True to the formal conventions and the spirit of Aristophanes’ comedy of 414 BC, Paul Muldoon loads his translation of The Birds with topical reference, nudges and winks to the audience, and the dynamic lyricism of the Chorus at its centre.
The original play — an uncanny precursor of Beckett — begins with the determination of a number of lost creatures to make sense of their predicament by establishing a new city. The troubles which ensue resonate with contemporary significance. Paul Muldoon captures the mayhem with typical mischief and brilliance. His Birds achieves that combination of clarity and complexity for which his poetry is so rightly honoured.
‘Muldoon and Aristophanes looks like a marriage made, if not in heaven at least in cloud-cuckooland. The Birdsfeathers its nest with representatives of such exotic species as the Super-grouse, the Ombridsman and the frigg-it-bird as well as those Muldoon familiars, the widgeon and ‘the famous capercaillie’. Peisetairos and Euelpides, two fugitives from Athens, are looking for somewhere to live. They meet Tereus, who has been transformed into a hoopoe after a recent spot of rape and cannibalism. Peisetairos suggests to him that the Birds establish a new city in the sky, allowing them to rule over both gods and men. The attractions of Nebulbulfast, as Muldoon calls cloud-cuckooland, are chiefly sex and feasting, with menus that even run to birds on occasion. If Muldoon works in jokes about decommissioning and a ceasefire, he is continuing the tradition of parabasis, in which the dramatist interrupts the action to make personal comments through the chorus, though in fact Aristophanes uses this device much less in The Birds than in earlier plays.’ — London Review of Books
Year Published: 1999
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 244 8
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 245 5