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The accuracy of "The Clouds" in portraying the political, social, economic and religious life of people in the fifth century BC Athens

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Introduction

Evaluate the accuracy of "The Clouds" in portraying the political, social, economic and religious life of people in the fifth century BC Athens Greek theatre has always been a significant constituent in the past and present Athenian society. Fifth Century BC Athenian society proposed numerous playwrights in their festivities honouring the god, Dionysus. Amongst the many crowd favourites was a legend to describe him in the least, Aristophanes. His works of satirical comedy are still celebrated and enjoyed today. One such example of his famous satirical works is "The Clouds", written in 423BC. "The Clouds" is about a father, Strepsiades, who is in debt because of his son's expensive horse hobby. Strepsiades tries to convince his son, Pheidippides, to attend the "Thinkery" (a school for sophistry), to learn the art of double talk in the hope of outwitting his creditors in court. However, Pheidippides denies his father's request, so instead Strepsiades decides to enrol himself. Strepsiades' attempts to learn sophistry but fails miserably when his old age gets the best of him. Another attempt to encourage his son to enrol becomes successful and Pheidippides learns to double-talk from the teacher Socrates. ...read more.

Middle

Since Socrates wore simple apparel, and walked barefoot through the streets, his ideas and peculiarity made him an easy subject of derision and he was often thought of as a fraudulent figure. Socrates was also ridiculed for the fact he believed in one intelligent being as the creator of the universe. This went against the religious life of the Athenians. In "The Clouds", Poseidon, god of horses is sworn on by Pheidippides and later again by Pasias (one of Strepsiades creditors) who also swears by Hermes and Zeus. These accounts are an accurate reflection the religious beliefs upheld by Athenian society. However, since "the clouds" is a satirical play, Aristophanes pokes fun at Socrates who is depicted to believe in the "vortex" as the ruler, not Zeus. This part of the play is not accurate, as it does not hold a factual purpose but rather that of entertainment and humour. Rather than just analysing "The Clouds" on its plot, a more comprehensive read of the text reveals further details on 5th century Athenian life, all of which are precise in information. ...read more.

Conclusion

The sophists maintained that the guiding principles of a society, such as justice and truth, were relative concepts-that is, these principles changed according to the needs of men in a particular time and place. What was right and just in Athens was not necessarily right and just in another society. One man's virtue could be another man's vice. In teaching their students, the sophists emphasized the art of argumentative discourse and came to be associated with deceptive and specious reasoning, lampooned effectively in The Clouds. Another target of Aristophanes was Socrates, along with his associate, Chaerephon. Ironically, Socrates, like Aristophanes, renounced the methods and ideas of the sophists. Nevertheless, Socrates angered the establishment (1) by declaring that the validity of many long-standing precepts could not be proved by logical reasoning, (2) by rejecting the Olympian gods and sometimes speaking of a single intelligent being as the creator of the universe, and (3) by spreading "dangerous" ideas among young people. In addition, he alienated many Athenians because he was ugly and untidy (sometimes neglecting to bathe for a long while), wore simple apparel, and walked barefoot through the streets. Thus, his ideas and eccentricities made him a ripe subject for ridicule. ...read more.

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