Turn Your Life Around! Reading Aristophanes’ “Clouds” Online

Aristophanes, Clouds 745

“My little sweetie, Sokratido!”

ὦ Σωκρατίδιον φίλτατον.

Aristophanes, Clouds 785

“Forget everything you’ve learned immediately.”

ἀλλ᾿ εὐθὺς ἐπιλήθει σύ γ᾿ ἅττ᾿ ἂν καὶ μάθῃς.

RGTO Clouds

Aristophanes, Clouds 2-3

“Sweet Zeus! How long a night this is!
It is endless. Will it ever be day?

ὦ Ζεῦ βασιλεῦ, τὸ χρῆμα τῶν νυκτῶν ὅσον.
ἀπέραντον. οὐδέποθ᾿ ἡμέρα γενήσεται;

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Aristophanes, Clouds 88-89

“Turn your life around ASAP
Go and learn what I am suggesting.”

ἔκτρεψον ὡς τάχιστα τοὺς σαυτοῦ τρόπους
καὶ μάνθαν᾿ ἐλθὼν ἃν ἐγὼ παραινέσω.

This week we are taking a break from tragedy and turning to Aristophanes for some much needed comic relief. His Clouds, however, is not just funny: it is serious intellectual history in the way his other plays are serious political commentary and literary theory. Ok, that might be a step too far, but Aristophanes provides a cutting and fun critique of sophists like Socrates who attracted followers for their dynamic style of argumentation, their investigation into natural sciences, and their willingness to question religious and ritual convention. And this critique seems to have made some impact, since Plato has Socrates bring it up 20 years later.

Plato, Apology of Socrates 19c5

“You have witness these things yourself in the comedy of Aristophanes where some Socrates is carried around saying “I walk on the are” and spouting much other nonsense I don’t know anything serious or small about.”

ταῦτα γὰρ ἑωρᾶτε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν τῇ ᾿Αριστοφάνους κωμῳδίᾳ, Σωκράτη τινὰ ἐκεῖ περιφερόμενον, φάσκοντά τε ἀεροβατεῖν καὶ ἄλλην πολλὴν φλυαρίαν φλυαροῦντα, ὧν ἐγὼ οὐδὲν οὔτε μέγα οὔτε μικρὸν πέρι ἐπαΐω.

This week we are trying something different and will be performing the whole play (a bit a abridged) from beginning to end using this translation by Ian Johnston.

Aristophanes, Clouds 94-99

“That is the thinkery of wise minds.
Inside there are men who are very convincing
when they argue that the sky is a grill cover
and that it covers over us because we are coals.
These people teach anyone who gives them money
how to kill in debates, whether they’re just or not.”

ψυχῶν σοφῶν τοῦτ᾿ ἐστὶ φροντιστήριον.
ἐνταῦθ᾿ ἐνοικοῦσ᾿ ἄνδρες οἳ τὸν οὐρανὸν
λέγοντες ἀναπείθουσιν ὡς ἔστιν πνιγεύς,
κἄστιν περὶ ἡμᾶς οὗτος, ἡμεῖς δ᾿ ἅνθρακες.
οὗτοι διδάσκουσ᾿, ἀργύριον ἤν τις διδῷ,
λέγοντα νικᾶν καὶ δίκαια κἄδικα.


Socrates – Tony Jayawardena
Strepsaides –  René Thornton Jr.
Pheidippides – Patrick Walshe McBride
Main Chorus – T. Lynn Mikeska, Valoneecia Tolbert
Main Student. -James Callás Ball
Good Argument – Judd Farris
Worse Argument – Richard Neale

Special Guest: Joel Alden Schlosser

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Beth Burns with production assistance by Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

Aristophanes, Clouds 101-103

“Gross, those bums! I know them. They’re con-men,
those lilywhite, shoeless scoundrels you’re talking about–
that haunted Socrates and his Khairophon.

αἰβοῖ, πονηροί γ᾿, οἶδα. τοὺς ἀλαζόνας,
τοὺς ὠχριῶντας, τοὺς ἀνυποδήτους λέγεις,
ὧν ὁ κακοδαίμων Σωκράτης καὶ Χαιρεφῶν.

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Euripides, Alcestis, July 22

The Chorus, July 29th [Special 10 AM time]

Sophocles, Antigone August 5


Aristophanes, Clouds 181-182

“Open the door, hurry and open up the Thinkery,
show me this Socrates as fast as you can!”

ἄνοιγ᾿ ἄνοιγ᾿ ἁνύσας τὸ φροντιστήριον
καὶ δεῖξον ὡς τάχιστά μοι τὸν Σωκράτη.

Aristophanes, Clouds 225

“I walk on the air and examine the sun!”

ἀεροβατῶ καὶ περιφρονῶ τὸν ἥλιον.

Aristophanes, Clouds 295

“don’t make jokes and act like those wastrel playwrights!”

οὐ μὴ σκώψει μηδὲ ποιήσεις ἅπερ οἱ τρυγοδαίμονες οὗτοι,

Aristophanes, Clouds 365

“These are the only real deities: the rest of them are nonsense”

αὗται γάρ τοι μόναι εἰσὶ θεαί, τἄλλα δὲ πάντ᾿ ἐστὶ φλύαρος.

Aristophanes, Clouds 392-3

“Think about the farts you achieve with this little tummy.
How wouldn’t the limitless sky also thunder powerfully?”

σκέψαι τοίνυν ἀπὸ γαστριδίου τυννουτουὶ οἷα πέπορδας·
τὸν δ᾿ ἀέρα τόνδ᾿ ὄντ᾿ ἀπέραντον πῶς οὐκ εἰκὸς μέγα βροντᾶν;

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th

Euripides, Andromache 

Aristophanes, Clouds 700-706

“Think a bit and bear down heard,
turn yourself in every direction,
cogitating, contemplating. Quick! if you get lost,
leap to some other part of your mind.
Keep sweet-tempered sleep far from your eyes!”

φρόντιζε δὴ καὶ διάθρει
πάντα τρόπον τε σαυτὸν
στρόβει πυκνώσας. ταχὺς δ᾿, ὅταν εἰς ἄπορον
πέσῃς, ἐπ᾿ ἄλλο πήδα
νόημα φρενός· ὕπνος δ᾿ ἀπέ-
στω γλυκύθυμος ὀμμάτων.

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