Places: The Clouds

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Nephelai, 423 b.c.e. (English translation, 1708)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social satire

Time of work: Fifth century b.c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedStrepsiades’ house

Strepsiades’ Clouds, Thehouse (strehp-SI-eh-dees). Home of Strepsiades, a plodding but solid citizen of Athens who is hounded by creditors because of debts incurred through the excesses of his son Pheidippides. His home appears to be a typical middle-class Athenian household. Pheidippides sleeps in a room next to his father’s, and servants are quartered close enough to come when called. Strepsiades’ room doubles as an office in which he works his accounts–which mostly concern paying his son’s bills.

Thinkery (Thinking-School or <i>phrontistérion</i>)

Thinkery (Thinking-School or phrontistérion). House owned by the philosopher Socrates, who is conducting scientific experiments when he is first approached by Strepsiades, who finds him suspended in a basket “contemplating the sun.” This laboratory-like environment is a cross between a place of wonder and a madhouse. Groups of students stare into the ground, studying the underworld. Strepsiades sees a number of scientific instruments used by the students in their investigations. When Socrates appears, he enters from above, lowered down on a winch used in the tragedies for the entrance of gods from the heavens. This is followed by a visit from a chorus of clouds, brought down from the heavens as part of Socrates’ politically dangerous examination of things beyond the earth.


*Athens. Cosmopolitan Greek cultural center of late fifth century b.c.e. The Athens revealed by the play’s two houses bustles with intellectual activity. It is also a center of commercial activity, and the high level of culture is indicated by the leisure available to Strepsiades’ young son Pheidippides, who has squandered a fortune on horse racing. The allegorical figure Right sees the Athenian marketplace and public baths as the source of the boy’s corruption.

BibliographyAristophanes. The Clouds. Translated by William Arrowsmith with sketches by Thomas McClure. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962. Discusses the history of the play and how it was originally performed. Claims Aristophanes is exploiting Socrates as a convenient comic representative of sophistic corruption. Excellent notes and glossary.Arnott, Peter. An Introduction to the Greek Theatre. London: Macmillan, 1959. Examines Aristophanes as a comic writer. Asserts the satire of The Clouds is lost to an audience with no understanding of sophistic philosophy.Butler, James H. The Theatre and Drama of Greece and Rome. San Francisco: Chandler, 1972. Claims Aristophanes was the greatest master of Grecian Old Comedy. Says The Clouds shows the decadence of Athens as well as the Sophists who corrupted it. Places The Clouds in the context of Old Comedy.Hadas, Moses. A History of Greek Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953. Asserts that Aristophanes handles Socrates kindly compared to other Greek playwrights. Covers the history of The Clouds’ production as well as modern audiences’ reactions to the treatment of Socrates in the play.Snell, Bruno. Poetry and Society: The Role of Poetry in Ancient Greece. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. Claims Aristophanes sees most wise men as mere busybodies and fools, such as he portrays Socrates to be in The Clouds. Compares the play to other dramatic works.
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