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Punishment by Radish

Emily Wilson: Aristophanes Remixed, 21 October 2021

Four Plays 
by Aristophanes, translated by Aaron Poochigian.
Norton, 398 pp., £29.75, March 2021, 978 1 63149 650 9
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... Athenian comedy of the fifth century BCE – mostly known to us through the work of Aristophanes – can be usefully compared to a number of different modern genres. Like traditional TV sitcoms, it featured typical or stereotypical characters, and showcased their ridiculous lust, avarice, stupidity and ambition. Like modern stand-up comedians or ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Aristophanes, 3 October 2002

... A new edition of Aristophanes’ Acharnians, by S. Douglas Olson, was published recently (Oxford, £65), in time for George Bush not to read it before he blunders into Iraq. Aristophanes’ earliest surviving comedy was first performed in 425 BC, six years into the Peloponnesian War ...

Oh What A Night (Alkibiades)

Anne Carson, 19 November 2020

... of entertaining one another with speeches in praise of love. Phaidros, Pausanias, Eryximachos, Aristophanes and Agathon have spoken; Sokrates is just subsiding to applause when a knock comes at the door. Alkibiades blunders in, very loud, very drunk and covered in garlands. Boisterous confusion follows. When they catch sight of one another Alkibiades and ...


Peter Green: Love in Ancient Greece, 8 May 2008

The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece 
by James Davidson.
Weidenfeld, 634 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 297 81997 4
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... enjoyed was seeing the wealthy, well-born and powerful held up to ridicule. Playwrights such as Aristophanes were not slow to oblige. It would be surprising if the aristocratic tradition of formalised pederasty did not come in for some heavy-handed mockery, and in Aristophanes’ Knights (which won first prize in ...

Eels Tomorrow, but Sprats Today

Peter Parsons, 18 September 1997

Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens 
by James Davidson.
HarperCollins, 372 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 00 255591 3
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... as it may, we can perceive at least a skirmish of lifestyles, of snobberies and anti-snobberies. Aristophanes paints a paradigm fantasy in Wasps. The little fella, whose income and enjoyment came from sitting on the citizen jury at twopence a day, gets transformed into a socialite and joins the ton for another aristocratic inheritance, the formal dinner ...

Laugh as long as you can

James Davidson: Roman Jokes, 16 July 2015

Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling and Cracking Up 
by Mary Beard.
California, 319 pp., £19.95, June 2014, 978 0 520 27716 8
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... oral exchanges. Jokes seem quickly to have become something of an industry. Already in Aristophanes’ Wasps the fashionable son recommends that his vulgar father memorise the jokes he hears at the symposium so that when he gets into drunken brawls on the way home he can persuade his victims to laugh it off instead of suing for damages. He is ...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley, 18 May 2000

To Ireland, I 
by Paul Muldoon.
Oxford, 150 pp., £19.99, March 2000, 0 19 818475 1
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by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.99, February 1999, 0 571 19762 0
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The Birds 
translated by Paul Muldoon, by Richard Martin.
Gallery Press, 80 pp., £13.95, July 1999, 1 85235 245 0
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Reading Paul Muldoon 
by Clair Wills.
Bloodaxe, 222 pp., £10.95, October 1998, 1 85224 348 1
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... but the comic side of the classics has been strangely neglected. On the face of it, Muldoon and Aristophanes looks like a marriage made, if not in heaven at least in cloud-cuckooland. The Birds feathers its nest with representatives of such exotic species as the Super-grouse, the Ombridsman and the frigg-it-bird as well as those Muldoon familiars, the ...

Homer Inc

Edward Luttwak, 23 February 2012

The Iliad by Homer 
translated by Stephen Mitchell.
Weidenfeld, 463 pp., £25, October 2011, 978 0 297 85973 4
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... now have them: Zenodotus of Ephesus, the first librarian of the Museum of Alexandria, fl. 280 BCE; Aristophanes of Byzantium, its fourth librarian; and the sixth librarian and most important Homeric scholar of the three, Aristarchus of Samothrace. Surviving bits of Homer on earlier papyri as well as Homer citations by earlier authors show that there were large ...

Facing both ways

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 19 August 1993

Bisexuality in the Ancient World 
by Eva Cantarella, translated by Cormac O Cuilleanain.
Yale, 284 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 300 04844 0
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... however, appear for the most part to have been content with heterosexual love. In the Symposium Aristophanes tells the company a myth which seems to throw much light on attitudes to sex in Plato’s time. Human beings were originally twice as large as they are now, and had four arms, four legs, two faces and two sets of genitals. Then Zeus cut them in ...

To Anthony Thwaite at Fifty

Clive James, 4 December 1980

... class="highlight-term">Aristophanes Well, Anthony, by now the secret’s out Of what this book is really All About. The heavyweights have weighed in in your praise With mighty line and lapidary phrase Whereby both Life and Death are shown to be Imbued with enigmatic majesty. To ...

Into Extra Time

Deborah Steiner: Living too long, 23 February 2006

Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton 
by Emily Wilson.
Johns Hopkins, 289 pp., £35.50, December 2004, 0 8018 7964 7
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... this can be culture-specific, a response to current, lamentable times. It’s the running joke of Aristophanes’ Frogs – produced after Athens’s crushing defeats in the Peloponnesian War and staged in a city in such dire financial straits that impresarios couldn’t afford suitable dress for their choruses – that a trip to the underworld is ...

God’s Will

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: Do you speak Punic?, 22 May 2003

Bilingualism and the Latin Language 
by J.N. Adams.
Cambridge, 836 pp., £100, January 2003, 0 521 81771 4
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... as if God could die and leave a will, as the none too bright Heracles imagines Zeus might do in Aristophanes’ Birds. However, although Adams discusses Jerome, Augustine and other Christian authors intermittently, there is no general consideration of the effect on the Latin spoken by Christians of subliterary Greek, itself subject to Hebrew or Aramaic ...

Ave, Jeeves!

Emily Wilson: Rom(an) Com, 21 February 2008

Plautine Elements in Plautus 
by Eduard Fraenkel, translated by Tomas Drevikovsky and Frances Muecke.
Oxford, 459 pp., £79, November 2006, 0 19 924910 5
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Plautus: ‘Asinaria – The One about the Asses’ 
translated by John Henderson.
Wisconsin, 252 pp., £13.50, December 2006, 0 299 21994 1
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Terence: The Comedies 
translated by Peter Brown.
Oxford, 338 pp., £9.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 282399 1
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Terence: Comedies 
translated by Frederick Clayton.
Exeter, 290 pp., £45, January 2006, 0 85989 757 5
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... as a school text is one reason so much of it is still extant: 21 plays, compared to only 11 by Aristophanes. Roman comedy does, of course, emerge from a particular historical moment. But enjoyment of it does not require any specific knowledge of history or politics. Somebody who reads Plautus without knowing anything about Rome’s wars with Carthage will ...

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