The Clouds Background

The Clouds Background

Aristophanes utilized his prodigious talent as a satirical dramatist in The Clouds to formulate his critique toward the growing influent of the Sophists that he deemed to be akin to a pernicious infestation of thought. In its original form, The Clouds was first presented for public consumption at the Great Dionysia festival held in 423 BCE. So assured was he that his entry demonstrated a perfect mingling of philosophical thought and aesthetic structure that he fully expected to win first prize. As it turned out, The Clouds disappeared behind the bright shining lights of two other playwrights who illumination has grow much dimmer over time.

Whether or not the judge’s decision was a fair one or not can never be known because Aristophanes was so shocked and disconsolate with the results that he decided to revise it and pursue a second opinion from its critics. As a result, the original version has been lost to history and the version which is staged today was likely never actually performed while the playwright was alive since it was only intended to be analyzed by those critics.

One reason for the continued popularity of the play is that the essential critique Aristophanes directs toward the Sophists almost always seems to be relevant: abusing the power of rhetorical techniques to manipulate the truth and mislead the people by rearranging the perception of facts to make their truth seem less irrefutable. The Clouds is almost certainly like to experience a resurgence of popularity in 21st century as some eras manage to make the play seem even more relevant than normal. The most surprising thing about The Clouds to anyone unfamiliar with it or the Sophists is likely learning who the central figure is that receives the brunt of the blame for the damage being brought onto the people of Greece by this new philosophy that Aristophanes views as one so lacking in intellectual support as well as being threatening the public good that it were probably better it be wiped entirely clean from the slates of history.

That figure—whose reputation was severely, if ultimately only briefly, impacted as a result of a serious distortion of the facts by his friend Aristophanes—is relatively famous name in the history of philosophy: Socrates.

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