Socrates Both Comedy and Tragedy Are Related Term Paper

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Both comedy and tragedy are "related to emotional needs and religious longings that became crystallized and structured in ritualistic celebrations and festivals," (34). Both can be framed as "catalysts" that force "some sort of conversion" in the individual (34). Moreover, both comedy and tragedy reflect the "eternal spectacle of human nature and its weaknesses," (35). Both art forms use imitation or mimicry of a political figure or idea.

However, there are distinctions between comedy and tragedy. With regards to imitation of a public figure, the tragedy aims to showcase the fallibility of heroes; comedies make fun of common foibles. As Navia points out, comedy likely evolved out of the Bacchanalia, in rural regions. Comedies were judged based on audience reactions: the louder and longer the laughter, the greater the price (35). In comedies, performances were lewd; tragedies were not.

The title of the play comes from the chorus, which is rendered as "personified clouds," (Navia 38). Strepsiades is the protagonist, an old peasant who decides to enroll in a Thinking Establishment with a Master, who is Socrates. Aristophanes ridicules the quality of knowledge being taught at the institution. Socrates' teachings are barely rooted in practical wisdom, and they also shun the established religious traditions of the Athenians. Strepsiades is a good student who listens to the Master and abandons his belief in the gods. In the end, Strepsiades loses his son to the madness of Socrates' teachings.

3. In Aristophanes' Clouds, the playwright uses Socrates as the model for the Master of the Thinking Establishment. It is the earliest known characterization of Socrates (Navia 31). The protagonist Strepsiades is a peasant, typical for the comic narrative formula, and he represents the common person. Socrates is cast as an irrelevant self-absorbed Master. Strepsiades blames city life and its "politicians, philosophers, and foreigners" for his unhappiness (Navia 37). Socrates the Master shuns the Athenian gods in favor of Cloud worship. Strepsiades does believe in the Athenian gods and challenges Socrates with belief in Zeus, but Socrates ultimately convinces Strepsiades to abandon his belief. As a result, Strepsiades teaches his sons to abandon the gods. One of Strepsiades' sons shows insolence, as a result of losing his moral compass. Socrates is thus cast as a master who is out of touch with the real needs of the people, and of his students.

4. The Clouds represent Socrates' ephemeral beliefs, which are fleeting, irrational, and nebulous. The Clouds are contrasted with the concrete and commonly accepted Athenian pantheon. Furthermore, the Clouds symbolize Socrates' living with his head 'in the clouds," distant and out of touch with the real needs of common peasants like Strepsiades. Athenian life is depicted as being elitist and debauch. The basket that Socrates lives in represents his insanity. He is completely out of touch with reality, and "stares stupidly at the sun" without performing daily ablutions (Navia 44).

5. Aristophanes' play presages the persecution of Socrates as a man who was drunk with intellectual power, and whose teachings threatened to undermine the political structure of Athenian society. Socrates' shunning of the Athenian pantheon in favor of philosophical reasoning was a direct threat to established religious authorities. Aristophanes depicts Socrates as a madman whose teachings are potentially lethal to Athenians. By using a peasant as the protagonist of the play, Aristophanes connects with the common person, encouraging political antagonism toward the philosopher. Socrates' poisoning -- his assassination -- was a politically motivated act that was at least in part fueled by caricatures like the one…

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