Standard Print Edition
The Clouds of Aristophanes
Forgotten Books, 2008, 83 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - August 17, 2010
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This comedic play by the fifth century BCE Athenian Greek playwright Aristophanes was written to satirize the playwright's contemporary philosopher Socrates, who is portrayed in a ridiculous fashion in the play. Strepsiades, a name meaning slippery and scheming, is upset because his son is addicted to horse racing and betting has put him in debt. He goes to the "thinking shop" where Socrates is teaching to find out from the man who he considers a faker, wretch, humbug, trickster, and quack, how he can deceive his creditors and not have to pay his son's debts.
Strepsiades finds Socrates' students lying on the ground with their head on the earth and their rumps high so that they can learn about the underworld while their rump is studying astronomy. He sees Socrates hanging from the roof in a basket because if one wants to speculate about the sun, one needs to do so near the sun.
Strepsiades conversation with Socrates is filled with nonsense designed to show that Socrates was at best a shyster who played with language but made no sense. The playwright shows that Socrates is neglecting religion and morality and that he is turning justice into nothing more than a sophistical sleight of hands. Socrates is made to say such things as Jupiter is not god; the true gods are the clouds; and thunder is not produced by Jupiter but by the clouds farting. Socrates advice to Strepsiades is similar illogical and nonsensical ideas. Indeed, Aristophanes portrays Socrates as a ridiculous Sophist, the group of people who trained their disciples how to persuade others through the use of language, a group that Plato, Socrates' pupil, says that Socrates despised.
Strepsiades realizes all these faults that Aristophanes portrays Socrates to have, and in disgused ends the play by setting fire to Socrates' "Thinking Shop."
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.