Henderson has produced a charming translation of one of Aristophanes’ most beloved plays. Although for the most part identical to the translation in his 2002 Loeb edition, the Focus Classical Library version will be useful for Greekless readers (undergraduates or general audiences) who will not require the Greek text or appreciate the higher cost of the Loeb edition.1 Henderson’s detailed introduction in particular will be quite valuable for undergraduate or general readers as well.
Henderson’s introduction includes brief and clear discussions of many topics that provide the reader with general knowledge about the poet, the play, and the context in which it was performed. Discussion topics include Aristophanes’ (limited) biography, the festival context of Aristophanic performance at the Greater Dionysia and Lenaia, as well as common subjects and themes of Old Comedy. Henderson also describes how the plays were produced and paid for, and discusses the derivation of
In addition to the comprehensive introduction, Henderson has also provided the reader with many explanatory footnotes. These notes offer pertinent information on the many people mentioned in the play, on general aspects of Greek culture, or on the original source for Aristophanes’ many quotations and parodies. (And, I would argue, offering such remarks in footnotes is particularly helpful, since students may not go to the trouble of looking up the information in endnotes.) The footnotes are so comprehensive that one even remarks that lines 1206-8 (deriving from Euripides’ Archelaus) preserve the original text of the tragedy before it had been altered by Euripides or even by the actors in a re-performance—it seems that these lines did not appear in the version of the play studied by ancient scholars of tragedy. Overall, I enjoyed Henderson’s translation—he employs lofty, tragic language when appropriate, but has also produced appealing translations of some quintessentially Aristophanic comic moments. These lines in particular occasioned a chuckle as I read: e.g., “bubbly ploppifications” (for
I have only a few minor quibbles with some of Henderson’s translation choices. The first is the translation of
Finally, typographical errors are relatively frequent in such a small book. I found examples of missing words or punctuation (“They were credited with pioneering poetic styles invective, obscenity and colloquialism,” p. 6); lack of capitalization at the start of a sentence (“brekekekex,” p. 37); and lack of bold face type to indicate a change of speaker (Euripides p. 73, Aeschylus p. 76). There are also several places where a word or two seems to have dropped out during the type-setting process: “its members impersonated a mixed (male and female, and perhaps young and old) initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries” (p. 6) and “Now each of pray before you say your piece” (p. 72). Some errors, such as the first error from p. 6, reproduce the errors in earlier versions of introductions to Henderson’s translations of Aristophanic comedy.
Overall, however, I find this translation of the Frogs to be entertaining and very readable. Furthermore, Henderson’s comprehensive introduction makes this translation quite useful for general readers or students at any level.
1. Jeffrey Henderson (ed.), Aristophanes : Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth. Loeb Classical Library 180. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.
2. N.G. Wilson (ed.), Aristophanis : Fabulae I. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.