For our discussion forum this week, I’d like you compare the Socrates we meet in the Clouds with the versions of Socrates you’ve encountered in the Apology and Prof. Shirazi’s lectures. Respond below to one of the following prompts, or to the points raised by other students. Remember to receive credit for participating, you must comment at least once before the start of class on Wednesday.
- What surprised you about comedy’s version of Socrates?
- Are there ways Aristophanes’ Socrates resembles the Socrates you’ve met so far?
- How is Socrates mocked or criticized in Clouds?
- How is Socrates a sympathetic character in Clouds?
41 thoughts on “Discussion Forum: Week 6”
Even though Socrates sort of operates in and out of this play, he definitely still seems to be mocked and criticized. He’s portrayed in a similar way to The Apology, in that he talks a lot and seems to have an argument or an excuse for everything that’s thrown at him. The lines that stood out to me the most about how Aristophanes is trying to depict Socrates were the lines about gods and Zeus: “What do you mean, you’ll swear by the gods? First of all, gods aren’t legal tender here” (pg. 41) and “What do you mean, Zeus? Do stop driveling. Zeus doesn’t even exist!” (pg. 61). These lines were the most blatantly representative of the way that Socrates was perceived as an atheist, and had reasons for why things like rain happen other than religion. It makes sense to me that this is one of the main ways that Socrates is being critiqued if the majority of the audience is in disagreement with him about religion and gods. Looking at it in 2022, it seems like he’s making some pretty good points about nature, but I have to imagine that in 423 BCE, this wouldn’t have been as widely believed or understood.
I agree with Zoe here, and I was also intrigued by the use of gods and religion throughout the play. I think it is also necessary to highlight this plays depiction of Socrates having some sort of belief in the Void, The Clouds, and The Tongue. When Socrates asks Strepsiades “Then I take it you will now believe in no god but those we believe in: this Void, and the Clouds, and the Tongue, and only these three?” the viewer is clued in to the potential that Socrates has some sort of religious identity. Specifically, when he says “those we believe in”, it is clear that Socrates highly values, and believes in, the power of the Void, also known as Chaos, The Clouds (which I am a little confused about? Minor Gods that have to do with laziness?), and The Tongue, which is understood as the ability to speak well.
I agree with Zoe and Matt here, and thought it was especially interesting how The Gods and Religion was referenced among the play. I noticed that not only Socrates implies that he has some sort of belief in the Gods, but also that the other characters, specifically Strepsiades, uses the Gods as a way to attempt to assert power and knowledge over Socrates. This can even be seen as another way to criticize him. For example, on page 45 in Clouds, Strepsiades says “By Zeus, you won’t trick me!”
The Socrates represented in Aristophanes’ Clouds is certainly more criticized than the versions of him we have seen thus far in class and in Plato’s Apology. However, I thought it was interesting that the idea of “Socrates the misfit” that Professor Shirazi presented was also portrayed in the play. He goes against cultural norms, praying to the “awesome goddesses of thunder and lightning” rather than to Zeus and the Olympians (45). He also demonstrates a lack of focus and care for his physical body. Much like how at the Symposium he would resist sleep, the Socrates of Clouds is “frugal” and is one of those men who has never “cut his hair or anointed himself or gone to the bath house to wash” (123). While this description focuses more on a lack of hygiene, painting Socrates in a negative light, the two ideas are very similar.
Despite mocking him and portraying him as a lying and corrupting thief, Aristophanes makes Socrates a sympathetic character by having him deal with Strepsiades. Socrates tries to teach him what he knows, but his efforts are in vain, since Strepsiades is a man incapable of learning and remembering anything new. Having the Worse Argument be Phidippides’ teacher also somewhat builds the audience’s sympathy for Socrates, since although the Thinkery is his school and he approves of what’s taught in it, he wasn’t specifically the one to teach Phidippides what he knows by the end of the play. This makes his fate of being chased and potentially killed by Strepsiades seem undeserved and extreme, even if Aristophanes didn’t actually want Socrates executed.
