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SERVANT OF STREPSIADES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender
CHORUS OF CLOUDS
In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and that of
Socrates, the Think Store. The latter is small and dingy; the interior
of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each occupied.
(sitting up) Good gods! Will daylight never come? The cock crowed hours ago but
here are my slaves snoring still! It never used to be like this. Damn the
war! Hasn't it done enough wrong? Now I can't even scream at my slaves. And
my fine son, who never wakes the whole long night long, but, wrapped in five
blankets, farts away to his heart's content. (Strepsiades lies down again.)
All right, let me settle down and snore too, if I can....Oh! crap, how can I
think about sleep with all these bills, this stable, these debts devouring me,
thanks to this fine cavalier, who knows only how to look after his long locks,
to show himself off in his chariot and to dream of horses! And me almost
dead, when I see the moon in the phase when the bills are falling due. . .
Light the lamp! Bring me my tablets! (The slave obeys.) Let's see, what do I owe? Let me figure up the interest. What's this? Twelve minae to Pasias? Twelve
minae to Pasias! For what? To buy that thoroughbred! I should have paid so much
for the stone that had blinded him!
PHIDIPPIDES (in his sleep) That's not fair, Philo! Drive your chariot
straight, I say.
STREPSIADES There's what's killing me. He raves about horses, even in his sleep.
PHIDIPPIDES (still sleeping) How many times round the track is the race
for the war chariots?
STREPSIADES It's your own father you're driving. . . to ruin. What's here
after Pasias? Three minae to Amynias for a chariot and two wheels.
PHIDIPPIDES (still asleep) Give the horse a good roll in the dust and lead
STREPSIADES It's my money that you've rolled in the dust! My creditors
have repossess everything, and here come more of them who want security for their
PHIDIPPIDES (awaking) Father? What's the matter with you? Why are you
moaning and thrashing all night?
STREPSIADES I have a bum-bailiff in my bedclothes biting me.
PHIDIPPIDES For god's sake, let me have a little sleep. (He turns over.)
STREPSIADES Sure, sleep on! And just think: someday all of these debts will be yours. Damn the go-between who made me marry your mother! I was happy. I had a
normal life, a good and easy kind of life in the country, not a trouble in the
world, never a care. I had bees, sheep, olives. Then I had to
marry your mother, the niece of Megacles, the son of Megacles, she from town,
the haughty, the extravagant, a real Coesyra. I'll never forget our wedding
night. I was reeking of the dregs of the wine-cup, of cheese and
of wool, but she, she was nothing but essences, saffron, voluptuous kisses, the love of
spending, good cheer and wanton delights. She has worked hard. . . to ruin me! I showed her the cloak she had woven for me, and I
said, "Wife, you go too fast about your work, your threads are too closely
woven, and you use far too much wool." (A slave enters with a lamp.)
SLAVE There ain't no more oil in this here lamp.
STREPSIADES Why did you fire up such a thirsty one? Come here, you, I'm going to
STREPSIADES Look here, you put in too thick a wick. . . Later, when we had this boy
here, what was his name going to be? Now there was a question. She had to have some reference to a horse in his name, that he should be called
Xanthippus, Charippus or Callippides. I said no, call him Phidonides like his
grandfather. We compromised on a half-horse, Phidippides. . . She used to fondle
and coax him, saying, "Oh! what a joy it will be to see you, Phidippedes,
all grown up like my father, Megacles, clothed in purple and standing up
straight in your chariot driving your steeds to town." And I would say to
him, "When, like your father, you will go, dressed in a skin, to fetch your
goats from the hills." He never listened to me and now his madness
for horses has almost ruined me! (He gets out of bed.) It's only by
thinking the livelong night that I've discovered the path to salvation, both
miraculous and divine, if only he will follow it! First, however, he must be
awakened, as gently as possible. How shall I manage it? Phidippides! my little
PHIDIPPIDES (awaking again) What, dad?
STREPSIADES Kiss me and give me your hand.
PHIDIPPIDES (getting up and doing as his father requests) There! What's
STREPSIADES Tell me: do you love me?
PHIDIPPIDES By Poseidon, the equestrian Poseidon, I swear I do.
STREPSIADES Oh, please, don't invoke this god of horses. He's the cause of all
my troubles. But if you really love me, and with your whole heart, my boy,
PHIDIPPIDES Believe you? about what?
