Laws are like spider-webs which, if anything small falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape. — Solon of Athens

Stories from the Greek Comedians - Alfred J. Church



Many of Aristophanes' most famous plays, including Frogs, Wasps, Clouds, Birds, Parliament of Women, and others, are presented in this book. Church preserves enough dialogue and verse to give a flavor of the originals, but greatly condenses the material. Most of Aristophanes plays were set against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian War, and his works provide insight into the internal politics of Athens during this time. Several plays from later playwrights, including Philemon, Meander, and Apollodorus, are also given.

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TRAINING A CHORUS.


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Preface

It has been said that the Greeks had three schools of comedy—the old, the middle, and the new. The old was the "Comedy of Politics." It took the form of extravaganza or farce. The reader will find nine specimens of it in this volume, all taken from Aristophanes, who indeed is the only writer of this school that is left to us. With the middle we need not now concern ourselves. Possibly we may get some idea of what it was like from the Women in Parliament  and the Plutus, two of Aristophanes's later plays. The new comedy was the "Comedy of Manners." It may be compared with the dramas that bear this name on the modern stage, and also with the ordinary novel. We have it only in the translations of Plautus and Terence.

I have dealt very freely with my originals, not indeed adding anything, but leaving out much, translating sometimes, and sometimes paraphrasing. Of the liberty which I have allowed myself, I may give an instance. In the Acharnians  I have in one place translated "drachmas" by "guineas," though "shillings" would have been nearer the truth. But the context seemed to require it. It was necessary that the envoys should be thought overpaid, and the word "shillings" would not have given the impression.

I have many obligations to acknowledge. Perhaps my largest debt is to the translation of Mr. Hookham Frere. These I have even ventured to alter and compress, and to mingle with them some of my own renderings. I owe much to the admirable versions by Mr. B. B. Rogers of the Wasps  and the Peace, and to the editions of Mr. Merry, one of the most ingenious and felicitous of Aristophanes's critics. I would mention also a translation of the Acharnians  by Mr. Billson, and of the Women in Parliament  by the Rev. R. Smith. Mr. Lucas Collins's excellent summaries in the "Ancient Classics for English Readers" I have also found useful.

ALFRED J. CHURCH.

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