I was not surprised with “Clouds” depiction of Socrates because many people believed Socrates to be a lunatic. His first appearance is him literally being suspended from a basket, which sets him up as a ridiculous character. His character is similar to the one in “The Apology,” as he and the pupils invent wild excuses to disprove accusations and his ideology is seen as a plague. One such example is when Socrates tells Strepsiades that “mortar” is pronounced “morté” (pg 99,) and later on during his trial Strepsiades avoids one of his debts by using that same excuse (177.) In both plays, Socrates’ absurd thinking, characterized by “Worse Argument,” spreads negativity and eventually comes back to bite them. In “The Apology,” Socrates suffers for his thinking by being executed. In “Clouds,” Strepsiades suffers for following Socrates’ thought when Phippidides starts using that same thought to verbally and physically punish him. Strepsiades can’t counter Phippidides reasons for beating him, which ridicules Socrates’ thought as they both learned from him. In my opinion, Socrates was not a sympathetic character in “Clouds” because he was written as such an annoying character who only brought destruction to those who sought his teachings.
I was also not surprised by Socrates’ depiction in “Clouds” and in fact anticipated an overwhelmingly annoying and ridiculous character in a comedic context. The entire dialogue between Socrates and Strepsiades is the first exhibition of the violent and ludicrous teaching methods enacted by Socrates, and I found the constant verbal abuse and the absurdity of his ideologies to be highlighting the silliness of his character. When his patience with teaching Strepsiades lessened to the point where he stopped being his teacher, I found this to be somewhat similar to the rhetoric seen in Apology, as it seems when Socrates can’t get his way with others he resorts to criticizing and ridiculing the beliefs of the other party.
Socrates in both The Apology and The Clouds is portrayed as an outcast. While stubborn and arrogant Plato’s Socrates is a maverick that brings forth a net positive to Athenian society. In Clouds, there doesn’t seem to be any reason or tangible benefit from Socrates. His experiments are laughingly inconsequential like figuring the distance a flea jumps, or where the sound of a gnat comes from. Moreover, we see that in the education of Pheiddipides the worse argument wins over the better argument. The worse argument ultimately “corrupts” Pheiddipides, the stand-in for the youth, and ultimately no one truly benefits from the thinkery. The worse argument winning implies that Socrates’ school teaches people how to weasel out of situations using loopholes and semantics, rather than justice and reverence for the gods which the better argument stands for.
In both clouds and the apology, Socrates is an outsider and varies from the traditional Athenian culture and norms. We know that Socrates was sent to his death for failure to honor the gods. A clear example is when Strepsiades says, “But who is it that forces them to drift? Doesn’t Zeus?” and Socrates responds “Not at all; it’s cosmic whirl.” (pg 63). It’s not surprising to me that Socrates was sent to his death since he is depicted so poorly and anti-Athenian in this play. Simply put, it doesn’t seem look Socrates fits in with the ancient Athens that we know
I agree that both Clouds and The Apology show Socrates as an outsider who doesn’t really fit into the culture and the elite class of classic Athenian society. However, the way Socrates’ story is told in the two stories is very different. Clouds tries to expose the teachings that Socrates contaminates his students with, with Aristophanes making fun of his Socratic method by exploring “unimportant” teachings that the Sophists support. Plato on the other hand loved and supported Socrates, and so he writes about his teacher as a smart, positive, influential figure. Aristophanes’ play paints Socrates as a joke because of the ridiculous and unimportant tests he argues for in the play, and he highlights Socrates’ confidence in these types of theories without presenting the type of evidence that the philosopher would have used to backup his ideas.