STREPSIADES Listen to me for once.
PHIDIPPIDES Say on.
STREPSIADES Will you do what I say?
PHIDIPPIDES By Bacchus, I will.
STREPSIADES Good! Look over there. Do you see that little door and that little
PHIDIPPIDES Sure. What of it?
STREPSIADES That is the Think Store of wise souls. There they prove that we are
coals enclosed on all sides under a vast snuffer, which is the sky. If well
paid, these men also teach how to win law-suits, whether you're in the right or
in the wrong.
PHIDIPPIDES What do they call themselves?
STREPSIADES I'm not sure exactly, but they're deep thinkers and most admirable
PHIDIPPIDES Bah! I know them. They're wretches, quacks with pale faces, barefoot
fellows, like that miserable Socrates and Chaerephon?
STREPSIADES Silence! say nothing foolish! If you don't want your old father to
starve to death, join their company and forget your horses.
PHIDIPPIDES What? Hell no, I wouldn't do it for all the pheasants that Leogoras
STREPSIADES Oh! my beloved son, I beg you, please, please, go and follow their
PHIDIPPIDES But why?
STREPSIADES They have two courses of reasoning, the true and the false. Thanks
to the false, even the worst law-suits can be won. If you learn how to do it, I
won't have to pay an obolus of all the debts I've run up for your account.
PHIDIPPIDES No, I won't do it. I shouldn't dare to look at our gallant horsemen,
when I had so ruined my tan.
STREPSIADES Well then, by Demeter! I'm not going to support you any longer,
neither you, nor your team, nor your saddle-horse. Go and hang yourself! I turn
you out of house and home.
PHIDIPPIDES Fine, Uncle Megacles won't leave me without horses. I'll go to him
and laugh at your anger. (He departs. STREPSIADES crosses over to SOCRATES'
STREPSIADES Good riddance! I'll not be discouraged by this. With the help of the
gods I'll enter the Think Store myself and become a great scholar. (He
hesitates.) But at my age, how will I remember? How will my old brains grasp
these fine distinctions, these subtleties of the learned? (Making up his mind) Bah! why worry? Opportunity knocks! Slave, slave!
(He knocks and calls.)
A DISCIPLE (from within) A plague on you! Who are you?
STREPSIADES Strepsiades, son of Phido, of the deme of Cicynna.
DISCIPLE (coming out of the door) You ignorant, illiterate clown, kicking in the
door like that, you've brought on a miscarriage--of an important idea!
STREPSIADES Excuse me, please. I live far away from here in the country. But
tell me, what was the idea that miscarried?
DISCIPLE It's a secret. I can't tell it to anyone except a disciple.
STREPSIADES Then tell me, for I am here to study among you.
DISCIPLE OK, but reflect, these are mysteries. Recently, a flea bit Chaerephon
on the brow and then from there it sprang onto the head of Socrates. Socrates
asked Chaerephon, "How many times the length of its legs does a flea
STREPSIADES How could he measure it?
DISCIPLE Oh! most ingeniously! He melted some wax, took the flea and dipped its
two feet in the wax, which, when cooled, left them shod with true Persian
slippers. These he took off and with them measured the distance.
STREPSIADES Ah! great Zeus! what a genius! what subtlety!
DISCIPLE Oh, it was nothing compared with Socrates' best contrivance.
STREPSIADES What is it? Tell me.
DISCIPLE Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought a gnat
buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES And what did he answer?
DISCIPLE He said that the gut of the gnat is narrow, and that, in passing
through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards the breech. After
this slender channel, it encounters the rump, shaped like a trumpet, and there
it resounds sonorously.
STREPSIADES The ass of a gnat is a trumpet! Brilliantly noted, Socrates! How can
it be hard to win law-suits when you know so much about gnats' guts!
DISCIPLE But not long ago he lost a sublime thought.
STREPSIADES How was that?
DISCIPLE He was studying the course of the moon and its revolutions that night,
and he was gazing open-mouthed in awe at the heavens, when a lizard crapped upon
him from the top of the roof.
DISCIPLE Last night we had nothing to eat.
DISCIPLE He spread over the table a light layer of cinders, bending an iron rod
the while; then he took up a pair of compasses and at the same moment unhooked a
piece of the victim which was hanging in the palaestra.
