Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Translation with wit but without true character of original, 30 Sep 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Aristophanes: Lysistrata /The Acharnians/The Clouds (Mass Market Paperback)
Alan Sommerstein went to some length to translate the puns and plays on words (as further explained in the endnotes), which results in a very active play, and, for the careful reader, wit in nearly every line. He also uses the endnotes to explain further the Greek personalities mentioned in the plays, which adds to the understanding; my recommendation would be to read the play straight, then read the associated endnotes, then reread the play in question.
This translation captures the humor of the original, which ranges from low-brow slapstick to witty one-liners to political asides--a union of vaudeville, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Russell. However, what Sommerstein utterly misses is the form of ancient Greek comedy. The lyric choruses are rendered in choppy iambic lines, with many of them set to tunes from Gilbert & Sullivan. Aristophanes meant to use vulgarity in the acting, not in the lines of the Chorus.
Two stars for verbal wit, two stars for completeness of endnotes, and one star for my love of "Lysistrata", minus one star for excessive use of campy tunes.
(For those of you who do like his translations, or those just looking for the other eight plays, they are contained in two more volumes. Sommerstein collaborated with David Barrett in the volume Knights/Peace/Birds/Women's Assembly/Wealth, while Barrett translated Wasps/Women's Assembly/Frogs. Barrett takes less care with the translation of humor, but does not destroy the credibility of the choral lines.)
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