vision in Clouds: Socratic method doesn’t burn

Strepsiades: Holy Amazon … what a night, Dr. Fauci! Two Ambien, three Tylenol, and only a splitting headache. The cock crow was hours ago. I never got up. The morning wood is gone. Must be the Ambien. If the MiraLAX doesn’t work, I’ll die full of crap.

And there’s my son, a pasty young fellow, farting peacefully, asleep in his silk onesie. He never has to get up to piss, not a prostate problem in the world. He was once a bed-wetting baby. He just grew out of it. Well, I’ll try to sleep like a baby.

Can’t do it. My mind’s racing even with the Prozac. My mother-in-law is going to move in with us and bring along the wife’s three-year-old “consolation” baby. No consolation to me. The kid’s not my son.

The wife says she’s lonely because of the covid lockdowns. The mother-in-law, too. The three-year-old isn’t allowed to get a covid vaccine. Science says. The kid’s going to give me covid. Three-year-old Aristotle is going to kill me. I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!

Phidippides, waking up: Dad, are you alright?

Strepsiades: I’m not alright. You know that!

Phidippides: I thought I heard you say you couldn’t breathe.

Strepsiades: I can’t breathe just thinking of your mother’s three-year-old moving in with us, along with your grandmother. Can’t you teach that old lady to keep herself company with video games like you do? I’m going to die of covid from Ari. The kid’s not vaccinated!

Phidippides: You’re vaccinated.

Strepsiades: But the kid’s not vaccinated!

Phidippides: Don’t worry about it.

Strepsiades: And what about the kid? Do you want your little baby half-brother to die of covid? You know nothing about science. All you do is play video games. Life isn’t a video game. This is serious!

Phidippides: Just let me sleep.

Strepsiades: By Dr. Fauci, I wish I had never married your mother. I was just a farmer, happy with my honeybees, sheep, and pressed olives. Elderberry syrup kept away all illnesses. Nobody could believe how healthy I was. I came to this city to sell some honey. Then your wealthy, haughty, pampered mother gazed on me. The rest is herstory. I’ve felt sick ever since!

Phidippides has fallen asleep while Strepsiades was talking.

Strepsiades: What a calamity! What am I to do? … That’s it! That’s the problem. That’s the solution! Questions aren’t allowed during a public health emergency!

Think of the children. They are particularly vulnerable with their soft minds. A three-year-old must be isolated as much as possible from hearing persons talking. It’s bad enough that I might accidentally ask a question and threaten the safety of my wife’s child. But it’s far, far worse. That scoundrel Socrates is operating a Thinkery right next door to me!

A student calls from outside the Thinkery next door: Teacher! Socrates! Please!

Socrates: Who do you say that I am?

Strepsiades shouts out his window: Stop asking questions! We’re in a public health emergency! Have faith in science!

He rushes out to confront Socrates.

Student to Socrates: You’re a teacher who still teaches.

Socrates: I ask questions. You teach yourself.

Student: I have no one else. The corona virus is killing us.

Socrates: You have the whole world.

Student:

Sunshine, blue skies, please go away.
My school is closed, and my friends have gone away.
With that went my future, my life is filled with gloom,
and day after day I stay locked up in my room.
I know to you, it might sound strange,

but I wish it would rain,
oh how I wish it would rain.

‘Cause so badly I wanna go outside,
but everyone knows that a boy ain’t supposed to cry.
Listen, I gotta cry ’cause crying eases the pain, oh yeah.
People, this hurt I feel inside, words could never explain.

I just wish it would rain,
oh, let it rain, rain, rain, rain,
ooh baby, let it rain,
oh yeah, let it rain.

Socrates:

Come, you gorgeous Clouds, appear.
Show yourselves to this fellow here.
Whether you’re lolling on Olympus now
on pinnacles in drifts of snow,
or whether you set the nymphs in motion,
among the flowers of father Ocean,
or whether the waters of the Nile are sucked
by you in vessels golden-cupped,
or if by Lake Maeotis you
dwell above in steeps of snow,
accept this offering of mine
and let these rituals be benign.

