Great Book: Clouds, by Aristophanes

Aristophanes was a dirty old bugger.

Clouds features Socrates as a character. The edition I am reading has a great description of 'Aristophanic comedy' that sets the tone for it:

"I would ask the reader to imagine a dramatic combination of the slapstick of the Three Stooges, the song and dance of a Broadway musical, the verbal with of W. S. Gilbert or of a television show like Frasier, the exuberance of Mardi Gras, the open-ended plot line of The Simpsons, the parody of a Mel Brooks movie, the political satire of Doonesbury (or your favorite editorial cartoonist), the outrageous sexuality of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkein, wrapped up in the format of a Monty Python movie.

Clouds features Socrates as a major character. Strepsiades is in a ton of debt because his no-good son races chariots all day long. He tries to get the brat to go to Socrates' school to learn how to defend him in court from his creditors. When Pheidippides refuses, Strepsiades goes himself. Hilarity ensues.

Socrates is protrayed as a bumbling windbag. Aristophanes lived about 400 B.C. in ancient Athens, which means that Socrates was around, and could get all up in his face about it if he wanted to. He and Aristophanes must have been pretty good friends, or pretty serious enemies. One or the other.

It's hard to tell how close this is to political satire, as my translator claims, because the contemporary references are so obscure to the modern reader. At times it reads like a fraternity house production - the characters rag on the audience, and on random people who aren't in the play, and make inside jokes. And there are a lot of sex jokes. Hmmmm. Maybe I'm on to something here. Athens was a pretty small community according to modern standards, very male-oriented, had a lot of weird 'initiation rituals'....

Aristophanes and Socrates as fraternity brothers! Quick, someone adapt this for a Luke Wilson vehicle.

Yes, folks, this is what our culture was built on. Fun stuff! But like all plays, you'd be better off seeing it produced than reading it cold.

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