The Bucket List Book Adventure: Book 16 - Clouds - Aristophanes


Dear Henry,

Book 16 of the Bucket List is DONE! Let me tell you all about Clouds by Aristophanes.

Aristophanes was born about 450 BC and was one of Ancient Greece's comedic playwrights. He is the only one whose work has survived. His career began about 427 BC with the play Diataleis. He may have written as many as 40 plays. However, most of his work remains fragmented. 

None of Aristophanes's plays are cohesive stories but relatively small, loosely connected scenes with a chorus occasionally breaking in. It reminded me a bit of a sketch comedy series you would find on  Saturday Night Live or Monty Python, and I wonder if this playwright is the progenitor of that type of comedy.

Clouds is Aristophanes' most notorious surviving play.

The play begins when Stepsiades, a distraught father who is completely bankrupt due to his son's gambling problems, enrolls in the philosophy school next door to learn how to stop his son from ruining the family.

It recounts the ridiculousness and faulty logic that Stepsiades and his son, Pheidippides, learn from the school and the primary philosopher, Socrates. Throughout the play, a Chorus regularly breaks in and tells the audience how great the play is. The Chorus also warns of comeupance.

After Stepsiades and Pheidippides receive their "education" (cue Pink Floyd's The Wall), Stepsiades uses his new "logic" to deny his debts and then flogs one of his creditors. 

The tables are turned on Stepsiades after he and Pheidippides argue about poetry, and Pheidippides beats his father. Pheidippides was quite spoiled if you ask me, and has twice victimized his father.

The play ends with a very upset Stepsiades burning down the school and throwing rocks at all of the students.

The play was written as a satirical attack on the Sophist school of thought and was interpreted as a personal attack on Socrates. However, Socrates was not a Sophist and also argued against the nonsense being taught in the various philosophical schools that had popped up all over Greece, like branches of the University of Phoenix. It may have been a joke, with Aristophanes using the well-known philosopher's name as a comedic character and believing everyone would see the humor.

No one thought it was a joke, and Clouds would sway public opinion on schools such as these and are believed to have contributed to the downfall and execution of Socrates.

It wasn't my brand of humor.  

It was of the bawdy, bathroom-type variety, and if you are a fan of Larry the Cable Guy, you will probably like this play.  

Next up is Meno by Plato, which is the start of some fundamental hard-core philosophy. I'll let you know what I think.

xoxo a.d. elliott

P.S. Check out the YouTube video here:


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, photographer, and storyteller currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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