Lysistrata

Lysistrata

Lysistrata

Lysistrata

Synopsis

This rollicking new translation of Aristophanes' comic masterpiece is rendered in blank verse for dialogue and in lyric meters and free verse for the songs. Appended commentary essayson Athenian democracy, ancient Greek warfare, Athenian women, and Greek Comedyoffer lively and informative discussions not only of Aristophanes, but of the broader fifth-century social, political, and cultural context as well.

Excerpt

I have esteemed Aristophanes’ Lysistrata since before I read a line of it. I heard as a teenager that one Greek comedy was about women placing an embargo on sex until their warring husbands made peace. “That must be a great story,” I said, lifting my head from Rousseau’s Confessions, which I had pulled from the family bookshelf and was searching in vain for dirty scenes.

When I got my hands on a Lysistrata translation, however, I was disappointed. the play was naughty enough, but somehow heavy and prim, too, and not particularly amusing. Long afterward, in studying ancient Greek, I discovered the pitfalls of translating Greek comedy: the humor in a line might depend on a particle, an element that does not exist in English but that Greeks could hardly utter a sentence without; an object or institution referred to might be awol from modern experience and have no functional equivalent; a joke that might have had Athenians gasping and scrambling for the latrines may just not be funny to us, though the gist is conveyed clearly.

Yet translations of comedy that left me stone-faced still seemed sick and wrong, and I persisted in thinking that more could be done. Sadly, I did not come across the excitement of Douglass Parker’s work until much later—or not so sadly: it was better for me to address certain problems on my own than to imitate his methods, as I would no doubt have done in my herostarved youth.

My commentaries on Greek history and culture are like those on Rome attached to my translation of the Satyricon of Petronius, only somewhat longer. I have written them in the same spirit, one many readers said they found welcoming and helpful. Neither here nor there have I made any attempt at comprehensive surveys of scholarship or in-depth historical narration. Those exist elsewhere, in giddy plenty. These commentaries are an effort to offer something I regret not having had when my own interest in classics surfaced: a resource that is both basic and—without apologies—entertaining. This effort has been a natural accompaniment to my ambitions in translating.

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