{ ἔλθετε δῆτ᾿, ὦ πολυτίμητοι Νεφέλαι, τῷδ᾿ εἰς ἐπίδειξιν·
εἴτ᾿ ἐπ᾿ Ὀλύμπου κορυφαῖς ἱεραῖς χιονοβλήτοισι κάθησθε,
εἴτ᾿ Ὠκεανοῦ πατρὸς ἐν κήποις ἱερὸν χορὸν ἵστατε Νύμφαις,
εἴτ᾿ ἄρα Νείλου προχοαῖς ὑδάτων χρυσέαις ἀρύτεσθε πρόχοισιν,
ἢ Μαιῶτιν λίμνην ἔχετ᾿ ἢ σκόπελον νιφόεντα Μίμαντος·
ὑπακούσατε δεξάμεναι θυσίαν καὶ τοῖς ἱεροῖσι χαρεῖσαι. }

Clouds enter and sing:

Clouds everlasting,
let us arise,
revealing our dewy bright form,
from deep roaring father Ocean
onto high mountain peaks
with tresses of trees, whence
to behold heights of distant vantage,
and holy earth whose crops we water,
and divine rivers’ rushing,
and the sea crashing with deep thunder.
For heaven’s tireless eye is ablaze
with gleaming rays.
So let us shake off the rainy haze
from our deathless shape and survey
the land, with telescopic eye.

{ ἀέναοι Νεφέλαι,
ἀρθῶμεν φανεραὶ δροσερὰν φύσιν εὐάγητον
πατρὸς ἀπ᾿ Ὠκεανοῦ βαρυαχέος
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων κορυφὰς ἔπι
δενδροκόμους, ἵνα
τηλεφανεῖς σκοπιὰς ἀφορώμεθα
καρπούς τ᾿ ἀρδομέναν ἱερὰν χθόνα
καὶ ποταμῶν ζαθέων κελαδήματα
καὶ πόντον κελάδοντα βαρύβρομον·
ὄμμα γὰρ αἰθέρος ἀκάματον σελαγεῖται
μαρμαρέαισιν αὐγαῖς.
ἀλλ᾿ ἀποσεισάμεναι νέφος ὄμβριον
ἀθανάτας ἰδέας ἐπιδώμεθα
τηλεσκόπῳ ὄμματι γαῖαν. }

Socrates: Oh elegant Supremes, you have heard my cry and answered me. Now back in my arms again!

He turns to Strepsiades: Did you hear their voices and in concert the bellowing thunder of holy awe?

Strepsiades turns to address the clouds:

O most honored sacred goddesses, to your thunderous claps
I respond with farts, that’s how much I fear.
And right now, if allowed or not, I need to piss!

{ καὶ σέβομαί γ᾿, ὦ πολυτίμητοι, καὶ βούλομαι ἀνταποπαρδεῖν
πρὸς τὰς βροντάς· οὕτως αὐτὰς τετραμαίνω καὶ πεφόβημαι.
καἰ θέμις ἐστίν, νυνί γ᾿ ἤδη, καἰ μὴ θέμις ἐστί, χεσείω }

Socrates:

Don’t be scurrilous like those mediocre comic playwrights.
Quiet! The great swarm of goddesses is moving in song.

{ οὐ μὴ σκώψει μηδὲ ποιήσεις ἅπερ οἱ τρυγοδαίμονες οὗτοι,
ἀλλ᾿ εὐφήμει· μέγα γάρ τι θεῶν κινεῖται σμῆνος ἀοιδαῖς. }

Chorus:

When the moon is in the seventh house,
and Jupiter aligns with Mars,
then peace will guide the planets
and love will steer the stars!

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius,
the age of Aquarius,
Aquarius,
Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding,
sympathy and trust abounding,
no more falsehoods or derisions,
golden living dreams of visions,
mystic crystal revelation
and the mind’s true liberation,
Aquarius,
Aquarius!

Student:

By Zeus, Socrates, I beg you, tell me who they are,
these women who sing so solemnly. Are they mortal heroes?

