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Four Plays: The Clouds/The Birds/Lysistrata/The Frogs

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  6,054 ratings  ·  80 reviews
This volume brings together the four most acclaimed comedies of Greek playwright Aristophanes. The darker comedy of The Clouds satirizes Athenian philosophers - Socrates in particular - and reflects the uncertainties of a generation in which all traditional religious and ethical beliefs were being challenged. The Birds takes place in a flawed utopia, with man's eternal fla ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published November 1st 1984 by Plume (first published 1983)
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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,054 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't want the Greeks brought to me, I want to be brought to the Greeks. If you modernise so much, and add all sorts of bits of your own invention, just to make a potentially "performable" play for a modern audience, what is left? I want the strangeness, the oddness, the Otherness....that is the whole point for me of reading this sort of thing...
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I don't always love Aristophanes; he can really cram the obscure contemporary references into his stuff, which makes it sortof impossible to get the jokes. But he makes a lot of fart jokes, too, and those are timeless.

In order, the best of these plays:

1) Lysistrata, by a long shot. The most original of Aristophanes' ideas, and the most timeless: as recently as 2012, feminists sarcastically suggested a Lysistrata when the Republicans accidentally launched an ill-fated war on birth control. The st
I read this alongside Dudley Pitt's translation with the same title, because it includes The Clouds instead of Ladies' Day. It's my first foray into Aristophanes, whom I heard about and read fragments of his plays for decades, and he's turned out to be one of those cases when reading them late had its benefits, namely having a better grasp of the historical context for his plays set round the Peloponnesian War.

My favourite of the four classic comedies was Lysistrata. My edition's translation mad
Roy Lotz
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Although such evidence is hardly scientific, I can’t help but think that Aristophanes’s continuing enjoyability of more than two millennia shows something essential about human nature. It’s really incredible, when you think about it. Ancient Athenians, living in a different political system, with an entirely different conception of the world and their place within it, with different customs and rituals, different sexual mores, and far inferior technologies—in short, a set of cultural and environ ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers...
Although I am a student of classical antiquity, and studied classical Greek in college, I have never been able to work up more than an academic interest in Aristophanes. While I can see the importance of his work - both as a social commentary on the Athens of the fifth-century BCE, and as a cornerstone of the comedic tradition in Western drama - I have never truly been able to ENJOY his plays. I was surprised therefore, by how much I liked the production of The Frogs that I recently saw performe ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Reading Greek tragedy and then reading Greek comedy is quite the experience. It's sort of like attending a symphony and then half way through being magically transported to a middle school boys' locker room where scatological humor and sexual jokes run wild. Some of it is so over the top (incessant farting and fart jokes in The Clouds) but other jokes are pretty dang funny. For example, The Lysistrata, where the Greek women go to heroic lengths to successfully end the Peloponnesian War by withho ...more
lysistrata is one of the classic texts of world literature. the others are cool, too, as author is nothing if not worthy of one's attention.
I'll just use this Book review to get something down for my future reference for all the Aristophanes plays I have so far read. At this stage, I've read most of the famous ones apart from the Clouds, Pace and the Thesmophoriozusae (both of which I think I might read in the Greek, cause i got a good copy of both Peace and the clouds with a commentary and Thesmophoriozousae is on my syllabus) and I've left the poorer, more transitional plays till last (Wealth, Eccleziazousae) as well as the Acharn ...more
Stuart Dean
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I accidentally chose the wrong four plays on Goodreads, as I read Four COMEDIES of Aristophanes, not Four Plays. But two of those comedies were Lysistrata and The Frogs so I'll go with it anyway. These plays are full of ribaldry and off color jokes, not really Safe For Work. As with most plays they really need to be seen performed instead of read, as there is much physical comedy involved. Also would help to be an Athenian from 5th century B.C. Greece, as these were written during the Peloponnes ...more
Clint Joseph
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay you guys, you can call it dorky, and that's fine, but I really love Aristophanes. And not because I get to say things like "oh I really love Aristophanes," but admittedly, that is part of the fun. Because I feel like when you find a good translation of anything (in this case William Arrowsmith knocks it out of the park all the way around on the first two plays), you feel like you've learned a magic trick. Greek plays from 400 BC are supposed to be hard, right? Turns out when you have somebo ...more
Danger Kallisti
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, classicists, people who like good comedy
Shelves: classics
The thing which most impressed me about this book was that the plays are dialectically translated: that is, Roche not only follows the originals as literally as possible, he uses modern slang to capture the cultural connotations, double entendres, and dirty jokes of the Ancients in all their accurate glory. Bet you hadn’t realized that we’ve been making strap-on jibes for a long, long time, huh?

