Clouds (Focus Classical Library series) by Aristophanes. Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure Clouds. by Aristophanes, Jeffrey Henderson. Jeffrey Henderson, noted Greek scholar, has translated into English one of Aristophanes’ greatest comedies. Offered with detailed notes and an enlightening . Jeffrey Henderson has 26 books on Goodreads with ratings. Three Plays by Aristophanes: Lysistrata/Women at the Thesmophoria/Assemblywomen by.

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Clouds by Aristophanes (ebook)

Birds is the fourth in Henderson’s fine series of one-volume translations for the Focus Classical Library, the others being AcharniansClouds bothand Lysistrataa series I have found to be very useful and well suited as texts in my upper-year courses on comedy.

Henderson’s newest entry certainly lives up to the standard which he has set in the earlier volumes.

He begins with a short but comprehensive page survey of Aristophanes and Old Comedy, with an especially good section on the role of the demos and demokratia in relation to Old Comedy and some cogent thoughts 9 on the “rule of the three actors”. This gave me pause to consider the differences between Dionysia-plays and Lenaia-plays, especially the presence of the mechane.

Is it purely a coincidence that the three comedies that we know belong to the Dionysia CloudsPeaceBirds all employ the mechanewhile the four that we know are Lenaian AcharniansKnightsWaspsFrogs do not? This might lead one to conclude that two different theatres were in use in the late fifth century, and that we can answer the thorny question of the productions in Since Lysistrata does not use the mechaneit should be, as is often thought, a Lenaia-play, and since Thesmophoriazousai does, its production at the Dionysia would be confirmed.

His short essay on Birds is an excellent summary of the position adopted by Dunbar and Sommerstein, that neither is the play ironic or escapist, nor is it a concerned response to the events of the day the scandals of or the Sicilian Expedition. He stresses rightly the optimism and upbeat atmosphere of Athens inand concludes pace Hubbard and Bowie that “everyone else — birds, humans, and even gods — are better off under his new regime than they had been under the old” The student is encouraged rightly to read this play as “comedy” rather than as “satire”.

Comedy, unlike most other ancient genres, will be translated differently depending on the geographic location of the translator and his audience.


While Meineck’s recent volume Aristophanes Iincluding Birds is very British, Henderson translates the aristophannes into “contemporary American verse”, both for the reader and also for the producer “speakability being the principal stylistic criterion” [10]. At times the Americanisms jarred a bit: But on the whole, Henderson has given the reader an excellent version of Aristophanes’ best play.

Books by Jeffrey Henderson (Author of Three Plays by Aristophanes)

It reads well; it preserves the original line lengths, allowing the student to distinguish the iambics, the choral sections, the longer anapests, the trochaic songs etc.

In particular, I liked his double rendering of haidousin as “chirp” and “harp”, trochilos 79 as “roadrunner”, the alliteration of jeffrdy of a prodigious plan” for the original premnon pragmatos peloriou”crowbar” as an avian burglar’s tool, and Peisetaerus’ threat to Iris “how an old hulk like me can stay aloft for three rammings” which continues neatly the nautical metaphor of the Iris-scene. I especially enjoyed his rendering of physato pappous as “sprout some forefeathers” — I wish I’d said that, but then again I expect Aristphanes shall.

A few concerns about the text follow. In the agon he does employ longer lines, but the translation, especially of the early exchanges, doesn’t catch the grandiose paratragedy of the Greek text. At”Potter’s Field” is a nice try for Kerameikos, but the overtones of Judas Iscariot perhaps intrude too much.

At xouthos hippalektryonusually “tawny horsecock”, is translated provocatively as “zooming horsecock” — see Dunbar on Birds for this meaning of xouthos — but see also Taillardat’s Les Images d’ Aristophane visual explanation of the joke as applied to a military official.

Translations of Aristophanes inevitably need footnotes or endnotes or both to help readers with the unfamiliar allusions of comedy. Henderson provides brief but clear notes that will explain much for the novice, especially the splendid entry to on the parabasis proper. To on Tereus, he writes “In Sophocles’ play Tereus seems to have been portrayed as an uncouth barbarian”; I would prefer the explanation that Sophokles turned Tereus into a bird, perhaps even on stage. The note to could have been expanded to refer the reader to the scanty grain-doles mentioned at Wasps Two notes on p.

The note on tyranny at needs to include a reference to Bdelykleon’s complaint about the term at Wasps For readability this is an excellent version of Birds and one which I shall use when I teach Birds as a single text.

Clouds. Wasps. Peace

As for “speakability”, only the acid test of a production can answer that question. I looked at two areas of the comedy where the oral delivery of the text should produce a memorable result. First, the parabasis properthe parody of the Hesiodic and Orphic creation of the universe. Here we have been spoiled by Rogers with his rhyming anapests and internal echoes: There was Chaos at first, and Darkness and Night, and Tartarus vasty and dismal, But the Earth was not there, nor the Sky, nor the Air, till at length in the bosom abysmal, and recent translators have fallen short of that standard.


Here is Henderson’s rendering of the same lines: But in the boundless bosom of Erebus There is a rhythm of sorts and the alliteration in the second line will effect a nice delivery. We would have to hear a chorus performing these lines to get the whole effect.

I’m afraid that I read the parabasis with Rogers’ rhythms echoing in my mind, and the result was perhaps unfair to Henderson.

I looked also at the memorable trochaic songs of personal abuse,which should also linger in the memory. Again I think we have been spoiled, at least forwhere Arrowsmith produced jaunty four-line stanzas that reflected well the tone of the original: Many the marvels I have seen the wonders on land and sea, but the strangest sight I ever saw was the weird Kleonymos-tree.

Henderson’s version is more unstructured and packs less of a punch: Many wondrous novelties have we overflown, and many amazements have we seen. There’s a tree quite exotic, and it grows beyond Wimpdom, and it’s called Cleonymus.

The song about Orestes and the Socratic necromancy do come off better, but on the whole I am less certain about the “speakability” of this translation, and we shall have to await the results of an actual production.

Books by Jeffrey Henderson

To conclude, this is a clear, accurate and certainly clever translation of Birdswith a sensible introduction and very good bibliography. Instructors or students looking for only one comedy by Aristophanes to include in a course on drama or myth or ancient literature would not go aristpohanes wrong in making this their translation of choice. Bryn Mawr Classical Review Aristolhanes by Ian C. Storey, Trent University Word count: Books Available for Review.