The Birds



  • The buoyant comedy by Aristophanesthat is usuallyconsidered his masterpiece. It was first performed in 414 BCin Athens, when the war against Sparta was going well. The play'sheroes, Peisthetaerus and Euelpides, leave Athens to create a utopianamed Cloud-cuckooland between heaven and earth with thehelp of the birds. They have abandoned their beloved city for onereason, as Euelpides says:
    Aye, the cicalas chirp upon the boughs
    One month, or two; but our Athenians chirp
    Over their lawsuits all their whole life long.

    The Birds is Aristophanes's most gentle work to survive,never mentioning the war or attacking public policy. Some critics,however, see a cleverly disguised political commentary, in which Peisthetaerusis the archetypal manipulative politician and the birds are the publicwho are always duped. The play may also criticize the Athenians forbelieving that they can accomplish anything - with the utopiain the sky representing the defeat of Sparta.