STREPSIADES Who still admires Thales? Open, open this door of knowledge to me
quickly! Hurry! Show me Socrates. I long to be his disciple. (The door
opens showing the inside of the Think Store, where the DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES are
in various poses of meditation and study. They are pale and emaciated.) By
Heracles! what country are these creatures from?
DISCIPLE Why, what do they look like to you?
STREPSIADES The captives of Pylos. Why are they staring at the ground?
DISCIPLE They are seeking for that which is below the ground.
STREPSIADES What, looking for onions? My friends, don't give yourselves so much
trouble. I know where there are some, fine big ones. But over there, what are
those fellows doing, bent all double?
DISCIPLE They are sounding the abyss of Tartarus.
STREPSIADES While their asses search the heavens?
DISCIPLE Studying astronomy on their own account. But come in now so that the
master does not find us here.
STREPSIADES Not yet, not yet. Let them not change their position. I want to tell
DISCIPLE They can't stay too long in the open air and away from school.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a celestial globe) In the name of all the gods,
what is that? Tell me.
DISCIPLE That is astronomy.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a map) And that?
STREPSIADES What is that used for?
DISCIPLE To measure the land.
STREPSIADES But that is apportioned by lot.
DISCIPLE No, no, I mean the entire earth.
STREPSIADES Ah! what a useful invention!
DISCIPLE There is the whole surface of the earth. Look! Here is Athens.
STREPSIADES Athens! It can't be! I see no courts in session.
DISCIPLE It's really and truly Athens.
STREPSIADES And where are my neighbors of Cicynna then?
DISCIPLE They live here. And this is Euboea--you see this island, the long,
STREPSIADES I know. Pericles has stretched it by squeezing. And where's Sparta?
DISCIPLE Sparta is here, look.
STREPSIADES How near it is to us! It needs to be moved farther away.
DISCIPLE But, by Zeus, that is not possible.
STREPSIADES Then, woe to you! But who's that suspended up there in the basket?
DISCIPLE That's himself.
STREPSIADES Socrates! Oh! I pray you, call him for me.
DISCIPLE Call him yourself. I'm a busy fellow. I've got things to do. (He
departs. The machine swings in SOCRATES in a basket.)
STREPSIADES Socrates! my dear little Socrates!
SOCRATES (loftily) Mortal, what do you want with me?
STREPSIADES What are you doing up there, Socrates? Tell me, I humbly beg you.
SOCRATES (POMPOUSLY) Traversing the air and contemplating the sun.
STREPSIADES So it's not on solid ground, but from the height of your basket that
you slight the gods, if indeed....
SOCRATES I have to suspend my brain and mingle the subtle essence of my mind
with this air, which is of the like nature, in order clearly to penetrate the
things of heaven. I should have discovered nothing, had I remained on the ground
to consider from below the things that
are above; for the dull earth by its force attracts the sap of the mind down to
itself. It's just the same with the watercress.
STREPSIADES What? Does the mind attract the sap of the watercress? Ah! my dear
little Socrates, come down to me! I have come to ask you for lessons.
SOCRATES (descending) What lessons?
STREPSIADES I want to learn how to speak. You see, I've borrowed money, and my
merciless creditors won't give me a moment's peace. All my goods are at stake.
SOCRATES Didn't you see that you were getting into too much debt?
STREPSIADES My ruin has been the madness for horses, a most rapacious evil. But
teach me one of your two methods of reasoning, the one whose object is not to
repay anything, and, may the gods bear witness, that I am ready to pay any fee
you may name.
SOCRATES By which gods will you swear? To begin with, the gods are not a coin
current with us.
STREPSIADES What do you swear by then? By the iron money of Byzantium?
SOCRATES Do you really want to know the truth of heavenly matters?
STREPSIADES Why, sure.
SOCRATES ....and to converse with the clouds, who are our genii?
STREPSIADES That too.
SOCRATES Then be seated on this sacred couch.
STREPSIADES (sitting down) I sit, Socrates.
SOCRATES Now take this chaplet.
STREPSIADES Chaplet? Why chaplet? Socrates, would you sacrifice me, like Athamas?
SOCRATES No, these are the rites of initiation.
STREPSIADES All right but what's going to happen?
SOCRATES You'll become a thorough rattle-pate, a hardened old stager, the fine
flour of the talkers....But for now shut up.
STREPSIADES By Zeus! I'll be quiet for I'll be nothing but wheat-flour, if you
powder me like this.