{ πρὸς τοῦ Διός, ἀντιβολῶ σε, φράσον, τίνες εἴσ᾿, ὦ Σώκρατες, αὗται
αἱ φθεγξάμεναι τοῦτο τὸ σεμνόν; μῶν ἡρῷναί τινές εἰσιν }

Socrates:

Not at all. They are heavenly Clouds, great goddesses for idle persons.
From them we receive judgment and dialectic and intellect,
and fantasy, endless talk, and power of verbal thrust and parry.

{ ἥκιστ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ οὐράνιαι Νεφέλαι, μεγάλαι θεαὶ ἀνδράσιν ἀργοῖς,
αἵπερ γνώμην καὶ διάλεξιν καὶ νοῦν ἡμῖν παρέχουσιν
καὶ τερατείαν καὶ περίλεξιν καὶ κροῦσιν καὶ κατάληψιν. }

Leader of the chorus:

Friend, either you’re closing your eyes
to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
by the presence of a Thinkery in your community.
Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here
I say, trouble right here in Athens City.
Why sure I’m a certified doctor,
certainly mighty proud I say,
I’m always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
with a book in my hand are golden –
helps you cultivate horse sense
and a cool head and a keen eye.
Ever take and try to find
an iron-clad thought for yourself
on a four-part vaccine shot?
But just as I say,
it takes judgment, brains, and maturity to score
in the learning game.
I say that any boob can take
and shove a thought in a body
and I call that sloth
the first big step on the road
to the depths of deg-ra-day–
I say, first, Socratic talk with a great aunt,
then books from a library!
An’ the next thing ya know
your son is questionin’ too freely
in philosopher’s clothes
and list’nin to a big out-a-town thinker
asking questions about opioid treatin’,
not wholesome science respectin’, no!
but a case where they think things out for themselves!
Like to see some stuck-up thinkin’ boy
questioning Dr. Fauci? Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say.
Now, friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six levels of true science.
Levels that mark the diff’rence
between a scientist and a bum
with a capital “B,”
and that rhymes with “T” and that stands for think!
And all week long your Athens City
youth’ll be fritterin’ away,
I say your young men’ll be fritterin’
fritterin’ away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Get the thought out for questionin’,
never mind doin’ what science be saying,
or the store-door notice or the newest mandate.
Never mind pumpin’ any water
’til your parents are caught with the cistern empty
on a Saturday night and that’s trouble.
Yes, you got lots and lots of trouble.
I’m thinkin’ of the kids with curiosity,
Greekless young ones, peekin’ in the think
hall window after school, ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in Athens City.
Trouble with a capital “T”
and that rhymes with “P” which leads to Q for questioning!

Now, I know all you folks are the right kind of parents.
I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
on while they’re loafin’ around thinkin’?
They be tryin’ out Plato, tryin’ out Horace,
tryin’ out Latin lit like cigarette fiends!
And braggin’ all about
how they’re gonna cover up Socrates with jive talk.
One fine night, they leave the Thinkery
headin’ for the dance at the Arm’ry!
Cynic men and Latin-speaking women!
And Roman elegy, scienceless music
that’ll grab your son, your daughter,
with the arms of Ovid’s animal instinct!
Mass-staria!
Friends, the active brain is the devil’s playground!
Trouble!

Chorus:
Oh, we got trouble.

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus leader:
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus leader:
We’ve surely got trouble.

Chorus:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City.

Chorus:
Right here!

Chorus leader:
Gotta figure out a way
to keep the young ones in science after school.

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…

Chorus leader:
Mothers of Athens City!
Heed that warning before it’s too late!
Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption.
The moment your son leaves the house
does he take with ’em his dog-eared ancient Greek dictionary?
Is there a hexameter lilt in his dinner prayer?
A Greek novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he starting to memorize lines from Virgil’s Aeneid?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like, like “epic”?

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus leader:
Aha! And “the tears of things”?

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus leader:
Well, if so my friends,
ya got trouble.

Chorus:
Oh, we got trouble

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus leader:
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus leader:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here!

