Lysistrata by Aristophanes

As you can see, there are no highlighted stars for this review. The reason for this is not because I loathed the play, but simply because I have read three different translations of Lysistrata, each unique in translation. If you read what appears to be a bad translation of the play, then that is not the fault of Socrates, but of the translator(s). With that being said, instead of one rating to finalize it, I am posting three ratings and reviews, one for each translation I have read; from the best to the worst. I will link the source of the play for each one.

Before I do, I’ll just say really quickly what I think of the play itself: When translated correctly, it’s really, really funny and engaging. I’ll elaborate more on it when I talk about the first translation.

With that being said, let’s get Aristophane’d (or UN-Aristophane’d for one translation)!

THE FIRST TRANSLATION:

Aristophanes: The Complete Plays

Translated by Paul Roche

Published by New American Library

Source: <a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NQGN56/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1&#8243; rel=”nofollow”>https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NQGN56/…</a&gt;

RATING: 4.5 STARS

From what I’ve heard on a taped lecture from a Brown University professor who specialized in Classic Greek lit and language, this book (to what he perceived) contains the closest translation we can (or just have) gotten to Aristophanes’ original play. When translating a work, you’re not only translating words, but also figuring out what they could have meant back then and how they were delivered. FOR EXAMPLE: If somehow over thousands of years the English language disappeared and people found remains of an American play, they might translate the word “rain” wrong, as we also have words pronounced is similar ways, such as reign and rein. All three of these words sound the same but have different meanings.

From what I’ve heard, Roche translated all of Aristophanes works (including Lysistrata) in a very articulate way. Reading the play from this book myself, I think I can agree with this professor.

This is probably the best and most faithful adaptation of Lysistrata that exists right now…but what does that also mean? It also means it most likely the crudest one that exists at this point, but that’s what also makes it better; for the original play written in Ancient Greek was very crude and did not shy away from sexual matters and foul language. This translation has a lot of sexual banter, some f-bombs, sexual slang, etc. There are references to penises (dicks and cocks), erections (what they call satyrism, satyritis, and other words that involve “satyr” is the play), vaginas (usually called c_nts), breasts (usually called “tits” in the play), and really any sexual organ and its slang word for it. Even though its vulgarities may scare those away, it’s also a really, really well written play that has, when of course translated well like this version, wonderful chemistry and at times stream-of-conscious like dialogue. I can credit this translation as well for it’s use of footnotes when something obscure is referenced. Very useful, indeed!

I found this version to have the best take on Lysistrata, herself. I loved how strong-willed and confident she was instead of being more lenient and…well, I’ll get to that translation in a little bit.

I’ve read this version three times and it never gets old. In fact, I think it gets a bit better with every viewing (there is some word play and references you don’t always catch the first time). They got the names of the characters right and they never reference anything outside of that time period (you’ll see what I fully mean by this , later). Overall? This version is an exquisite example of a superb translation that is close to the original work of Aristophanes. Bravo, Paul Roche! You deserve an M&M cookie.

SECOND TRANSLATION:

Lysistrata (Hackett Classics)

Translated by Sarah Ruden

Published by Hackett Publishing Co.

Source: <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.fishpond.com/Books/Lysistrata-Hackett-Classics-Aristophanes-Sarah-Ruden-Translated-by/9780872206045&#8243; rel=”nofollow”>http://www.fishpond.com/Books/Lysistr…</a&gt;

FINAL RATING: 3.75 STARS

I just want to let you know people, these are simply my opinions with SOME factual backup. I know some people absolutely love this translation of the play; and to it’s credit, the translator of course does have some backup. She has a PhD in Classics and has generated some very positive reviews about her works. This is simply my opinion of the translation. No hate comments needed.

I just gotta ask though…who drew the cover for this book? I don’t want to sound mean, but it’s just repugnant to look at. It creeps me out for some reason. I just wanted to get that out of the way…and I’m not rating the books based off that.

As I was going to say, I really don’t find this translation of Lysistrata that bad at all. In many ways it’s quite like Roche’s translation and keeps the names of the characters similar and their motives the same. So then why the lower rating?

I think I rated this one lower because of how I noticed Sarah Ruden tried to make the dialogue much shorter than it had been. In some parts, instead of long, Shakespearean-like prose, verse, and rhythm, some of those parts have been trimmed down to a mere couple sentences. Maybe Ruden assumed that a lot of the poetry Aristophanes used in this play was pointless to the play. If this is the case, then I wholeheartedly disagree. If it isn’t, I still don’t know why a lot of it is trimmed down. This would be okay for a beginner but if you’re studying for a class and assigned the play, then I’m not sure this would be the right translation for you.

I’m going to be honest, I thought it was boring for what it was trying to adapt. Lysistrata is supposed to be dramatic, crude, hilarious, and in many ways, dogmatic. This translation though is…satisfactory. Yes it is still engaging, but it lacks the substance that Roche’s translation had. Again, maybe Ruden thought the play should be taken on a more serious note instead of a comedic one. It depends on the perception of the translator and the reader. In my opinion, Lysistrata is comedy while hilarious and just plain weird at times, it’s also preaching the fact that women in Greece are mistreated, with the play itself using irony and clever word play to preach to it’s audience. In many ways you could even consider Lysistrata a feminist play (even though feminism wasn’t a concept then).

Overall, this adaption is alright. I read through it pretty quickly and still have it on my bookshelf. Maybe I’ll re-read it again, soon and see if I missed anything.

THIRD TRANSLATION

Lysistrata (Focus Classics Library)

Translated by Jeffrey Henderson

Published by Focus<br>Source: <a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PRHFW0Y/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1&#8243; rel=”nofollow”>https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PRHFW0Y/…</a><br><br>FINAL RATING: 1 STAR

Aye…

This translation is really bizarre. I mean it. It’s…very, very strange in a horrible way. I’d really love to sit down and have a serious talk with the translator.

I really hate to start using GIF’s in a serious review, but in this scenario, I just need them here to express how I felt about this translation.

Oh boy, where do I begin?

Okay, I’ll start off by saying the names are all correct. There. Done with the pro.Now its the cons.

First off, there are references to things hundreds if not thousands of years after the year this play was written and during the years it took place (around 431-404 BCE). In the intro of this edition, the translator speaks about modernizing parts of it. Alright, that actually sounds really interesting! A version of Lysistrata taking place in the 20th or 21st century? Why not?

That’s when this translation got…weird.

Calonice, one of the women who finally volunteers to join the sex strike, speaks about beforehand she would have rather burned her best pair of designer jeans. Then Lysistrata before this references women wearing high heels. Alright. It’s supposed to be a modern adaptation, right? Well, I thought so…until they all reference that they’re husbands are fighting in Sparta and want them back in Athens.

So…what the hell is this supposed to be? Does this take place in 20th-century America or in the 5th century BCE during the Peloponnesian war?? They didn’t have Old Navy back then and high heels were not even invented until the 14th century or later in Naples. Why are these things being talked about if it takes place in the 5th century! I’m assuming it’s the 5th century during the war, as in the beginning of the play they show a map of where the war was occurring in 421 BCE. I think my brain just fizzled a little bit.

There’s even a part where a Spartan soldier references Freud.

WHY!?

As for just the translation if you ignore all this modern BS in a 5th century society? I’ll tell you what it is. Repetitive and dull without a substance. That sounds very harsh, but it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Also the dialogue seemed very clunky in this version. There were parts I’d have to re-read five times an exchange of sentences between characters because I’d have no idea what the heck they were even talking about or why they were taking about it!

I somehow ended up finishing this, but it took much longer than it did the other two. This probably isn’t the worst translation of Lysistrata out there but it’s gotta be down there. At least the Spartan’s don’t have annoying Scottish accents like Jack Lindsay’s translation or Parker’s translation where they sound like hillbillies (because that makes a lot of sense, right)!? You just have to learn to identify a good translation and a bad one. I hope this review is helpful for some. Again, it is my opinion, but I do stand by these opinions strongly.

Also no, I am not reviewing Parker’s and Lindsay’s translations.

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