Summary of "The Birds" by Aristophanes

by Rob Kemmett

"The Birds" is a study of the human character and man's desire for power.

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"The Birds" is a comedic play written by the Athenian playwright, Aristophanes, that dates to before 400 BC. The play centers around Euelpides and Pisthetarus, two aging Athenian men who have grown tired of living a life in war-torn Athens. The men embark on a journey to not only escape their impoverished surroundings, but also to seek out Epops, the king of the birds who rules his land under a reign of peace. "The Birds" tells the tale of the journey that Euelpides and Pisthetarus make together to seek out king Epops in the hopes that they can live the rest of their lives in peace.

The Beginning

Euelpides and Pisthetarus discuss their dislike of the Athenian life and what it has become. Both men agree that Athens is full of too much war and poverty for them to enjoy the life they have left. They discuss ideas for how they can better themselves. The men receive word from a raven that there is a land afar that promises peace and happiness. Both men decide it is best that they leave Athens.

Heading Out

The men head toward the peaceful land of which they were informed. The land is ruled by Epops, the king of the birds. Euelpides and Pisthetarus find the land ruled by the king of the birds and discuss life with Epops. Epops listens to the men's tale of despair and understands their desire for peace. Epops decides to let them stay.

Law of the Land

The two convince the birds to build a new realm called Cuckoocloudland, in order to free the birds from the tyranny of humans and to separate humans from the gods. The birds put laws into place to maintain peace, responsibility and friendship with fellow birds, as well as humans. After Euelpides and Pisthetarus become citizens of Cuckoocloudland, however, humans begin coming into the land, and the birds do not take a liking to their presence.

Turning the Tables

The longer Euelpides and Pisthetarus live in Cuckoocloudland with the birds, the more they begin to lose touch with their humanity. The citizens of Cuckoocloudland treat humans who enter as enemies and take away their freedom. The birds, who created Cuckoocloudland to escape the tyranny of humans, turn Cuckoocloudland into a tyrannical land.

The End

The birds' plan to separate the humans from the gods is successful. Cuckoocloudland blocks the portal between man and gods; the gods grow weak and miserable. Barbarian gods threaten to start a war with the weakened gods unless the portal is reopened. To make peace, Pisthetarus agrees to marry Jupiter's attendant, Basilea. The two marry, but the gods are still not happy. The gods demand that portal between man and gods still be opened. Pisthetarus requires the gods to return the birds to their ancient power. The gods accept, and peace is made.

About the Author

Rob Kemmett began writing professionally in 2010 and specializes in writing about food and hospitality. Kemmett has worked in various fine-dining restaurants throughout his career and holds an Associate of Applied Science in Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.

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