meal of
cooked birds. Much of the play is taken up with the bawdy, energetic,
and inventive comedy familiar to readers of Aristophanes. But underlying
the humor is an ironic exploration of the Athenian character, which is
far too restless and acquisitive, far too in love with ambitious
scheming and, above all, with language itself, so that it cannot resist
taking control of each and every situation.
Johnston’s new translation, which stays close to Aristophanes’ text,
captures the dramatic energy and the frequently shifting tone of the
original play. The English text is immediately accessible and will be of
particular interest to those interested in dramatic production. The
translation also includes footnotes to assist readers with some of the
more puzzling contemporary references.
This play can be previewed by following the link to the
preview page for this title.