Birds; Lysistrata; Assembly-Women; Wealth

By Stephen Halliwell; Aristophanes | Go to book overview
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This is the first volume of a new verse translation of Aristophanes. It contains his longest play, Birds, his sexiest play, Lysistrata, and two works from very near the end of his career, Assembly-Women and Wealth. Volume ii will contain the 'political' plays from the 420s, Acharnians, Knights, Wasps, and Peace; Volume iii the comedies on more 'cultural' themes, Clouds, Women at the Thesmophoria, and Frogs, as well as a selection of fragments from the lost plays. The translation is intended to have sufficient clarity and fluency to make it pleasurably readable in its own right, while retaining the historical accuracy necessary for those (not least the large numbers, in both schools and universities, now studying the ancient world in translation) who wish to gain a reasonably authentic feel of the fabric of Aristophanic comedy. The principles on which my translation is based are explained in more detail in the section of the Introduction entitled 'Translating Aristophanes'; see also the Note on the Translation. The Introduction as a whole offers a broad perspective on the plays and their cultural context; it is supplemented by Introductions to the individual plays which are fuller than those which often accompany translations. Taken together with the Notes and Index of Names, I hope these sections provide sufficient information as well as interpretative guidance to enable readers to develop their own appreciation of Aristophanes' work.

In the vexed matter of the spelling of ancient Greek names, I have aimed for reasonable but inevitably less-than-perfect consistency. In particular, I have sometimes kept familiar English spellings where their pronunciation assists the rhythms of the translation. Most dates are BC; the exceptions, especially in the part of the Introduction entitled 'Aristophanes and Posterity', will be obvious. The Index of Names contains only people, places, and institutions mentioned in the translation itself; technical terms relating to theatrical performance are explained in the general Introduction, in the sections 'Formality and Performance' and 'Stage Directions'. Finally, marginal numerals in the translation refer to the lineation of the Greek text.

S. H.

St Andrews,
Spring 1996

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