The plot is this. Euelpides and Pisthetaerus, two old Athenians, disgusted with the
litigiousness, wrangling and sycophancy of their countrymen, resolve upon quitting
Attica. Having heard of the fame of Epops (the hoopoe), sometime called Tereus, and
now King of the Birds, they determine, under the direction of a raven and a jackdaw, to
seek from him and his subject birds a city free from all care and strife." Arrived at the
Palace of Epops, they knock, and Trochilus (the wren), in a state of great flutter, as he
mistakes them for fowlers, opens the door and informs them that his Majesty is asleep.
When he awakes, the strangers appear before him, and after listening to a long and
eloquent harangue on the superior attractions of a residence among the birds, they
propose a notable scheme of their own to further enhance its advantages and definitely
secure the sovereignty of the universe now exercised by the gods of Olympus.
The birds are summoned to meet in general council. They come flying up from all
quarters of the heavens, and after a brief mis- understanding, during which they come
near tearing the two human envoys to pieces, they listen to the exposition of the latters'
plan. This is nothing less than the building of a new city, to be called Nephelococcygia,
or 'Cloud-cuckoo-town,' between earth and heaven, to be garrisoned and guarded by the
birds in such a way as to intercept all communication of the gods with their worshippers
on earth. All steam of sacrifice will be prevented from rising to Olympus, and the
Immortals will very soon be starved into an acceptance of any terms proposed. The new
Utopia is duly constructed, and the daring plan to secure the sovereignty is in a fair way
to succeed. Meantime various quacks and charlatans, each with a special scheme for
improving things, arrive from earth, and are one after the other exposed and dismissed.
Presently arrives Prometheus, who informs Epops of the desperate straits to which the
gods are by this time reduced, and advises him to push his claims and demand the hand of
Basileia (Dominion), the handmaid of Zeus. Next an embassy from the Olympians
appears on the scene, consisting of Heracles, Posidon and a god from the savage regions
of the Triballians. After some disputation, it is agreed that all reasonable demands of the
birds are to be granted, while Pisthetaerus is to have Basileia as his bride. The comedy
winds up with the epithalamium in honour of the nuptials.
EUELPIDES PISTHETAERUS EPOPS (the Hoopoe) TROCHILUS, Servant to Epops
PHOENICOPTERUS HERALDS A PRIEST A POET A PROPHET METON, a
Geometrician A COMMISSIONER A DEALER IN DECREES IRIS A PARRICIDE
CINESIAS, a Dithyrambic Bard AN INFORMER PROMETHEUS POSIDON
TRIBALLUS HERACLES SLAVES OF PISTHETAERUS MESSENGERS CHORUS
SCENE: A wild, desolate tract of open country; broken rocks and brushwood occupy the
centre of the stage.