Clouds

Clouds

Clouds

Clouds

Synopsis

This line-for-line translation of Aristophanes' best-known comedy features an introduction on Old Comedy, and the place of Clouds and Aristophanic comedy within it. Footnotes and more detailed endnotes further distinguished this edition of a play famous for its caricature of Socrates and of the 'new learning'.

Excerpt

Aristophanic comedy is not the sort of comedy with which we are familiar: situation comedy, comedy of errors and manners, plot and subplot, romance, with an emphasis on the familial and domestic. I would rather ask the reader to imagine a dramatic combination of the slapstick of the Three Stooges, the song and dance of a Broadway musical, the verbal wit of W. S. Gilbert or of a television show like Frasier, the exuberance of Mardi Gras, the open-ended plot line of The Simpsons, the parody of a Mel Brooks movie, the political satire of Doonesbury (or your favorite editorial cartoonist), the outrageous sexuality of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkien, wrapped up in the format of a Monty Python movie.

Aristophanic comedy is [fantasy] or [farce] rather than pure [comedy.] It depends not on complicated plot or subtle interaction of characters, but on the working out of a [great idea,] the more bizarre the better (e.g., the sex-strike that stops the war in Lysistrata, or the establishment of Cloudcuckooland in Birds). Imagine a fantastic idea, wind it up and let it run, watch the logical (or illogical) conclusions that follow, and let the whole thing end in a great final scene. [Plot] is not a useful term here; of the eleven extant comedies of Aristophanes, only Thesmophoriazusae has anything like the linear plot of a modern comedy. The background is always topical and immediate, the city of Athens in the present . . .

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