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The Birds and Other Plays

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,334 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Offering a window into the world of ordinary Athenians, Aristophanes' The Birds and Other Plays is a timeless set of comedies, combining witty satire and raucous slapstick to wonderful effect. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Greek by David Barrett and Alan H. Sommerstein.

The plays in this volume all contain Aristophanes' trademark bawdy comedy and dazz
Paperback, 336 pages
Published 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published -414)
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4.13  · 
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 ·  1,334 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people pride themselves on finding fart jokes and cock jokes unfunny. "It's the lowest form of humor!" they scoff, then try to direct you to something more sophisticated and mature. Well, it is refreshing to learn that fart jokes and cock jokes are precisely where Western humor began, and were good enough, indeed the specialty of, one of the greatest comic playwrights who ever lived. If elevated wit mixed with incisive social criticism are what you want, go read Bernard Shaw. If you want co ...more
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Well, that was enlightening. If you're someone who is concerned that Ancient Greece was all Oedipal complexes and gouged out eyeballs and such you'll be very relieved to read the plays of Aristophanes. Aristophanes isn't afraid of a dirty joke or scatological references or employing enormous fake phalluses as stage props. I know more about the personal grooming habits of the Ancient Greek women than I probably *needed* to know. I almost typed WANTED to know but then I realized that if someone ha ...more
Michael Arnold
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre-drama
These plays are hilarious!
Michael Canoeist
Was hoping, but not truly expecting, these would be funny plays. "The Birds" exceeded my hopes. Sitting outside by a swimming pool in Florida, surrounded by young adults on hedonism pilgrimages and even younger Spring Break'ers, I was the one laughing out loud. Oxford Classics editor Stephen Halliwell used different translators' versions of the four plays in this volume; this "Birds" was by Nan Dunbar, from 1995, and it made the play read as though it had been written two weeks ago.

I read "Lysis
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Aristophanes was not copied down through the ages because scribes thought he was funny, but rather for the peculiar Old Attic dialect used in the plays. Nevertheless, his plays represent the perennial virtues of comedy in their bombast and freedom of imagination - for instance, the setting of CloudCuckooLand in The Birds, and in Lysistrata the idea that the solution to war can be solved by boycotting penises. Where all past comedies appear antiquated, Aristophanes remains, to me at least, full o ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A must read
Isabel Lewis
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stephen Halliwell crafts accessible translations to Aristophanes' comedies, he is so skilled that he was able to make me laugh out loud to 2000 year old plays. In terms of my Classical Civillisation A-level and its topic on Greek drama, the introduction was extremely useful as it acted as both a revision guide and a source of new information. His explanatory notes are indispensable and gave the crucial context to each play simply. This book has provided me with my new favourite Ancient Greek pla ...more
This comedy ridicules the disastrous Greek expedition to Sicily in 413 BC. More generally, The Birds is a rollicking commentary on man's eternal dissatisfaction with his lot; his habit of ignoring the divinities which shape his ends; is crowded, evil-breading cities; and his tendency to disturb the equilibrium of the universe, Pisthetaerus, with his irresistible rhetoric, is a forebear of the men who sell salvation or the world's goods with equal glibness and ease.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, classics, zs2018
Some Favorite Quotes:
From the introduction to the Project Gutenberg version I read: the play appeals perhaps more than any other of our Author's productions to the modern reader. Sparkling wit, whimsical fancy, poetic charm, are of all ages, and can be appreciated as readily by ourselves as by an Athenian audience of two thousand years ago.

Undoubtedly; words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to heaven.
Bailey Allison
(*I only had to read "Birds" for class, but I have read Lysistrata before!)
I didn't really enjoy this play. I usually don't find Aristophanes funny, but I did like Lysistrata which I read last year. I think I'll develop more insight when my prof explains why we read this play.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I laughed out loud when I read the Lysinastrata.
2 for the edition 5 for the book itself.
I love these plays, even if it can be a bit indecent at times, there are so many fourth wall breaks and inappropriate jokes that it feels like it was written in the present. I was disappointed with the quality of the book though, the paper was thin, and the letters were often faint and smudged easily.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Acharnians, Peace, Assemblywomen, Wealth. Acharnians is pretty good at times, probably the best peace play, although it's nothing like as good as stuff like the Frogs or the Thesmophoriozusae. Highlights include the first Euripides sketch extant and a pretty good assembly episode. Peace is substantially made up of thanksgiving songs (Peace of Nicias is basically being celebrated), apart from some okay stuff about using a dung-beetle to fly to heaven, this is obviously the weakest play extant.

Jan 25, 2017 added it
It was refreshing to see such a different genre of comedy (so different from today's style of absurdist comedy). Also, very disorienting. I read this primarily for the Birds at a friend's recommendation (I tell stories about birds a fair bit), but learning about classical Greek comedic theatre was an eye opener. The introduction is very useful and well written.

My experience of the comedic style:
Everything, every subject of life is ridiculous (ridiculed and not worth taking seriously), but there
Elle Kay
Aug 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I very slowly tackled this one over the past month and while I was hoping to read all five plays, only The Knights and The Birds are the ones that held my interest. These two plays, especially The Birds, are incredibly witty and the humour translates well into modern day. They are also very scathing at times towards characters representing real people, usually politicians, of the day that Aristophanes truly disliked. He really enjoyed using this medium to target and ridicule his enemies. The int ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, humor
5 stars for Birds, which is hilariously mock-tragic and gloriously silly.

5 stars for Lysistrata, which is much more ribald, but still is at least mock-serious and quite funny.

3 stars for Assembly-Woman, which is a little too much slapstick and poop jokes. Maybe it's that Praxagora disappears for a while; she starts off as promising as Lysistrata but then sort of fades away.

4 stars for Wealth, which has its good parts (Poverty's arguments, Wealth's overall wimpiness), but also has a little too mu
May 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
This volume wasn't as much fun as the others, especially in later plays as they moved toward New Comedy. There were a few good gaffes and some very clever ideas going on, but I wasn't really too excited. I didn't find 'Birds' to be that interesting, regardless of how recommended it is in literary circles in terms of famous Aristophanic plays. I thought 'Knights' was probably the best of the lot and I especially appreciated the dung beetle routine.

All-in-all, you could probably skip this lot of p
Sophie (RedheadReading)
Bought this for my Greek comedy course. I find I prefer Menander to Aristophanes, possibly because he is slightly easier to read! I do like the fantastical elements to Aristophanes' work but just sometimes feel it a bit hard going to read a whole play. (or in the case of my essay, as many as possible in a day :P) However, the translation is very good and I do think in performance it would be much more enjoyable.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
FUNNY. Even after 2000 plus years! Lots of references that require endnotes, but if you can get past that - really enjoyable! Must have been such fun to watch back in the day when all of the references were contemporary.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
only read The Birds. lemme tell you, Aristophanes is a heck of a lot more fun than Greek tragedies. it's funny to see that the human sense of humor has pretty much not changed at all in thousands of years.
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, ancients
I only read The Birds. All potty humor...I guess people are people not only everywhere, but at every time.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Funny in parts with the toilet humour etc. interesting insight into life in those times. Some of the plays do go on a bit though.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: greek-roman
Aristophanes is a hoot. This book contains my favourite, The Birds.
Keith Currie
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Oct 16, 2014
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Ted Morgan
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Jan 19, 2013
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Ian Crouch
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Bec Fallas
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May 13, 2013
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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