The edition of 'The Clouds' that I read was a part of the anthology Eight Great Comedies. This book that was lent to me by my school as a part of our English unit on comedy, where we briefly studied [b:The Importance of Being Earnest|92303|The Importance of Being Earnest|Oscar Wilde|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298438452s/92303.jpg|649216], another play within the volume. As this school year is coming to an end, I figured that I should try to read some of the other comedies while I had the book in my hands.
Reading ancient plays do, by nature, come with some difficulties for me. I admit to having little knowledge of Greek history and the context in which The Clouds was written – I possess more knowledge on Ancient Rome than Greece. I do, however, know my mythology, which definitely helped in furthering my understanding of this work. Having an understanding of context would assist in comprehension, and perhaps I will return to this work after gaining that knowledge.
Despite this, I still found The Clouds enjoyable. This play tells this story of Strepsiades, a man deeply in debt. He enrolls in a “thinking house” to be taught how to outwit his creditors in court by Socrates. He proves to be completely incompetent and is replaced by his son, who, of course, doesn’t want to go to this school where there are pale-faced nerds; he would much rather hang out with his horses. The knowledge that Strepsiads’s son Pheidippides gains, however, comes at a price…
Although it is a comedy, this play does contain a serious undertone in which Aristophanes heavily criticises Socrates and Sophists in general. Through the debate between ‘Right Logic’ and ‘Wrong Logic’ (guess which one Aristophanes is criticising!), Aristophanes explains how ‘Wrong Logic’, the ability to live life with no effort and talk yourself out of all trouble, regardless of its unjust and immoral nature, is how many politicians and people of high status have become so fortunate. The ending, I felt, brought the serious and critical undertone to the surface. I suppose I would have to see the play performed to observe its intended meaning (although I guess this would vary as well, depending on the directors interpretation).
A lot of people are also commenting about how crude this play is. I suspect that I am reading either a euphemistic or censored translation, as I’ve noticed minimal bawdiness. I’m probably missing out. I don’t know enough Ancient Greek to judge the translation, but otherwise, the flowing, rhyming dialogue is quite interesting to read. Overall, I enjoyed this play, although admittedly, it didn’t make me laugh out loud. I would recommend it to, obviously, fans of Greek comedy, although it is a relatively readable one for those who want to give it a try for the first time.
Entertainment value: 3.5/5
Readability (would vary according to translation): 2.5/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 2/5