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Full title The Clouds, or The School for Sophists
Type of work Drama
Genre Satire; tragi-comedy
Language Attic Greek, translated into English
Time and place written Prior to 427 BCE in Athens, Greece
Date of first performance First performed in 427 BCE. The version we now possess is a later (incomplete) revision.
Publisher/Producer Produced by Kallistratos at the festival of the City Dionysia at Athens
Narrator Not applicable (drama)
Point of view Not applicable (drama)
Tone Humorous, but with an undercurrent of seriousness
Tense Not applicable (drama)
Setting (time) Fifth-Century BCE
Setting (place) Athens, Greece
Major Conflict Strepsiades's burden of debt, sustained in satisfying the expensive taste of his son Pheidippides for race horses.
Rising action Strepsiades attempts to enroll in Socrates's special school for sophists in order to learn the slippery, dishonest Unjust Argument that will help him best his creditors in court. He learns many weird and wonderful things about atheism, natural sciences, and proper nouns. However, he proves an impossible pupil and enrolls his spend-thrift son Pheidippides instead. Pheidippides masters the slippery rhetoric of the Unjust Argument.
Climax Pheidippides uses the tricky sophistry he learned at Socrates's academy to physically and verbally abuse his father Strepsiades.
Falling action Strepsiades and his slave Xanthias burn down Socrates's school as revenge for the slighted gods and for Strepsiades's own misfortune.
Themes The question of how to reconcile science with religion; the quest to find the proper education; playwriting is educative; the question of how to reconcile education with daily life, or with the outside world
Motifs Old and New; currency; gendered nouns
Symbols The Clouds; insects; the flea-ridden bed
Foreshadowing As Strepsiades commits his son Pheidippides into the tutelage of Unjust Argument, at the very end of Act One, the Chorus of Clouds warns him that "
soon / [He'll] sing a less ecstatic tune" (I.ii.1114), and that his "harvest will the whirlwind be" (I.ii.1114), meaning that nothing but chaos and trouble will come from his decision.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Clouds!