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Encyclopedia > The Clouds
The Clouds

statue of Socrates Image File history File links Socrates. ...

Written by Aristophanes
Chorus clouds
Characters Strepsiades
servant of Strepsiades
disciples of Socrates
Just Discourse
Unjust Discourse
Setting before the houses of Strepsiades and Socrates

The Clouds (Nephelae,Νεφέλαι) is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes lampooning the sophists and the intellectual trends of late fifth-century Athens. Although it took last place in the comic festival Aristophanes entered it in, it is one of his most famous works because it offers a highly unusual portrayal of Socrates. Many also find the play to be quite funny as an irreverent satire of pretentious academia. Sketch of Aristophanes Aristophanes (Greek: , ca. ... This page is about the ancient Greek philosopher. ... Greek comedy is the name given to a wide genre of theatrical plays written, and performed, in Ancient Greece. ... Note: This article contains special characters. ... Sketch of Aristophanes Aristophanes (Greek: , ca. ... Sophism was originally a term for the techniques taught by a highly respected group of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in ancient Greece. ... This article is about the capital of Greece. ... This page is about the ancient Greek philosopher. ... Academia is a collective term for the scientific and cultural community engaged in higher education and research, taken as a whole. ...

Aristophanes re-wrote the play after its initial failure, inserting an interlude into the middle of the action in which the playwright himself takes the stage and chastizes the audience for their poor sense of humor. Thus the play can also be regarded as one of the first instances of self-referential literature. A self-reference occurs when an object refers to itself. ...

The plot

The play opens with a citizen of Athens, Strepsiades (whose name, loosely translated, means slippery, deceptive, twisty, or scheming[1]), bemoaning the addiction of Pheidippides, his pretty-boy son, to horse-racing, and buying of expensive items and horses which has put him into deep debt. He recalls his own humble upbringing on a farm and curses his marriage to an aristocratic city woman, whose wealth he believes is responsible for spoiling his son. Pheidippides refuses to get a job. Socrates emerges in the play, explaining his descent from the heavens, and enters into dialog with Strepsiades. Pheidippides (Greek: , sometimes given as Phidippides or Philippides), hero of Ancient Greece, is the central figure in a story which was the inspiration for the modern sporting event, the marathon. ...

Socrates requires Strepsiades to strip naked in order to take him into the "Thinkery" (Phrontisterion). Aristophanes himself then appears on stage and explains his play with verse of some eloquence. The Thinkery is populated by starving students and pedantic scoundrels; foremost is Socrates' associate Chaerephon. After demonstrating a few of his patently absurd "discoveries" (for instance, the leg span of a flea, or the reason why flies fart) the great philosopher explains to him that the god "Vortex" has replaced Zeus: Chaerephon was a loyal friend and follower of Socrates. ...

Strepsiades: But is it not He who compels this to be? does not Zeus this Necessity send?
Socrates: No Zeus have we there, but a Vortex of air.
Strepsiades: What! Vortex? that's something, I own. I knew not before, that Zeus was no more, but Vortex was placed on his throne!"

(Hutchins, R.M. (Ed.) Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 5. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. [1]

Socrates goes on to explain that the Clouds (a chorus of insubstantial heavenly creatures) are the true arbiters of learning. He also follows him home and orders him under his insect-ridden bed blankets to think up a way out of debt. The lesson was of no use. In tragic plays of ancient Greece, the chorus (choros) is believed to have grown out of the Greek dithyrambs and tragikon drama. ...

Socrates (to Strepsiades): Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! I greatly fear, old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows. Now, let me hear what you do when you are beaten Strepsiades:I receive the blow,then wait a moment,take my witnesses and finally summon my assailant at law

The Eleven Comedies by Aristophanes Nephelae [2]

Socrates has to steal from the neighboring fight school in order to feed the students, and he later steals all of Strepsiades's clothes by the time he gives up on teaching him.

