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Strepsiades is in a twister. It's the 25th of the month, and he owes a couple of creditors more money than he cares to pay. To make things more complicated, his lazy, horse-obsessed son Pheidippides (named for his favorite animal, no thanks to Strepsiades' damnable wife, niece of Megacles that she is) is a leech, living at his father's house, even though he's well into adulthood. Then, a lightbulb flashes over Strepsiades' head: He will send his son off to the Thinkery, that wonderful school of rhetoric, and have him learn the fine art of bullshit. Perhaps, once the young man is armed with knowledge on how to win arguments, he will be able to shake the debts off Strepsiades' back. Of course, as both father and son learn, twisters are twisters for a reason and are not easily untwisted.
Aristophanes' Ancient Greek comedy, originally written in 423 BCE and revised some years later, was originally written for Dionysia, a festival honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and partying. It shows, no thanks to the humor, which is crude and at times scatological. It treats the viewers like morons, making a complete fool out of Socrates (who, although he is -- Mileage Varying, of course -- a Magnificent Bastard, was certainly not an idiot) and making fun of his profession. Perhaps that's why it was voted last out of three plays which were performed at the Dionysia that year.
- Affectionate Parody: The Clouds affectionately ribs Socrates. They were friends in Real Life.
- Disproportionate Retribution: When the philosophers fail to teach his son properly, Strepsiades sees fit to burn down the Thinkery.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: the roles of Good and Bad Angel are played by a personified Right and Wrong arguments, who try to persuade the protagonist's son Pheidippides either to avoid or to enter into Socrates's sophistical "Thinkery," making this trope palaioteros apo to chôma.
- From a Certain Point of View: Socrates' teaching are based on relativity of everything and bending word meanings to suit one's will.
- Philosophy Is Wrong: It's up to debate whether The Clouds is a diatribe against philosophy in general, or only against its excesses, but it certainly contains a very scathing portrayal of philosophical wisdom.
- Socrates: As previously mentioned, Socrates -- much like his contemporary Chaerophon would be if, y'know, he actually spoke in the play -- is completely out of character (if Plato's dialogues are to be believed). He stays inside the Thinkery all day; flitters about pondering scientific mysteries such as "How far can a flea jump?"; and teaches young Greeks rhetoric, which -- in Real Life, at least -- was left to the sophists.
- This may also count as a case of Did Not Do the Research. It is, however, perfectly possible that Aristophanes was aware of who Socrates really was but made him a rhetorician simply to pander to the audience, many of whom thought Socrates was a sophist. Also, it could be a case of Composite Character (historical Socrates conflated with a stereotypical image of a sophist).
- Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: The gods used a set of lens to ignite the Olympic torch.
- Take That, Audience!: In a fourth-wall-breaking moment.
- Toilet Humor: At one point, Strepsiades is speaking to one of the students at the Thinkery, surrounded by kneeling students. When he's told that they are studying the reaches of Hell, he's quick to point out that their "third eyes" are facing the sky.
- Additionally, the play pokes fun at penises, saying that, if you're a good man, yours will be nice and small.
- Volleying Insults