Chorus leader:
They be readin’ Oedipus, Socrates, and Diogenes.
Oh, we got trouble.
We’re in terrible, terrible trouble.
That study with the ancient, odd-shaped letters is the devil’s tool!

Chorus:
Devil’s tool!

Chorus leader:
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus:
Oh yes we got trouble here! We’ve got big, big trouble!

Chorus leader:
With a “T”!

Chorus:
With a capital “T”!

Chorus leader:
Gotta rhyme it with “P”!

Chorus:
Gotta rhyme with “P”!

Chorus leader:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Strepsiades:

So that’s why they compose verses like
“dire downdraft of humid clouds zigzaggedly braceleted,”
and “locks of hundred-headed Typhus,” and “blasting squalls,”
and “airy scudders crooked of talon, birds swimming on high,”
and “rain of waters from dewy clouds.” Then, as their reward,
they stuff themselves with huge fish fillets and thrush cutlets!

{ ταῦτ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἐποίουν “ὑγρᾶν Νεφελᾶν στρεπταίγλαν δάϊον ὁρμάν”,
“πλοκάμους θ᾿ ἑκατογκεφάλα Τυφῶ”, “πρημαινούσας τε θυέλλας”,
εἶτ᾿ “ἀερίας διεράς”, “γαμψούς τ᾿ οἰωνοὺς ἀερονηχεῖς”,
“ὄμβρους θ᾿ ὑδάτων δροσερᾶν νεφελᾶν”· εἶτ᾿ ἀντ᾿ αὐτῶν κατέπινον
κεστρᾶν τεμάχη μεγαλᾶν ἀγαθᾶν κρέα τ᾿ ὀρνίθεια κιχηλᾶν. }

Student: Are these really clouds? I see some ordinary women wearing sheep-fleece dresses. Do clouds have noses that look like human noses?

Socrates:

Have you ever looked up and seen a cloud resembling a centaur,
or a leopard, or a wolf, or a bull?

{ ἤδη ποτ᾿ ἀναβλέψας εἶδες νεφέλην κενταύρῳ ὁμοίαν
ἢ παρδάλει ἢ λύκῳ ἢ ταύρῳ }

Student: Yes, yes I have. So what?

Socrates:

Clouds turn into anything they want. Thus, if they see a long-haired doctor,
one of these furry types like Rachel Levine, they mock her obsession
by making themselves look like centaurs.

{ γίγνονται πάνθ᾿ ὅτι βούλονται· κᾆτ᾿ ἢν μὲν ἴδωσι κομήτην
ἄγριόν τινα τῶν λασίων τούτων, οἷόνπερ τὸν Ξενοφάντου,
σκώπτουσαι τὴν μανίαν αὐτοῦ κενταύροις ᾔκασαν αὑτάς. }

Socrates continues:

Now think. Men’s risk of dying from covid is about twice that of women. Is Rachel Levine’s risk from covid like that of a woman or a man?

Student: Abstract gender category doesn’t control risk particularity.

Strepsiades: Stop your hateful thinking before you’re beaten or imprisoned. Thinkers like Socrates asking questions is why my wife’s three-year-old can’t move in with us. If it weren’t for questions, that kid would already be vaccinated.

Socrates:

Learn from your own experience.
Have you ever gorged yourself with soup at the Panathenaea
and then had an upset stomach, and a sudden turmoil sets it arumble?

{ ἀπὸ σαυτοῦ ᾿γώ σε διδάξω.
ἤδη ζωμοῦ Παναθηναίοις ἐμπλησθεὶς εἶτ᾿ ἐταράχθης
τὴν γαστέρα καὶ κλόνος ἐξαίφνης αὐτὴν διεκορκορύγησεν }

Student:

By Apollo I have! It does carry on terribly and shake me up,
and like thunder that bit of soup crashes and roars terribly,
gently at first, pappax pappax, and then stepping up the pace, papapappax,
and when I shit it absolutely thunders, papapappax, just like those clouds!

