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September 2008

Aristophanes in Translation

The comedies of Aristophanes pose a particular challenge for choosing a translation in English. His language is very close to the sensibilities of his time (or lack thereof by our standards!).  There are a number of issues which include dialect; speech patterns to denote social, economic, or political status; and especially, what today could be considered vulgarity.

Translations in English have tended to be overly "genteel", awkward, archaic or just downright silly. Furthermore, we need a translation that speaks and acts well in English. After all, these plays were written for competitive performance.

In choosing a translation for our reading, I selected Paul Roche's Aritsophanes, The Complete Plays (trans. Paul Roche) for its combination of directness and poetic attributes. Since there is no single translation that serves all purposes all the time: fidelity, scholarship, accessibility, and performance, two other translations I recommend for comparison include: