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once there, he was no longer bound by facts, but developed the idea in full freedom of fancy.
There is surely much truth in this view of the play. It is quite plain that Aristophanes does give full reins to his imagination; and it seems absurd to tie him down and to make him consistently allegorize throughout. Yet this view may be held without disputing many of the resemblances and allusions pointed out by Süvern and others. For in sketching his birdland, his Utopia, an Athenian poet is sure to take Athens as his basis, excluding the bad and selecting the good. He does, in fact, mould a 'New Athens,' as Köchly terms it. And though doing it for amusement and relief, yet Aristophanes was sure to do it here and there with an idea of playful instruction. And with regard to particular characters-Peisthetaerus (who, whether he be left, as manuscripts write him, Ietéralpos, or be changed, as analogy seems to require, to Πειθέταιρος οι Πεισέταιρος, is certainly o Teilwv тòv étaîpov, a Mr Plausible, or 'Winfriend,' as Kennedy calls him) is very like Alcibiades, and several passages (e.g. 638-40, where his character is contrasted with that of Nicias) make this resemblance very pointed. Aristophanes may, therefore, have had Alcibiades in his mind when sketching his hero, though we can hardly agree with Köchly that he meant definitely to recommend as leader of the state one who was just then under such suspicion. But Peisthetaerus is after all a more general character, a character for all times; attended by his amusing squire Euelpides, as Don Quixote by Sancho Panza, whom, as has been long ago pointed out, Euelpides rather resembles. For the other characters it seems waste of time to try and find real counterparts; they may have had them, but possibly the Athenian public would interpret them as variously as the German critics. As there is in this play less of adaptation of the characters to definite originals (according to our view), so there is less of personal ridicule, which result, as some think, is also due to the abridgment of comic liberty by a recent law attributed to one Syracosius. But there were still plenty of subjects for ridicule. Among these were the gods, or at least some of them; and Kennedy points out how much of
the play (550 lines out of 1765) is "occupied with ridicule of the gods and their priesthood, and with details of their humiliation and defeat." One deity may be noticed as escaping here (though caricatured in THE PEACE), Hermes, whom, in the face of the late sacrilege on his busts, the poet dared not sneer at; the others are attacked wholesale. Hence Kennedy proposes, as the characteristic of THE BIRDS, that "it was meant to be an antidote to the religious fanaticism of Athens at that time." Ingenious as this is, I doubt this religious drift as much as the others. Few hearers of the play or readers would at once be struck with the opposition to the gods, or left with any strong impression against them. The opposition between the birds and the gods, between air and heaven, springs naturally from the idea of the airy commonwealth. And after all, the differences are settled amicably. And if Aristophanes meant to protest against religious terrorism, as shewn lately in the affair of the Hermae, surely to abuse generally other deities and spare Hermes was a rather unfair and ineffectual way of making his protest.
In fine, I would neither subscribe to nor propose any theory finding in THE BIRDS one consistent political drift and tendency. It is not (as Kock has shewn) half so true, as has been supposed, that all even of Aristophanes' earlier plays are consistent with themselves or with one another. THE BIRDS was written by Aristophanes, who was probably in a gloomy frame of mind about Athens, to relieve and amuse his audience. Let us not forget that he wrote mainly to amuse. In working out the details he gave free scope to fancy, but we still find him ridiculing and keeping out of his happy airy realm the very things which he elsewhere abuses. So far he is consistent; otherwise he is 'lege solutus.' Hence the characters are more general, they suit all time. We may find counterparts of Peisthetaerus, Euelpides, and others, in the creations of later writers or among our own friends and acquaintance.
And hence, I suppose, it is that THE BIRDS has been probably more read and more often edited and translated than any other play of Aristophanes. Of translators, Frere is in little
danger of being surpassed; his translation of the Parabasis is most beautiful. Professor Kennedy's translation is of a different kind, more helpful perhaps to the student, and as scholarly as the introduction to the play is learned and interesting. German scholars will find an excellent help in Kock, especially in his introduction.
I subjoin Beer's distribution of the dramatis personæ among the three actors: