Marie C. Marianetti (tr.), Aristophanes: The Clouds, an Annotated Translation. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1997. Pp. vii + 108, incl. endnotes and a selected bibliography. ISBN 0-7618-0588-5. US$23.50.
Thomas H. J. U. Talboy,
Centre for Ancient Drama and its Reception (CADRE), University of Nottingham
In her preface, Marianetti makes a statement of intent: 'My translation is an attempt to inform the general as well as the more specialized reader of what Aristophanes put on stage in 423 BC. I have tried to maintain a translation faithful to the original Greek, avoiding radical changes that would make [the play] conform to linguistic "fads"' (p. vii). Whatever Marianetti means by this, she does not make it clear in the introduction, in the translation or in any notes. Though she acknowledges in the introduction (pp. 2, 5f.) that the text we have of Clouds is a revision, Marianetti seems to overlook that what we have is not what was on stage in 423. By avoiding fads, perhaps Marianetti means that she wants to avoid using euphemisms when Aristophanes is explicit and not to use trendy explicit language when Aristophanes was subtle. However, there seem to be times when she is doing the opposite.
Unfortunately, a number of incorrect or misleading statements about Aristophanes, Athens, the Greek theater as a whole, and faulty bibliographic information mar this book. In her preface, Marianetti says, '[f]or this translation I have consulted Kenneth Dover's edition and Alan Sommerstein's translation' (p. vii).[] Unfortunately, the reader is nowhere directed to these works, indeed they are excluded from the bibliography. In the second paragraph of her introduction expectations are raised by what are nothing more than gratuitous assertions: '[Aristophanes] was the son of an obscure middle- class figure named Philip and a very domineering woman named Zenodora' (p. 1).[] Marianetti has nothing, however, to say about these two points in relation to Aristophanes and his comedies. In the bibliography, Bowie's book (Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual and Comedy) is not properly titled, Harriott and O'Regan are misspelled (as Harriot and O'Reagan). Throughout the book transliteration is not guided by any principles. For example, Marianetti transliterates, comos (p. 3), skene (p. 4), and prints the hybrid form Aeschylos (p. 103, n. 49).
In her description of the production of the play, Marianetti takes for granted the number of doors in the skene; though this may be understandable when presenting to a general audience, it is still of significant importance to the performance of the play and ought to be discussed. This is especially important when right from the beginning, we are expected to see Strepsiades and Pheidippides asleep in their house (does she intend this to be in front of the skene and on the ekkyklema?) and then just after line 125 she has Pheidippides going into the house and shortly thereafter, Strepsiades knocking on the door of Socrates' school. The use of the skene and other parts of the theater is debatable, but at the least the translator ought to make a firm statement of her vision of the blocking and the use of space.[]
The short discussion of the revision does touch on important aspects concerning the understanding of parts of our present text which are revised and which are not. Marianetti does well to point out the parabasis (518-562) and its implications for the failure of the first Clouds; the possibility of the agon being a substitute for one between Chairephon and Pheidippides; the probability of a choral song before the debate between the arguments; and, the possibility that the destruction of Socrates' school was created solely for the revised version. The Hypotheses, however, are not presented at all.
Marianetti gives a short summary of the plot (pp. 6f.), which for the most part is adequate. She then concludes her introduction with 'the underlying meaning' of the play (p. 8). In her interpretation, the play is more about 'cultural polarities' (p. 8) than a personal attack on Socrates. She applies to this discussion what she has previously developed, and her discussion of binary oppositions and what she sees as the possible relationship of Socrates' school to cultic origins sets the stage for an interpretation of the text. Marianetti focuses primarily on describing the play 'as a reflection of the conflict of opposites which it portrays' (p. 8) and states that the 'double role of the Clouds . . . embodies all the binary oppositions of the play, and epitomizes the conflicts which brought confusion to conventional citizens, and functioned as agents of the cultural change that took place in mid-fifth century Athens' (p. 9). These points are arguable, but further discussion is beyond the scope of the present review. []
In presenting the dramatis personae, Marianetti calls the Arguments 'Tradition' and 'Novelty,' reflecting her thoughts in the introduction and her previous work. She gives parenthetical notation that these equal the Better or Just Argument and the Worse or Unjust Argument, respectively, yet in the translation they appear only as Just and Unjust Arguments. The names Tradition and Novelty appear nowhere else. Likewise, the Koryphaios is named only in the dramatis personae with no other explanation and no other use of the title.
The translation is sometimes labored and inconsistent, with inadequate annotation. At line 94 Socrates' school is first identified by Marianetti as the Thinking Establishment, yet her stage direction has Pheidippides at line 865 going 'to the Thinkery'. This is the only instance of FRONTISTH/RION being so translated. In lines 528-529 Marianetti translates KATAPU/GWN as 'vicious'. Here she seems to recognize the probably vague meaning (that is, less a reference to homosexuality than a generalized derogatory). However, in line 909, where the same word is used in the same sense, Marianetti chooses to translate 'shameless fag'. In the first, is she avoiding using something like 'fag' because it is faddish? In the second instance is she falling prey to the very fault she claims to avoid? 'Fag' among gay men has come to be a playful mock insult, but I doubt that this use is so widely known to American English speakers (not to mention to British English speakers) that it could be used here in the case of line 909 to portray what Marianetti seemed to attempt without fad in 528. On the other hand, in passages like lines 709- 715, Marianetti doesn't hesitate to use once-unprintable words, and in a text such as Aristophanes, this is to be commended.
The notes are inconsistent in presentation, and often insufficient or even possibly erroneous. I will simply list a few problems here. Note 33 explaining that Centaurs 'mak[e] sexual advances to women and chas[e] nymphs' fails to address their homosexual exploits. (See both Dover's and Sommerstein's notes.) Note 42 sets Sounion in 'Athens' though it is in the southeast of Attica. Note 60 fits Marianetti's understanding of the play, but it overlooks the fact on which the passage is based, namely that the calendar was not in synchronization with the moon. Note 62, which refers to lines 658-663 concerning the discussion of natural and grammatical gender, is wrong. Socrates is not talking about case declension at all. Also, though Marianetti suggests a discussion of masculine, feminine and neuter, but there is no mention of the neuter in the text. Note 112 has a translation of Simonides fr. 2 (Page), which seems to be Sommerstein's, and if so, should be properly cited. Lastly, note 121 regarding the Barathron is questionable and misleading. What does 'behind the Acropolis' mean? The Barathron would have been near the north Long Wall outside the city.
Caution in using this book must be advised. The lack of guidelines for transliteration, misleading or erroneous information, the inadequate notes, and the faulty bibliographic material could well lead the first-time reader of Aristophanes astray, and give the specialist pause before using it in depth.
[] It is not clear which of Sommerstein's two translations (London: Penguin 1973, Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1982) she means. My references to Sommerstein are to the 1982 Aris and Phillips edition.
[] How Marianetti deduces her personality is a mystery. The evidence for the name of Aristophanes' mother is no older than Thomas Magister, see on Ar. test. 6, R. Kassel and C. Austin (edd.), Poetae Comici Graeci (PCG), Vol. III 2: Aristophanes (Berlin 1984) 7, and W. J. W. Koster, ed., Prolegomena de Comoedia I 1 A (Groningen 1975) 148.
[] Many detailed points are probably beyond the scope of Marianetti's book, but as one with particular interest in the shape and size of the fifth century Dionysos Theater and orchestra in particular, I find it hard to accept her blanket statement that there was a 'circular dancing space' (p. 4).
[] The reader will need to look to Marie C. Marianetti, Religion and Politics in Aristophanes' Clouds. (Hildesheim 1992), and the following reviews for further discussion of these points. Reviews: P. Walcot Greece and Rome 40 (1993) 254; E/. Des Places Bulletin de l'Association Guillaume Bude/ (1993) 419f; Ineke Sluiter Mnemosyne 48 (1995) 473-479; Walter Ameling Historische Zeitschrift 260 (1995) 518-520; and, E/. Scheid-Tissinier L'Antiquite/ Classique 64 (1995) 278f.