The Clouds
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The Clouds
Aristophanes
Drama
Aug 20, 2018
He wrote as many as fifty plays; nobody is sure exactly how many, and only eleven survive today. But Aristophanes established some principles of comedy (and even, if truth be told, some jokes) that have survived for more than two-and-a-half millennia. Though the distance of time and topic is of course considerable, there is much familiar in the playwright’s repertoire: biting social satire, ridicule of public figures, wacky physical slapstick, gross-out gags, wordplay, and a message that goes beyond the laughs. Except for that last item, the plays of Aristophanes are more than a bit like Marx Brothers movies. In fact, the best way to appreciate The Clouds may be to imagine the antics of those modern siblings on the ancient stage. The play begins as a story of father and son: Strepsiades (think Groucho), a moderately prosperous country gentleman, is panicking that the young Pheidippides (think Zeppo) has racked up a mountain of debt betting on race horses. Strepsiades has the idea to send his son to the fancy new philosophy academy in Athens to keep him away from the track and, perhaps, to learn some rhetorical tricks that will help outwit their creditors. The son refuses, so the father enrolls himself, and Socrates’s academy turns out to be a madhouse (enter Chico and Harpo). The play ends with a hilarious bonfire of the academy, with Socrates going up in flames. The Clouds, for all the present laughter it can still provoke, is also an artifact of its author’s life and times in the Athenian golden age.
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Oct 28, 2018
I had to read these in college for one of my theater classes, where they were compared to slapstick comedy as well.
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Understanding where some comedy roots started
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4000 year old fart jokes
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