SOCRATES Silence, old man, give heed to the prayers. (In a priestly tone.) Oh!
most mighty king, boundless air, thou that keepest the earth suspended in space,
thou bright Aether and ye venerable goddesses, ye Clouds, ye who carry in your
loins the terrible thunder and the lightning, arise, arise ye sovereign powers
and manifest yourselves in the celestial spheres to the eyes of your sage.
STREPSIADES Not yet! Wait a bit, till I fold my mantle double, so I won't get
wet. I didn't think to bring my rain hat! I knew I should have.....every
SOCRATES (ignoring this) Come, oh! Clouds, whom I adore, come and show
yourselves here, whether ye be resting on the sacred summits of Olympus, crowned
with hoar-frost, or tarrying in the gardens of Ocean, your father, forming
sacred choruses with the Nymphs; whether ye be gathering the waves of the Nile
in golden vases or dwelling in the Maeotic marsh or on the snowy rocks of Mimas,
hearken to my prayer and accept my offering. May these sacrifices be pleasing to
you. (Amidst loud rumblings of thunder the CHORUS OF CLOUDS appears.)
CHORUS (singing) Eternal Clouds,
let us appear; let us arise from
the roaring depths of Ocean, our father; let us fly towards the lofty
mountains, spread our damp wings over their forest-laden summits,
whence we will dominate the distant valleys, the harvest fed by the
sacred earth, the murmur of the divine streams and the resounding
waves of the sea, which the un-wearying orb lights up with its glittering
beams. But let us shake off the rainy fogs, which hide our immortal
beauty and sweep the earth from afar with our gaze.
SOCRATES Oh, venerated goddesses, yes, you are answering my call! (To
STREPSIADES.) Did you hear their voices mingling with the awful growling
of the thunder?
STREPSIADES I too am going to let off my thunder, so greatly have they
affrighted me. (He farts.) Gods! whether permitted or not, I must, I
SOCRATES No scoffing like those damned comic poets now. Come, silence! A lovely
host of goddesses approaches with songs.
CHORUS (singing) Virgins, who pour
forth the rains, let us move
toward Attica, the rich country of Pallas, the home of the brave;
let us visit the dear land of Cecrops, where the secret rites are
celebrated, where the mysterious sanctuary flies open to the initiate....
What victims are offered there to the deities of heaven! What glorious
temples! What statues! What holy prayers to the rulers of Olympus!
At every season nothing but sacred festivals, garlanded victims, is
to be seen. Then Spring brings round again the joyous feasts of Dionysus,
the harmonious contests of the choruses and the serious melodies of
STREPSIADES By Zeus! Tell me, Socrates, who are these women whose language is so
solemn? Are they demi-goddesses?
SOCRATES No, they are the Clouds of heaven, great goddesses for the lazy; to
them we owe all, thoughts, speeches, trickery, roguery, boasting, lies,
STREPSIADES Ah! that was why, as I listened to them, my mind spread out its
wings. It burned to babble about trifles, to maintain worthless arguments, to
voice petty reasons, to contradict, to tease some opponent. But aren't they
going to show themselves? I'd like to see them, Socrates.
SOCRATES Then look this way in the direction of Parnes; already I see them
STREPSIADES Where, where? Show them to me.
SOCRATES They are advancing in a throng, multitudes following an oblique path
across the dales and thickets.
STREPSIADES Strange! I see nothing.
SOCRATES There, close to the entrance.
STREPSIADES I can hardly see them.
SOCRATES You must distinguish them clearly now, unless your eyes are filled with
gum as thick as pumpkins.
STREPSIADES Aye, undoubtedly! Oh! the venerable goddesses! Why, they fill up the
SOCRATES And you did not know, you never suspected, that they were goddesses?
STREPSIADES No, indeed. I thought clouds were only fog and gas.
SOCRATES But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support of a
crowd of quacks, the diviners, who were sent to Thurium, the notorious
physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers with rings down to the
nails, and the braggarts, who write dithyrambic
verses, all these are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for, because they
sing them in their verses.
STREPSIADES It is then for this that they praise "the rapid flight of the
moist clouds, which veil the brightness of day" and "the waving locks
of the hundred-headed Typho" and "the impetuous tempests, which float
through the heavens, like birds of prey with aerial wings loaded
with mists" and "the rains, the dew, which the clouds outpour."