{ νὴ τὸν Ἀπόλλω, καὶ δεινὰ ποιεῖ γ᾿ εὐθύς μοι καὶ τετάρακται,
χὤσπερ βροντὴ τὸ ζωμίδιον παταγεῖ καὶ δεινὰ κέκραγεν,
ἀτρέμας πρῶτον, παππὰξ παππάξ, κἄπειτ᾿ ἐπάγει παπαπαππάξ·
χὤταν χέζω, κομιδῇ βροντᾷ, παπαπαππάξ, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖναι. }

Strepsiades: I’m going back into my house to get more social distance from you two. You should keep quiet and stay safe.

Going back into his house, Strepsiades sees his mother-in-law talking with her grandson Phidippides.

Grandmother singing:

I can turn the gray sky blue,
I can make it rain whenever I want it to,
oh, I can build a castle from a single grain of sand,
I can make a ship sail, huh, on dry land,
but my life is incomplete and I’m so blue,
’cause I can’t get next to you.

I can fly like a bird in the sky,
hey, and I can buy anything that money can buy,
oh, I can turn a river into a raging fire,
I can live forever if I so desire,
unimportant are all the things I can do,
’cause I can’t get next to you.

I can turn back the hands of time,
you better believe I can,
I can make the seasons change just by waving my hand,
oh, I can change anything from old to new,
the things I want to do the most, I’m unable to do,
unhappy am I with all the powers I possess,
’cause boy you’re the key to my happiness,
and I can’t get next to you.

Grandson, you’re blowing my mind,
’cause I can’t get next to you.
Can’t you see these tears I’m crying?
I can’t get next to you.
Grandson, it’s you that I need,
I gotta get next to you.
Can’t you see these tears I’m crying?
I can’t get next to you.
I, I, I, I
I can’t get next to you.

Phidippides: Don’t worry about social distancing, grandma. I will die from you, if you cause me to.

Grandmother: You’re a princely sweetie. Oh, I wish little Aristotolly wasn’t at such grave risk from hearing questions. Such a cute little boy. I don’t want him to die from covid! At least my grandson is safe isolated in his sound-proof room in my house.

Phidippides: When will I be able to talk with my half-brother?

Grandmother: When science says it’s safe. That’s when.

Phidippides: When’s that?

Grandmother: I don’t know. When the public health emergency ends, I guess.

Phidippides: There’s no covid in Elden Ring, no public health emergency there, and players can ask each other questions about where to go and how to get new powers and be as awesome as you, grandma. Why can’t Ari come here and just play in Elden Ring with me?

Grandmother: Are you sure that there’s no corona virus there, and that questions in that place aren’t unsafe?

Phidippides: I’m sure. I play games like that all the time.

Grandmother: Wonderful. We’ll move in here tonight. Your mother has been pleading with me to move in with her for months. I’ll make special meals for you and give you lots of presents!

As grandmother is leaving, she calls out to Phidippides: Thanks so much for asking me if Ari could play with you in Elden Ring. That question pointed to the answer to so many problems!

Strepsiades to Phidippides: You know it’s a public health emergency, and you know that you’re not allowed to ask questions. But you behaved irresponsibly right here in my own house. Irresponsibly!

Phidippides: Calm down, dad. Calm down. It’s only your mother-in-law and your wife’s little kid.

Strepsiades: It’s questioning. It’s the principle of asking questions. You got that, I’m sure, from that scoundrel Socrates living next door.

Phidippides: Hey, if you’re so afraid of dying of covid, why don’t you just hang yourself? Then you won’t die of covid!

Strepsiades: There you go again. You disgraceful, disrespectful, reprobate social isolate! Are you trying to kill me, your own father?

Phidippides: No cause to report me to the authorities. I support Electra, a woman hero of gender equality. I’ll kill mother just as I kill you {τὴν μητέρ᾿ ὥσπερ καὶ σὲ τυπτήσω}!

Strepsiades:

What’s that? What did you say?
That’s different, a far greater crime!

{ τί φῄς, τί φῂς σύ;
τοῦθ᾿ ἕτερον αὖ μεῖζον κακόν. }

Phidippides: Why? What do you know? Look outside.