Of course, Lysistrata was my favorite play, and not just because it gives power to women in a way you
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
There's really 4 works here, so 4 reviews there must be (from best to worse, IMHO):

Lysistrata 2 Thumbs Up
Brilliant, original (at ~2500 years old, it should be!) concept, and humorously executed. Athenian and Spartan women plot to withhold sex from the men to force an end to the disastrous and interminable Peloponnesian War. Great to see strong females at this early stage.

The Birds 1.5 Thumbs Up
Again, great concept. Athenians wish to escape litigious Athens and live the simpler life amongst the B
Ana Mardoll
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ana-reviewed
Four Plays by Aristophanes / 0-452-00717-8

This edition features wonderful translations of "The Clouds", "The Birds", "Lysistrata", and "The Frogs". The humor and satire is well-managed within the translation, particularly within (my favorite) "Lysistrata". The bantering dialogue within the play is hilarious from the exhortations of the women to their fellow sisters to abstain from sex with their men (regardless of their own strong, womanly desires) to the tongue-in-cheek dialogue between a teasi
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure I liked this translation very much. The translator took some very interesting liberties with the language, including giving the Spartans a markedly southern hick sort of drawl, and modernizing the language to the point of losing a sense that you're reading a Greek play written hundreds of years ago.
BUT, I loved how that worked with Lysistrata. It's a beautifully funny play to begin with, and the modern touches added an interesting element.
It's particularly relevant to me as I've b
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read "The Frogs" this week.

At first, I wasn't laughing. But then I started to embrace the play as something with a touch of the silly slapstick humor of, say, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and something of the biting political humor of Lenny Bruce. And I found myself laughing out loud.

Oh, what a marvelous delight this must have been for the Athenians! An opportunity to laugh in 25 years into the Peloponnesian War. To laugh at the war, the politicians, and themselves. To hug the lines o
Scott Cox
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, plays, mythology
These four plays (The Clouds, The Birds, Lysistrata, and The Frogs) translated by Arrowsmith, Lattimore and Parker are hilarious! Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed the contemporary, somewhat irreverent language which helped bring to life the ways that Aristophanes was poking fun at his Greek forefathers and rivals. For example, the following excerpt is from "The Clouds:" "Sokrates. The boy's a born philosopher. Yes, sir, when he was just a mite of a shaver, so high, he used to make the cleverest t ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Did anyone else feel like these plays were really all over the place? I mean Cloudcuckoland? A bunch of women who withhold sex in an effort to take the city? The clouds vs/as the gods? Some parts were very amusing. I guess you can see where people get their appreciation for random humor after reading this. But honestly I really was not terribly impressed. Many of the jokes were frankly just confusing by the end of it all. Boloney anyone? Really how did that get in there? I also think perhaps the ...more
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
I've never been a fan of broad comedy and low humor and Aristophanes doesn't get a pass from me because he's ancient. But for many years one of the assignments in my AP Lit class was for groups to choose a play from Aristophanes and the three extant tragic playwrights. Usually, the group that chose Aristophanes would do Lysistrata and those groups always had a great time with it. They especially loved that one of the props were the huge phalluses that the men wore. One year the group brought out ...more
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my first time reading Aristophanes, and I have always heard he's a comedic genius, but I was blown away by how modern some of these jokes are. The obscure poking at his contemporary politicians and others were hard to understand, but the amount of wordplay and other jokes hold up well. Part of that may be the translation as they do preface the amount of jokes are updated to modern times, but even then it's remarkable how well they were able to turn his poetic stanzas to a modern ear and ...more
Blue Mountains Library
Three different translators have brought these ancient Greek plays into language modern enough for us to easily grasp their meaning. Lysistrata is probably the most popular: who can resist a storyline like this? The women of Athens are fed up. All the men seem to do is go to war, no fun for anyone. Deciding on direct action, they call in the women of Sparta and the Peleponnese, and suggest that steadfast withdrawing of sexual favours unless the men negotiate a peace is definitely the way to go. ...more
I'm giving this 4 stars, not because I loved the book, but because I thought the edition was great, the notes very informative, the translation "true" in that you got the modern version of what the Greek might have been. As far as actual enjoyable reading, I'm not sure. I really liked The Clouds and I thought the exploration of sophistry was very astute. It felt true even now. The humor is a little out of reach for me (potty and sexual humor), but any different culture will have a different kind ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
*THE BIRDS only*