Upon learning this, Strepsiades tells his son what he has learned and encourages him to study under Socrates as well. Pheidippides arrives at the Thinkery, and two figures stage a debate (apparently modelled on a cock fight) designed to demonstrate the superiority of the new versus the old style of learning. One goes by the name Kreittôn (Right, Correct, Stronger), and the other goes by the name Êttôn (Wrong, Incorrect, Weaker). These names are a direct reference to Protagoras's statement that a good rhetorician was able to make the weaker argument seem the stronger; a statement seen as one of the key beliefs of the sophists. As the debate gets set up, the audience learns that there are two types of logic taught at the Thinkery. One is the traditional, philosophical education, and the other is the new, sophistic, rhetorical education. Right Logic explains that Pheidippides ought to study the traditional way as it is more moral and manly. Wrong Logic refutes him, using some very twisty logic that winds up (in true Greek comedic fashion), insulting the entire audience in attendance. Sophism (gr. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Protagoras (in Greek Πρωταγόρας) was born around 481 BC in Abdera, Thrace in Ancient Greece. ... Rhetoric (from Greek , rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral or written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities. ... Sophism was originally a term for the techniques taught by a highly respected group of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in ancient Greece. ...

Pheidippides agrees to study the new logic at the Thinkery. Shortly afterward, Strepsiades learns that the Clouds actually exist to teach mortals a lesson in humility. They have in fact been masquerading as goddesses of philosophy to reveal the airy and pretentious nature of academic learning and sophistic rhetoric: "We are," proclaims their leader,

Shining tempters formed of air, symbols of desire;
And so we act, beckoning, alluring foolish men
Through their dishonest dreams of gain to overwhelming
Ruin. There, schooled by suffering, they learn at last
To fear the gods.

Dejected, Strepsiades goes to speak to his son and asks him what he has learned. Pheidippides has found a loophole that will let them escape from their debts, but in the process he has imbibed new and revolutionary ideas that cause him to lose all respect for his father. The boy calmly proceeds to demonstrate the philosophical principles that show how it is morally acceptable for a son to beat his father. Strepsiades takes this in stride, but when Phedippides also begins to speak of beating his mother, the old man finally becomes fed up with the new-fangled learning of Socrates and, after consulting with a statue of Apollo, he seizes a torch, climbs on to the rafters of the Phrontisterion, and sets it on fire. The play's final scene depicts a vicious beating and thrashing of Socrates, and his bedraggled students, while they comically choke on smoke and ash. For other uses, see Apollo (disambiguation). ...

Despite its brilliance as a work of comic drama, which is almost universally agreed upon, The Clouds has acquired an ambivalent reputation. Some believe it was responsible for stirring up civic dissension against Socrates that may have contributed to his execution. The play's portrayal of Socrates as a greedy sophist runs contrary to every other account of his career: while he did teach philosophy and rhetoric to his students, he never took money for his teaching, and he frequently derided the sophists for their disingenuous arguments and lack of moral scruple. What Aristophanes intended by confounding Socrates with the sophists is perhaps impossible to determine now. However, the references to the play that Socrates made during his trial suggest that he was not greatly offended by The Clouds (he is reported to have obligingly stood and waved to the audience at the close of the play's first performance). Furthermore, Plato's Symposium, written after Clouds but possibly a purely fictional narrative, shows Aristophanes and Socrates quite amiably drinking together and speaking as friends. PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... The Symposium is a philosophical dialogue written by Plato sometime after 385 BC. It is a discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposion or drinking party at the house of...


  • William James Hickie, 1905 - prose
  • Benjamin B. Rogers, 1924 - verse
  • Arthur S. Way, 1934 - verse
  • Robert Henning Webb, 1960 - verse
  • William Arrowsmith, 1962 - prose and verse
  • Thomas G. West & Grace Starry West, 1984 - prose
  • Peter Meineck, 1998 - prose
  • Ian Johnston, 2003 - verse
  • Edward Tomlinson et al, 2007 - prose and verse (in production by Kaloi k'Agathoi)
  • Theodoridis, George,2007 -prose, [3]

Benjamin Bickley Rogers (Shepton Montagu, Somerset, December 11, 1828-Twickenham, September 22, 1919) was an English classical scholar. ... Arthur S. Way (1847- ? ) was an English classical scholar and poet, born at Dorking. ... William Ayers Arrowsmith (1924–1992) was an American classicist. ... Peter Meineck is a professor of classics and artist in residence at New York University, where he teaches ancient drama, Greek Literature, and classical mythology. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The Beautiful and the Good, Kaloi kAgathois Official Logo. ...

External links

  • The Clouds translated by William James Hickie, available at Project Gutenberg.
  • The Clouds translated by Ian Johnston
  • The Clouds: A Study Guide
  • On Satire in Aristophanes's The Clouds has a very good analysis of The Clouds and on satire in general.(Includes full version of the text with commentaries)



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