|Greek vase depicting a scene from Aristophanes' "The Birds."|
|Costumes for "The Birds." My impression is that the comic elements of the plays|
depended on costumes and gestures, not only the words that have come down to us.
"The Birds" is a comedy by the Greek dramatist Aristophanes, written in 420-415 BCE. The two main characters in the play travel to the land of birds, and talk with the hoopoe who is their leader. These somewhat dim men want to found a bird kingdom which will challenge the authority or even replace the kingdom of the gods headed by Zeus and Hera. My reading of this classic hasn't been very successful. I really don't have the background to understand what it all means, and I'm left rather confused. As a birder, I loved the characterizations of all the different birds -- owls, eagles, the nightingale, the ostrich, the goldfinch, and many more. But I'm afraid I don't really grasp what the play was trying to say. As I mentioned, I think it was funny because of costumes and actions, not just because of the text.
I decided on this rather weird choice of reading because the bird kingdom in the play is called "Cloud Cuckoo Land" -- it's the source of that expression, meaning a crazy-mixed-up world. And that expression is the title of Anthony Doerr's new book, which I also tried to read. The book, too, is difficult and it has a lot of classical references, including quite a bit about "The Birds." I wanted to improve my comprehension -- but I'll talk about that later when I finish reading the novel.
More importantly -- when I was fairly far into reading, I realized that the Kindle edition of Cloud Cuckoo Land that I had purchased from amazon was defective -- missing the last 100 pages or so. In particular, the copyright page was missing! I seemed to have a pirated edition. Although this kindle version was listed on the main page for Doerr's novel, it was very cheap, and when I looked carefully, it was from a rogue publisher, not Scribner, the real publisher. So I returned it and decided instead to buy the hardback edition which should be reliable. I decided to read the play while waiting for delivery.
I have tried to contact either amazon or Scribner's to report to them that this fake and incomplete Kindle book is listed on the main amazon page for the novel, but there isn't any way to contact either of them over this problem. I guess publishers don't want to be bothered with communications, as too many people would be trying to convince them to publish their books. And I guess amazon.com just doesn't want to be bothered with anything. I did get my money back, that works.
UPDATE, December 9, 2021: The pirated kindle version seems to have disappeared from the amazon website. I wonder if my seemingly futile efforts to inform them actually worked, or if a lot of people bought and returned the defective counterfeit edition.