It's normally possible for me to read a translated work and at least try to forget the fact that I'm reading a piece of translation. In the case of this translation, however, almost every word drove the point home. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however; Arrowsmith's work calls attention to itself in a way that forced me to treat the text as more a scaffold for ideas than a piece of crafted language (he explains this in great detail - and with more eloquence than I can muste
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This translation of Aristophanes is really readable and raunchy. I read The Clouds and The Birds. Will have to check out again to read Lysistrata, which I find cited pretty often. The butt stuff alone makes it worth a read.

Was surprised to find the satire of the Sophists leveled in The Clouds relevant to pseudo-scientific bloviation of our own time.

The introductions, commentary, and notes included in this edition were helpful. However, this translation is clear enough that you don't have to sp
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Unstoppably funny. The Clouds is an old favorite and the Frogs a more recent discovery but Aristophanes is definitely my sense of humor; certainly, I find him much funnier than Menander, who is more a chore than anything else for me. How could I forget Lysistrata?!

This edition, in particular, is dear to me. I think that translation is especially good and, since first being exposed to it in college, I've met one of the still-living translators, Douglass Parker. Parker is as funny as you would exp
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017, classics, comedy
Out of the four plays contained here, I liked Lysistrata the best. I might read other translations of that particular play too. The Clouds was meh, and The Birds was actually not as bad as I thought from reading the description of it. But The Frogs was lost to me, probably because it's mainly about the technical styles of Euripides and Aeschylus—both of whom I read, like YEARS ago.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Aristophanes never fails to please. If you think ancient plays will only be funny for people living in ancient times, then you are sorely mistaken. the same rules for humour apply, which means that comedy really is timeless. From the bawdy sexual protests of Lysistrata to the political dealings within the clouds, Aristophanes is a playwright that defined the comedic genre and it's easy to see why.
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I only read The Clouds, The Frogs, and Lysistrata from this book. I am not impressed by the profanity of Aristophanes. The poet had much to say about the life and times of Greece including politics, the philosophy and wars of his day and he portrayed his opinions through his plays. Not much difference between that and the theatre of our day. However, I must say that I prefer to read Sophocles and Aeschylus much more than Aristophanes due to their higher morals and standards.
Dec 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I read Lysistrata after I read the Frogs. Lysistrata was better than The Frogs and really worth reading. The women of Athens withhold sex from their husbands until they agree to end the war with Sparta. It's fun and an entertaining comedy. For kicks, listen to Frank Deford's NPR commentary about a modern day update of Lysistrata set in a basketball context.
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Read The Frogs last semester for theater history, The Birds for dramatic structure comedy this semester. I prefer The Frogs (knowing the Sondheim musical helped), but The Birds had its moments. Unfortunately, the notes on Aristophanes' obscure references were presented as endnotes, instead of footnotes, which got annoying. Still, amusing.
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
I read "The Birds" and "The Clouds." These plays are well done, but as I continued through the second play, I found myself tiring of reading plays. The humor was great though and they were well translated.
Honestly, what I appreciated the most in this text was the fact that flatulent-based humor was alive and well in 350 BC!!
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Aristophanes (Greek: Αριστοφάνης; c. 446 BCE – c. 386 BCE) was a playwright of ancient Athens.

About 11 of his works are known in full, and they are the only plays of the "Old Comedy" style to have survived. They are The Acharnians, The Birds, The Clouds, The Ecclesiazusae, The Frogs, The Knights, Peace, Plutus (Wealth), The Thesmophoriazusae, and The Wasps. These plays have been translated into m