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Agora ∞ Greek Group Readings > Aristophanes' CLOUDS

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Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Preface

Genre: Comedy Drama, Attic Old Comedy
Setting: late fifth century BCE
First performance: 423 BCE
Characters: Socrates, Better argument, Worse argument, Strepsiades, Pheidippides, Chorus of Clouds.
Themes: "religion, politics, and sex...freedom of speech and thought" (page x)
Highly recommended alternative edition: Loeb Classical Library

message 2: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Notes on section of Introduction Aristophanes and Old Comedy

"We know the names of some fifty comic poets and the titles of some 300 plays"(1).

National festivals (Greater Dionysia, Lenaea) honored Dionysus and included competing theatrical productions (1).

Tragedy (stories from heroic myth), satyr-drama (more humorous tragedies with choruses of satyrs) (1-2).

Comic political comedy died out after the Athenian democracy ended about 404 BCE (2).

The word Comedy from "Greek kōmōidia, from kōmōidos ‘comic poet,’ from kōmos ‘revel’ + aoidos ‘singer.’" (3; dictionary)

Safe places for political and social criticism as well as for Utopianism (4).

Comic chorus in Clouds = "the guiding spirits of Socrates' Thinkery" (4).

Costumed actors and iambic poets (4-5).

" accurate depiction of public life, like a modern political cartoon" (5).

Objective in "Clouds", 423 BCE: actors persuade the spectators "to discard dangerous novelties" (5, 7).

Articulated "civic ideals" by contrast to the "status quo" (6). (Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World by Professor Daniel N. Robinson. Wait for the sale).

message 3: by Betty (last edited Nov 11, 2010 09:01AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Introduction Clouds, Aristophanes and the Athenian Enlightenment

Only a revision (419-416 BCE) of the play survives.

Plot: The schoolmaster Socrates teaches at the Thinkery, the school that teaches the new curriculum of sophistry and that debt-ridden Strepsiades enrolls Pheidippides his son in to help S evade his creditors (8).

Map of Greece depicts the peninsula between the Ionian and Aegean Seas.

Strepsiades, an older unsympathetic character choosing to do evil over good, demonstrates how not to react to the sophistic threat against custom (9-10).

Better Argument espouses the norms of tradition, its antagonist being sophism's Worse Argument, espoused by "...usually a foreigner, who possessed arcane [understood by a few] knowledge and had untraditional, often counter intuitive ideas, and who offered to teach these to anyone who could afford the high tuition fees" (10, 11).

Traditional education favored training in athletic and military skills plus instruction in honesty, modesty, deference to gods and elders; while sophism taught speechifying and debating--skills to persuade an Assembly or court--the virtues of wealth, power, and pleasure as well as the disregard of old gods for new ones and of lawlessness (11-12).

The debate between the Better and Worse Arguments (13)

The Cloud Chorus (13)

message 4: by Betty (last edited Nov 11, 2010 02:13PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Introduction Production

Plays circulated with text, generally omitting roles and directions which allowed for imagination to interpret the text.

FAQs about fifth-century BCE theater:
* Actors wore generic, or sometimes portrait, masks with corresponding costumes;
* About three male actors allotted by the city played twenty-four or more parts;
* A chorus of two-dozen appropriately costumed men sang and danced to music played by double-pipes in the circular orchestra, set in front of the stage and skene (scene);
* The two-hour play began with the actors' Prologue, continuing with the Parados (chorus' entry), the Agon (contest) between the actors and chorus, the Parabasis (self-revelation) of the chorus leader and chorus, and the actors' performances supplemented with the chorus.

Socratic Irony "Socratic Irony is when a person pretends to be [in] ignorance of something or someone in order to expose the weakness of another's position..."

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Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Scene I: Strepsiades, identified as "an old Athenian", worries about his financial affairs, criticizing his son Pheidippides, his slave, and his dead wife for extravagance, and importuning his son to learn the art of the Worse Argument to absolve his debts.

message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Scene II: Strepsiades explores the Thinkery, the sophistic school, himself, knocking on its door and being allowed into some of its mysteries only because he intends to become one of its pupils. A pupil guide addresses S's numerous questions with marvelous stories and answers, until their tour finally comes upon Socrates, the school's master, in a tree.

message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Scene III: Socrates initiates practical Strepsiades "into communion with the Clouds", the real deities, at the same time fulfilling the old man's wish to be a great orator.

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