Ben makes a great point that Socrates in both clouds and the apology can appear as an outsider. One quote that backs this statement up is in clouds when Strepsiades asks the pupil about some of Socrates’ work. The pupil states that Socrates is working on measuring how many feet a fly can jump and states that Socrates does this by “He melted some wax, then picked up the flea and dipped both its feet in the wax, and then when the wax cooled, he had Persian slippers stuck to it. He took these off and went bout measuring the distance.” (27) This quote just shows the mockery of Socrates because this method is obviously a joke. . This is not the way Socrates has typically been portrayed through history.
Socrates and his school are mocked throughout the play. Both are shown doing ridiculous things, which starts right with Socrates’s introduction. Socrates “appears overhead, hanging from a basket”(37), which seems absurd and nobody would do that in their right mind. And then, the pupil who opens the door for Strepsiades explains some of the discussions going on and swears Strepsiades to secret, however, the discussions are incredibly silly. The irony comes from Strepsiades desire to learn how to win an argument and the school Socrates runs seeming like dramatic fools. Part of all the comedies Aristophanes wrote that we have read, is exaggerated characters and characteristics. In this play, the exaggeration is how unusual Socrates and his teachings are. This view of Socrates, as different and an outsider, appears to be similar to how he has been presented in class as “Socrates the Misfit”. Aristophanes takes common views and exaggerates them, which leads to Socrates being mocked for having different ideas.
Socrates is mocked in Clouds by Aristophanes highlighting the detachment of his philosophy from the real world, as if his mind is in the clouds. For example, on page 65, Socrates equates farts to thunder, serving as mockery of Socrates’ philosophy by hinting it is ridiculous and removed from reality. In addition, the need for Strepsiades to take an oath to get into Socrates’ group hints at a further insulation of Socrates and his group from the rest of Athens, furthering the commonly held depiction of Socrates as an outsider.
While the mocking of Socrates’ in Clouds further depicts Socrates as an outsider, I also think that it reveals just how big of a threat that Socrates posed to ancient Greece. At the beginning of the play the pupil tells Strepsiades and the pupil discuss Socrates, mocking his his discoveries and research. For example, on page 29 Strepsiades says, “As a defendant, he’d certainly be able to escape conviction, since he knows the gnat’s gut inside out”. Strepsiades implies that Socrates’ knowledge is absurd and useless, thus discrediting Socrates’ philosophy in real life. Aristophanes chose to portray Socrates as absurd and overly extravagant because it was a way if minimizing the threat that Socrates’ new education posed to more traditional viewpoints in ancient Greece.
I agree, and this really reminded me of Platos Apology that we read last week. Although Socrates appears flippant and contrarian, the ideas he presents are legitimate threats to the Athenian power structure and those who benefit from that power structure would not be happy to see Socrates’ ideas go out into the environment uncriticized. I’m not sure what Aristophanes’ stake in the Athenian elite is, but it is clear he doesn’t agree with Socrates’ dismissals of the Athenian culture. Aristophanes emphasizes the influence of tradition and past knowledge over innovation, and Socrates represents the innovation in philosophy that seeks to overturn the ingrained Athenian power dynamics.
Aristophanes’s Clouds represents Socrates in a much more critical light than he is depicted in Plato’s Apology. It is more obvious through the satirical style of Aristophanes that he thought of Socrates to be someone with a large ego and someone who was quite influential on the youth. For instance, in Socrates’ dialogue he states that Strepsiades is “so inept, brainless, and forgetful, the sort who tries to learn a few dinky snippets and then forgets them before he’s learned them.” (91). The way that Aristophanes has portrayed Socrates through this particular dialogue puts him out to be condescending and judgmental of others who aren’t of the same level of intellect as he is. Socrates is also portrayed here as debating the ideology of the gods, he connects nature to them and talks about how natures force is connected to god. For instance he questions Strepsiades “And you didn’t realize that they’re goddesses, r believe it?” When describing the formation of the clouds. This connects to the charges faced by Socrates described in Plato’s Apology as we can see the Socrates is the type to question the nature and reality of these gods.