As a reward for these fine phrases they bolt well-grown, tasty mullet and
SOCRATES Yes, thanks to these. And is it not right and meet?
STREPSIADES Tell me then why, if these really are the Clouds, they so very much
resemble mortals. This is not their usual form.
SOCRATES What are they like then?
STREPSIADES I don't know exactly. Well, they are like great packs of wool, but
not like women--no, not at all....And these have noses.
SOCRATES Answer my questions.
SOCRATES Have you not sometimes seen clouds in the sky like a centaur, a
leopard, a wolf or a bull?
STREPSIADES Why, sure. So what?
SOCRATES They take what metamorphosis they like. If they see a debauchee with
long flowing locks and hairy as a beast, like the son of Xenophantes, they take
the form of a Centaur in derision of his shameful passion.
STREPSIADES And when they see Simon, that thief of public money, what do they do
SOCRATES To picture him to the life, they turn at once into wolves.
STREPSIADES So that was why yesterday, when they saw Cleonymus, who cast away
his buckler because he is the veriest poltroon amongst men, they changed into
SOCRATES And to-day they have seen Clisthenes; you see....they are women.
STREPSIADES Hail, sovereign goddesses, and if ever you have let your celestial
voice be heard by mortal ears, speak to me, oh! speak to me, ye all-powerful
CHORUS-LEADER Hail! veteran of the
ancient times, you who burn to
instruct yourself in fine language. And you, great high-priest of
subtle nonsense, tell us your desire. To you and Prodicus alone of
all the hollow orators of today have we loaned an ear: to Prodicus,
because of his knowledge and his great wisdom, and to you, because
you walk with head erect, a confident look, barefooted, resigned to
everything and proud of our protection.
STREPSIADES Oh! Earth! What august utterances! how sacred! how wondrous!
SOCRATES That is because these are the only goddesses; all the rest are pure
STREPSIADES But by the Earth! is our father, Zeus, the Olympian, not a god?
SOCRATES Zeus! what Zeus! Are you mad? There is no Zeus.
STREPSIADES What are you saying now? Who causes the rain to fall? Answer me
SOCRATES Why, these, and I will prove it. Have you ever seen it raining without
clouds? Let Zeus then cause rain with a clear sky and without their presence!
STREPSIADES By Apollo! that is powerfully argued! For my own part, I always
thought it was Zeus pissing into a sieve. But tell me, who is it makes the
thunder, which I so much dread?
SOCRATES These, when they roll one over the other.
STREPSIADES But how can that be? you most daring among men!
SOCRATES Being full of water, and forced to move along, they are of necessity
precipitated in rain, being fully distended with moisture from the regions where
they have been floating; hence they bump each other heavily and burst with great
STREPSIADES But is it not Zeus who forces them to move?
SOCRATES Not at all; it's the aerial Whirlwind.
STREPSIADES The Whirlwind! ah! I did not know that. So Zeus, it seems, has no
existence, and its the Whirlwind that reigns in his stead? But you have not yet
told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
SOCRATES Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds, when full
of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately swollen out,
they burst with a great noise.
STREPSIADES How can you make me believe that?
SOCRATES Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged on stew at
the Panathenaea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly your belly
resounds with prolonged rumbling.
STREPSIADES Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets to
rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific noise. At first,
it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax! then it increases, papapappax! and
when I take my crap, why, it's thunder
indeed, papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.
SOCRATES Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly, which is but
small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these mighty claps of
STREPSIADES And this is why the names are so much alike: crap and clap. But tell
me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling flame, which at times consumes
the man it strikes, at others hardly singes him. Is it not plain, that Zeus is
hurling it at the perjurers?
SOCRATES Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the golden age!
If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted Simon, Cleonymus and
Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot exist. No, he strikes his own
temple, and Sunium, the promontory of Athens, and the towering oaks. Now, why
should he do that? An oak is no perjurer.
STREPSIADES I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the lightning
SOCRATES When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them, it blows
them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it bursts them, escapes
with fierce violence and a roar to flash into flame by reason of its own
STREPSIADES Ah, that's just what happened to me one day. It was at the feast of
Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had forgotten to slit it
open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting, discharged itself right into my
eyes and burnt my face.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh, mortal, you who
desire to instruct yourself
in our great wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your
good fortune. Only you must have the memory and ardor for study,
you must know how to stand the tests, hold your own, go forward without
feeling fatigue, caring but little for food, abstaining from wine,
gymnastic exercises and other similar follies, in fact, you must believe
as every man of intellect should, that the greatest of all blessings
is to live and think more clearly than the vulgar herd, to shine in
the contests of words.
