April 16, 2013
Analysis of The Clouds
April 16, 2013
Aristophanes’ play, The Clouds, provides an illustration of the “new” style of education in Athens compared to that of the “traditional” style. It is a satirical comedy that pokes fun at the ideas and philosophies the sophists upheld. What is interesting is that the Socrates is portrayed as the leader of this educational movement. His teachings, while similar to the ones referred to in the play, aren’t necessarily in sync with Plato’s accounts of his mentor, Socrates. Considering Aristophanes motivations when writing this play were surely for entertainment purposes, it is safe to assume that this isn’t a historically accurate work to draw our understanding of Socrates and his teachings among the Athenians. Nonetheless, it were works like The Clouds that perhaps could be responsible for labeling Socrates in such a negative light as a “corrupter of the youth.” The play is about a father and son who have recently inherited a lot of debt due to the son’s obsession with horse racing. Through the sons training at “the Thinkery,” he learns the sophist way of argument. Aristophanes describes this way of thinking as a trick called the “unjust argument.” (Aristophanes 93). This is a technique that allows a person to use the art of persuasion to defeat any argument no matter how strong or morally sound it might be. A quote by the father, Strepsiades, suggests the level of skepticism the protagonist faces when presented this new concept of education. “Still, I’m old and slow- my memory’s shot. How’m I going to learn [these] hair-splitting arguments, all that fancy stuff?” (Aristophanes 130). What was supposed to make the boy smarter and able to defend his father in court didn’t really seem to work, and Strepsiades decided to enroll himself. Rather than learning to strengthen an argument, Strepsiades had...
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