I was not entirely surprised by the portrayal of Socrates in “Clouds” because there were many similarities between this Socrates and the portrayal in the “Apology.” For one, in both versions Socrates is almost portrayed as a know-it-all and it quite obnoxious about it. He is constantly talking and always has some answer for everyone in the play no matter what they ask of him or accuse him of. He also has a sort of confidence in his own beliefs that makes him believe that he is completely right and no matter what anyone else says of thinks they are completely wrong. His use of logic is also quite odd and his reasoning for certain beliefs almost seem illogical (for example his example of relating thunder to when a person is full and their stomach rumbles.) He is also going against many of the norms of the time, which further expresses his hubris. He believes that gods aren’t real and insists that others believe the same, even when the general consensus is that gods like Zeus control the world.
The final scathing criticism of Socrates comes at the end of the play, when Phidippides says, “I’ll beat mother as I beat you” (203), to which Strepsiades replies, “What’s that? What did you say? That’s different, a far greater crime!” (203). The teachings of Socrates are painted as being powerful and perverted enough to make a son want to hit his father, then his mother, unprovoked. Phidippides doesn’t employ Socrates’ reasonings to defend himself after committing an act of violence, but rather Phidippides feels inclined to hit his parents just to prove he can hold up the Worse Argument. Socrates is criticized for teaching young men to carry out crimes just for the sake of argument and proving themselves to be clever.
I was surprised that the Socrates of Aristophanes “Clouds” was taking money from Strepsiades for educating his son, when in Plato’s “apology”, Socrates expressed clearly that he was not payed for his life’s work and lived in poverty, unlike other teachers. This is more of a testament to Aristophanes’s distain for higher education as a whole rather than for Socrates specifically. Aristophanes also characterizes Socrates in some ways that are familiar, such as his stubbornness and his lack of reverence for the gods that was what he was charged with. In “Apology” Socrates argues that he does believe in gods because he believes in spirits which are created from gods, but in “Clouds” Socrates claims outright that Zeus does not exist. Socrates is portrayed as sympathetic in “Clouds” only in contrast to Strepsiades and his inability to think properly on Socrates’s teachings before resorting to vulgarity, which is played for comedy.
Aristophanes and Plato portray Socrates very differently. In Plato’s Apology, he portrays Socrates as a wise and misunderstood man. Aristophanes depicts Socrates in a much more negative light. In Clouds, Aristophanes characterizes Socrates as a sophist who preaches inaccurate and controversial ideas about nature and the gods. On page 63, Socrates tells Strepsiades, “ . . . when the clouds are full of water and run into one another, they crash because of their density.” This is an example of Aristophanes challenging the wisdom and intellect of Socrates by having him make specious assertions. Phidippides begins to rebel against authority after attending the Thinkery, and his father burns down the school out of contempt. It seems that, by including this disastrous outcome, Aristophanes criticizes Socrates for his approach to education.
Socrates is portrayed differently in Clouds as in the Apology. He is a stout atheist in Clouds, denying that Zeus creates thunder and lightning and that instead clouds do: “The old man must keep silence and listen to the prayer. O Lord and Master, measureless Air, who hold the earth aloft, and you, shining empyrean, and ye Clouds, awesome goddesses of thunder and lightning…” (Aristophanes 45). This is in contrast to Socrates’ apology, where he argues that he must believe in the gods as he believes in things related to them. However, Socrates’ verbosity and unending dialogue is consistent in Clouds. He is equally as pretentious and annoying.
In The Apology, Plato Depicts Socrates as a nuisance to athenian society based on his turn of conversation and insufferable rebuttals, but Clouds does not give him this credit. In The Apology, the arguments that Socrates makes to the jury, while not helping his case still seemed grounded. In Clouds, Socrates is literally depicted as entering the scene floating. Clouds makes fun of his “head in the clouds” perspective and strips Socrates of his credibility to make the a case behind the “othering” of Socrates. I was surprised by the blatant bashing and humor, but because his death was a more recent event during the production of Clouds than it was in The Apology, this was due to the lack of glamorization of his life as a byproduct of time.
