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Birds


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A: Aristophanes Pf: 414 bc, Athens Tr: 1812 G: Greek com. in verse S: Cloudcuckooland, early 5th c. bc C: 21m, 1f, extras, chorusPeisetaereus and Euelpides have had enough of warfare and corruption and go to seek advice from Tereus, who has turned into a hoopoe. After failing to find somewhere on earth where they can live in peace, the proposal is made that the chorus of Birds should build a new state in the skies, called Cloudcuckooland. The two protagonists grow wings, and the new city is built. A large number of different characters now arrive, some wishing to join the new state, others with a complaint, like Iris, who expresses the gods' annoyance that earthly sacrifices are no longer getting through to them. Prometheus comes to reveal that the gods are starving, so the birds can drive a hard bargain and insist on restoration of their ancient rights. Poseidon and Heracles appear as ambassadors of the gods and are eventually persuaded not only to give power back to the birds but also to hand over Basileia (Sovereignty) for Peisetaereus to marry.

A: Aristophanes Pf: 414 bc, Athens Tr: 1812 G: Greek com. in verse S: Cloudcuckooland, early 5th c. bc C: 21m, 1f, extras, chorus

Written after the fragile Peace of Nicias had failed and at a time when the Athenians were embarked on an ill-fated naval expedition against Sicily, Birds, despite its celebratory nature, is a bitter comment by Aristophanes. It seems that birds are more competent at creating an ideal state than humans and that birds can order the world more effectively than the gods. While the chorus of different birds was (and remains) a pretext for lavish costumes, it is remarkable that the 22 speaking parts in the play were probably performed by only three, possibly four, actors. Peter Brook used some elements of Birds in his Conference of the Birds (1976).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Aristophanes (c. 448—380 bc) Greek comic dramatist


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