Strepsiades opens the front door and seeing the house across the street, he exclaims: “There’s a Y painted on the front door of that house!”

He runs outside and screams: “There’s an iron Y erected above the front door of the Thinkery! There’s a Y painted on the street! There’s a Y hanging from the back of that chariot!”

He groans and raises his eyes to the sky. He ponders the clouds for a moment, then screams: “The clouds form a Y in the sky! Y! Y! Y?”

He falls to the ground sobbing. A minute later he stands up, enraged. He howls: “The Thinkery must burn! Burn! Slaves, come here and bring torches and hatches, right now!”

The blond-haired slave Xanthias comes out from the house carrying two torches and two hatchets.

Xanthias: “Sir, the rest of the slaves ask that you ensure that everyone in the Thinkery is evacuated before you burn it down. They won’t come out until you swear a solemn oath to have it evacuated before it’s destroyed.”

Strepsiades: “More questions? Those traitor scum slaves aren’t even capable of being slaves. We’ll clean our own house of questioners later. Right now, let’s make that cockroach Socrates choke to death in his own house if he doesn’t roast first.”

Strepsiades and Xanthias climb onto the roof of the Thinkery. They cut open holes in the roof, ignite broken-off roof staves, and start hurling them down on the straw mats inside. The students within start screaming.

Socrates desperately asks: “Is the tongue spitting fire from the Clouds into the void?”

Anguished student: “Do something, Socrates!”

Socrates: “How am I to know what to do?”

A stiff wind suddenly blows down upon the Thinkery. Stresiades and Xanthias, attempting to cling to the roof, get blown off. Then clouds, forming what some saw as an Α and others saw as an Ω, release a torrential downpour. Rainwaters flow down through the holes in the Thinkery’s roof and extinguish the fires within. Socrates and all his pupils emerge alive, looking as if they had just been dunked into a river.

The chorus of Clouds dances and sings as they leave the stage:

People movin’ out, people movin’ in.
Why? From the counting of shots in their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sure can’t hide,
an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
vote for me, and I’ll set you free.
Rap on, sister, rap on!
Well, the only person talkin’ ’bout “Love thy father”
is the preacher,
and it seems nobody’s interested in learnin’
but the teacher.
Segregation, vaccination, demonstration, disintegration,
aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.

Ball of confusion,
oh, yeah,
that’s what the world is today.
Woho, hey, hey!

The sale of pills is at an all-time high,
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky,
cities aflame in the summertime.
And oh, the beat goes on.
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the loss of soul.
Shooting rockets at Ukraine, kids’ lives lost in vain.
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
And the band played on.

So ’round and around and around we go.
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows.

Oh, Great Googa Mooga
can’t you hear me talking to you?

Just a ball of confusion,
oh yeah, that’s what the world is today.
Woho, hey, hey!

Fear in the air, tension everywhere,
big inflation rising fast,
purple motes new post’s a gas.
And the only safe place to live is on a Trappist reservation.
And the band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
covid inspectors, bill collectors.
face masks in demand, population out of hand,
suicide, too many bills,
rich folks moving to the hills.
People all over the world are shouting, “End the war!”
And the band played on.

* * * * *

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Notes:

The above play is a modernization of Aristophanes’s comedy Clouds {Νεφέλαι}. Clouds was originally presented in comedic competition in Athens in 423 BGC. It came in third, meaning last. The surviving text of Clouds represents a revision Aristophanes made between 419 and 416 BGC.

Socrates’s Thinkery {Phrontisterion / ϕροντιστήριον} is Aristophanes’s satirical construction. Socrates didn’t charge for teaching and didn’t run a formal school. While in many ways Aristophanes presents Socrates as ridiculous, Aristophanes also presented important aspects of ancient intellectual thought. Questioning is central to what has come to be known as the Socratic method. “Aristophanes’ Clouds treats Socrates as distinctly interested in promoting self-knowledge of the sort related to self-improvement.” Moore (2015) p. 534.