I would have to say that In Clouds Socrates is made out to be much less favorable then I’m the Apology
The way Aristophanes is using the Clouds as a satire of the education by the Sophisits and the teachings of Socrates is very interesting. Showing the ideas are dangerous due to the fact that they don’t support the “truth” or the Gods. We see that Socrates and the Sophists are mocked through out the play as Socrates is portrayed as a thief but throughout the mockery I think Aristophanes was trying to show the Athenians the true danger and a threat to society. There is however a similarity between the Apology and the Clouds in the way Socrates is depicted, he talks a substantle amount ready with an argument or excuse for anyone that questions him.
In Plato’s Apology, Socrates made it very clear that he does not have any patience towards clueless individuals who believe they know what they do not. After teaching Strepsiades lessons how to argue the worse argument, Socrates is livid at the fact that Strepsiades seemingly forgot everything he had learned. Socrates exclaimed to Strepsiades “To hell and be damned with you, you oblivious, moronic old coot!” before turning his back to him. He says this after Strepsiades’s fruitless attempts to explain what little he knew about Socrates’s teachings, which perfectly sums his attitude toward individuals who are naïve in their own sense of knowledge.
To answer the question of how was Socrates mocked or criticized in Clouds? I will look at the portion where Strepsiades was talking to the pupil. The pupil kept talking about how Socrates had a lot of ideas but they all seemed to be about silly things. For example, how far a flea jumps or how a gnat hums. In my opinion, I think this is mocking Socrates and saying that sure he asks a lot of questions but they really aren’t all that important. I think it also might be making fun of the idea that philosophers are these super smart and wise people that no one else knows as much as.
I agree with this because Socrates seems to be making bold statements that do not align with the ideals of the his society. Socrates makes the claim that clouds are the reason for rain and not Zeus and this bewilders Strepsiades. The way the play is written seems to make Strepsiades out as a man who doesn’t really take Socrates seriously. Strepsiades seems to make only sarcastic remarks and sort of look down on Socrates, however, it can also be argued that Socrates is the one looking down on Strepsiades.
In Aristophanes Clouds, Socrates is portrayed in a negative manner compared to the way Plato depicts him in his Apology text. In Clouds, Aristophanes illustrates Socrates as an Atheist. On page 61 Socrates says, “What do you mean, Zeus? Do stop driveling. Zeus doesn’t even exist!” Even later in the reading, he claims that clouds, not Zeus, are the ones who produce lightning and thunder. In contrast, Socrates makes the case in his apology that he must believe in the gods because he believes in things that are connected to them.
I agree with how Tea said that Socrates was portrayed very differently in the Apology and in Clouds. In the apology Socrates is depicted as a bold character who is not afraid to speak his mind, yet he deeply wants to be liked by the Athenian population. In clouds, Socrates dismisses the god’s power and existence which is a very unpopular Athenian belief. The difference in the portrayal of Socrates in these two different plays contrast each other and reveal that the opinions of Socrates that people have are conflicting and very nuanced.
Aristophanes portrayal of Socrates in Clouds definitely aims to mock Socrates. This can be seen with “Do you see your mistake? You use the same word to refer both to the female fowl and the male” (page 97) where he attempts to correct Strepsiades. This shows Socrates being pedantic over small terms to someone who might not already have the knowledge of what are the correct terms to use. My impression of Socrates from this reading is that he is trying to make himself seem smarter than others by obsessing over tiny details and errors that anybody could make.
