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The plays in this volume all contain Aristophanes' trademark bawdy comedy and dazzling verbal agility. In The Birds, two frustrated Athenians join the birds to build the utopian city of 'Much Cuckoo in the Clouds'. The Knights is a venomous satire on Cleon, a prominent Athenian demagogue, while The Assembly Women deals with the battle of the sexes as the women of Athens infiltrate the all-male Assembly in disguise. The lengthy conflict with Sparta is the subject of Peace, inspired by the hope of a settlement in 421 BC, and Wealth reflects on the economic catastrophe that hit Athens after the war.
Little is known about Aristophanes' life (c. 445BC-c.386BC), but there is a portrait of him in Plato's Symposium. His first comedy was produced when he was 20 and he wrote 40 plays in the course of his life. David Barrett has translated a number of ancient Greek texts for Penguin Classics.