The destructive ending of Clouds isn’t typical of Aristophanean comedy. Interpretations of the extent of the violence have varied considerably. Some think Phidippides exited into the Thinkery and that Strepsiades killed his own son along with Socrates and students in the Thinkery. Another view is that Strepsiades didn’t kill anyone in destroying the Thinkery. His destructive action functioned as “legal self-help” rather than a lynching. Davis (1990) and Johnston (1998) pp. xxvii-xxix.

Rain quenching the fire in the Thinkery is my extension. Cf. Elijah calling down fire from God to consume a sacrificial offering in 1 Kings 18:36-8; rain saving Croesus from burning on a pyre at the hands of King Cyrus in Herodotus, Histories 1.87.

In his Apology, Plato indicated that Aristophanes’s depiction of Socrates motivated the Athenians’ subsequent decision to execute Socrates. But the depiction of Socrates in Clouds is conventional comedic mockery of intellectuals. “Clouds did not kill Socrates.” Andújar (2014). For contrasting interpretations of the significance of Clouds, Morris (1937) and Fisher (1988).

The Greek texts above are from Clouds, with preceding texts the corresponding English translations, with some small but significant changes. The Greek texts and English translations (modified) are from Henderson (1998), except for the first corresponding English translation, which is from Rocke (2005) p. 146. Freely available online is the Greek text of Hall & Geldart (Oxford, 1907). For a dual-language edition with Ian Johnston’s English translation, Hayes & Nimis (2017). English translations by George Theodoridis (2007) and by an unnamed translator are also freely available online. Here’s an overview of Clouds.

The Greek quotes above are Clouds, vv 269-74 (Come, you gorgeous Clouds…), 275-90 (Clouds everlasting…), 293-5 (O most honored sacred goddesses…), 296-7 (Don’t be scurrilous…), 314-5 (By Zeus, Socrates, I beg you…), 316-8 (Not at all. They are heavenly Clouds…), 335-9 (So that’s why they compose verses like…) , 346-7 (Have you ever looked up and seen a cloud…), 348-50 (Clouds turn into anything they want…), 385-7 (Learn from your own experience…), 388-91 (By Apollo I have!…), 1443-4 (What’s that?…).

The above text includes transformed lyrics and embedded videos performing the original songs. These songs are:

  1. The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain,” released as a single on Dec. 21, 1967. Via YouTube.
  2. “Aquarius” as performed in the 1979 film Hair, adapted from the 1968 Broadway musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Via YouTube.
  3. “Ya Got Trouble” from the 1962 film The Music Man, adapted from the 1957 Broadway musical The Music Man. Via YouTube.
  4. The Temptations, “I Can’t Get Next to You,” released as a single on July 30, 1969. Via YouTube.
  5. The Temptations, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” released as a single on May 7, 1970. Via YouTube.

References:

Andújar, Rosa. 2014. “Aristophanes’ Socrates in Context.” Aristophanes’ Clouds Study Guide, University College London. Online.

Davies, Malcolm. 1990. “‘Popular Justice’ and the End of Aristophanes’ Clouds.” Hermes. 118 (2): 237-242.

Fisher, Raymond K. 1988. “The Relevance of Aristophanes: a New Look at Clouds.” Greece and Rome. 35 (1): 23-28.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis, eds. 2017. Aristophanes’ Clouds: A Dual Language Edition. Greek Text Edited (1907) by F.W. Hall and W.M. Geldart, English Translation and Notes by Ian Johnston. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing.

Henderson, Jeffrey, ed. and trans. 1998. Aristophanes. Clouds. Wasps. Peace. Loeb Classical Library 488. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Johnston, Ian. 1998. “On Satire in Aristophanes’ Clouds.” Lecture, November 1998. Pp. ix-xxxi in Hayes & Nimis (2017).

Moore, Christopher. 2015. “Socrates and Self-Knowledge in Aristophanes’ Clouds.” The Classical Quarterly. 65 (2): 534-551.

Morris, Bertram. 1937. “Totalitarian Clouds: Human versus Dictatorial Values.” The Sewanee Review. 45 (2): 150-165.

Roche, Paul, trans. 2005. Aristophanes. The Complete Plays. New York, N.Y.: New American Library.

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