Socrates is portrayed as extremely argumentative, illogical, and at times cruel in this play. His major role is to teach a father, and later his son, how to cheat their way out of debts. He describes this as “effective bamboozling” and appears to charge a high price for the education he provides. He gets frustrated with the father, Strepsaides, after he does not understand Socrates’ arguments about semantics, so he forces him to lie in a bed full of bed bugs to brainstorm how to get out of debt. When this does not work, he verbally berates Strepsaides. This depiction of Socrates paints a picture of an immoral, illogical, and unkind person.
In my interpretations of both Plato’s “Apology” and Aristophanes’ “Clouds” is that in both Socrates is portrayed as an unwanted member of society and someone who is viewed as corrupting Athenian discourse and thought. Especially in “Clouds”, Socrates’ arguments are incredibly trivialized and he as a character is mocked. Furthermore, Socrates is not posed as the one responsible for supposedly corrupting Pheidippides, especially by the chorus who mocks him progressively more and more throughout the play. Socrates is also not posed as much of a philosopher or thinker but rather more of a swindler posing as one, leading his pupils in a cult-like fashion. This sort of manipulation is painted by the chorus speaking to Socrates, “you, recognizing a man infatuated and visibly keyed up, will doubtless lap up as much as you can” (119). Although it is pretty clear that Aristophanes is trying to cast Socrates in a relatively negative light, reading the play two millennia later and having read other texts painting him in a more positive light, find myself somewhat sympathetic to Socrates’ situation, similarly to Brandon.
I was somewhat surprised at how Socrates was portrayed in a very negative light compared to how history generally praises him for his ideas. I found it interesting how Aristophanes focused on the ways Socrates would try to fixate on small pieces of arguments in order to try to win the argument as a whole. I was particularly struck by the conversation between Socrates and Strepsiades on page 101 about whether names are masculine or feminine and how Socrates uses a feature of the language to convince Strepsiades that masculine names are feminine; they use the example of Amynias, which would likely follow first declension masculine noun endings and have the same ending in the vocative as a first declension feminine noun. I think that this joke was included to emphasize to the audience that Socrates’ arguments are not based in real facts, and the fail to hold up if one were to truly analyze them.
I think that Socrates in the Clouds is similar to Socrates in Athens (at least how we think he was.) “Worshipped” by some and “hated / seen as a nuisance” by others, Socrates remains consistent throughout, although Aristophanes is particularly mocking / comical with how he portrays his version of Socrates thinking. What I am most interested in however, is how these two versions of Socrates, real and fake, may have become combined in the minds of Athenians. As far as poisoning the minds of the youths and worshipping false gods, Aristophanes portrays Socrates as exactly that person. It is kind of the whole of his portrayal of Socrates. Socrates even starts in a elevated basket, thus pulling off the deus ex machina trope but instead of a god, it is Socrates. I think Aristophanes is purposely trying to lean heavily into these identities of Socrates, and I wonder if they happened to have a negative effect on the Athenian perception of the real Socrates. Just as movies can make us like or dislike real world figures, is it possible that these plays increased hatred of the real world Socrates?
Clouds portrays Socrates in a much worse way than The Apology. While both plays clearly show Socrates as a misfit in Athenian society. However, while The Apology portrays Socrates as a nuisance, the version in Clouds is much more devious. He does the things he is accused of in The Apology while actively helping others skirt society’s laws. He also is willing to torture people to imprint his methods which goes against the innocent, humble person we see in The Apology. Aristophanes portrays Socrates as scum of the earth type of person who was worthy of the penalty he received.
I think one aspect of this text that fascinates me is the manor of which Socrates is portrayed. In particular, I think it is interesting that Socrates generally seems a little more easily flustered and has more emotional reactions, telling people to “Go to hell” and just generally berating them. I feel like Plato’s depiction of Socrates has him as a much more in-control figure and paints him as having an answer to every question. I wonder if this is the part of the comedic elements coming through or if this is Aristophenes’ different take on who Socrates is/was.
I find it interesting that in The Apology Socrates is portrayed as an outcast ostracized from society because he is a thief, liar, and fraud. He is not respected or taken seriously by the jury. In Clouds, there is a similar theme. Socrates is not a respected member of athenian society. He is laughed at by the chorus and taunted.
After reading both depictions of Socrates, it seems that Aristophanes’s and Plato’s works represent two very different ways of viewing the man. Plato sees him as an extremely wise, almost divinely gifted philosopher. Aristophanes, on the other hand, depicts him as an aloof and self-obsessed man who has his pupils do stupid, pointless activities under the guise of dispensing wisdom. These works help show both how much of a polarizing figure Socrates was in ancient Athens and how widely the average person’s opinion of him varied. From Plato, we see that some greatly appreciated him and saw a great deal of philosophical value in his teachings. From Aristophanes, we see that others perceived Socrates as a pretentious, foolish man who was so convinced of his own wisdom that he failed to see the absurdity of his own actions. For example, when introducing Socrates on page 39, Aristophanes shows him suspended in a basket so he can better understand the sky. When he descends to speak with Strepsiades, he comes across as extremely self-important and prideful, complimenting his own intelligence repeatedly. Plato’s Apology and Aristophanes’s Clouds do an excellent job of showing the range of opinions on Socrates held by Athenians of that time.
I agree with what many of my classmates have already said in that Socrates is depicted as an outsider to Athenian society in Clouds. This is somewhat similar to how Socrates was depicted in the Apology because they both versions of Socrates are shown to have a higher level of intellect than the rest of society. However, Socrates’ depiction as an intellectual outsider is much more critical in Clouds. I thought this criticism of Socrates’ intellect was clearly illustrated early in the play when Strepsiades was indirectly introduced to Socrates through stories from a pupil. On page 27, the pupil of socrates explains that Socrates “melted some wax, then picked up the flea and dipped both its feet in wax” in order to measure how much “of its own fleet a flea can jump”. Although this seems like a clever way to measure a flea’s feet, it is clear that this seems like a meaningless experiment. There are several other times Socrates’ intellect is depicted in a similar. This can be seen on page 29 when the pupil describes how Socrates was “investigating the moon’s paths and revolutions…with his mouth open” when “a gecko shat on him” and on page 31 when Socrates’ pupils are depicted as staring at the ground to see “what’s beneath the ground”. Looking at all of these criticisms, it is clear that Socrates’ is being criticized for not using his intellect for practical purposes that could help better Athens. Instead, Socrates’ intellect appears to be detached from reality, like when he thinks it is important to measure a flea’s feet, or from things right in front of him, like when a gecko pooped in his mouth.
Are there ways Aristophanes’ Socrates resembles the Socrates you’ve met so far?
Aristanphanes’ version of Socrates depicts him as housing a cult-like educational group that can be categorized as formal education. In the “Apology,” Plato cites Socrates saying he is not a teacher, only a man who engages in conversation. This play seems to create the version of Socrates seen in Meletus’ charge. This is someone who purposely engages with young Athenians to spread radical ideology.
He is also depicted as a sophist, which is interesting because his defense when on trial is that he is NOT a sophist. Socrates claims that his god-given life mission is to prove that the so-called “wise men” are not wise– rather arrogant and good at speaking.
We also see the same argument that Socrates is an atheist, and I would agree that he is. Atheism in antiquity meant not following traditional practices rather than the modern concept of lacking belief.
It seem like there is a public version of Socrates that exists beyond the man himself. At this point, he could not decide how people saw him because his character was completely separate from his person.
Socrates, as we met him in the apology, was obviously an outsider to Athenian society. In Clouds, we start to see why. The play is highly critical of him, mocking him throughout and showing us truly why the people were so heavily skeptical of the man and his ideas. Aristophanes makes Socrates seem like a blabbering old man spewing nonsense to whoever will listen and leading them down a treacherous path. To Aristophanes, Socrates seems like a dangerous heathen that wants to change Athens fundamentally for the worse.