STREPSIADES If it be a question of hardiness for labor, of spending whole nights
at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and only eating chickpease,
rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
SOCRATES Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no other gods
but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
STREPSIADES I would not speak to the others, even if I met them in the street;
not a single sacrifice, not a libation, not a grain of incense for them!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to
succeed. If you honor and revere us and if you are resolved to become a clever
STREPSIADES Oh, sovereign goddesses, it is only a very small favor that I ask of
you; grant that I may outdistance all the Greeks by a hundred stadia in the art
LEADER OF THE CHORUS We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence
shall more often succeed with the people than your own.
STREPSIADES May the gods shield me from possessing great eloquence! That's not
what I want. I want to be able to turn bad law-suits to my own advantage and to
slip through the fingers of my creditors.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest.
Commit yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
STREPSIADES This I will do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no drawing
back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has eaten up my
vitals. (More and more volubly from here to the end of speech.) So
let them do with me as they will; I yield my body to them. Come blows, come
hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it to me; they may flay me, if I
only escape my debts, if only I win the reputation of being a bold rascal, a
fine speaker, impudent, shameless, a braggart, and adept at stringing lies, an
old stager at quibbles, a complete table of laws, a thorough rattle, a fox to
slip through any hole; supple as a leathern strap, slippery
as an eel, an artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain; a knave with a hundred
faces, cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog. With such epithets do I seek to
be greeted; on these terms they can treat me
as they choose, and, if they wish, by Demeter! they can turn me into sausages
and serve me up to the philosophers.
CHORUS (singing) Here have we a
bold and well-disposed pupil indeed.
When we have taught you, your glory among the mortals will reach even
to the skies.
STREPSIADES (singing) Wherein will that profit me?
CHORUS (singing) You will pass your whole life among us and will be the
most envied of men.
STREPSIADES (singing) Shall I really ever see such happiness?
CHORUS (singing) Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in
crowds, burning to get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult
you about their suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring you in
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old
man; rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
SOCRATES Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; it's important that I know
this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right fashion.
STREPSIADES Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to assault me
SOCRATES No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
STREPSIADES That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is excellent, but if
I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
SOCRATES Have you a natural gift for speaking?
STREPSIADES For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
SOCRATES How will you be able to learn then?
STREPSIADES Very easily, have no fear.
SOCRATES Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought about things
celestial you will seize it in its very flight?
STREPSIADES Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
SOCRATES (aside) Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! (to STREPSIADES)
I greatly fear, old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows.
Now, let me hear what you do when you are beaten.
STREPSIADES I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses and
finally summon my assailant at law.
SOCRATES Come, take off your cloak.
STREPSIADES Have I robbed you of anything?
SOCRATES No. but the usual thing is to enter the school without your cloak.
STREPSIADES But I have not come here to look for stolen goods.
SOCRATES Off with it, fool!
STREPSIADES (He obeys.) Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn
with zeal, which O; your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
SOCRATES You will be the image of Chaerephon.
STREPSIADES Ah! unhappy me! Shall I then be only half alive?
SOCRATES A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
STREPSIADES First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets me all
a-tremble; it looks like the cave of Trophonius.
SOCRATES But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying at the
door? (They go into the Think Store.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed,
you, who, though already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your
mind with new studies and practice it in wisdom! (The CHORUS turns
and faces the Audience.) Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I
am, I will frankly tell you the truth. May I secure both victory and
renown as certainly as I hold you for adept critics and as I regard
this comedy as my best. I wished to give you the first view of a work,
which had cost me much trouble, but which I withdrew, unjustly beaten
by unskillful rivals. It is you, oh, enlightened public, for whom I
have prepared my piece, that I reproach with this. Nevertheless I
shall never willingly cease to seek the approval of the discerning.
I have not forgotten the day, when men, whom one is happy to have
for an audience, received my Virtuous Young Man and my Paederast with
so much favour in this very place. Then as yet virgin, my Muse had
not attained the age for maternity; she had to expose her first-born
for another to adopt, and it has since grown up under your generous
patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn me your faithful alliance.
Thus, like the Electra of the poets, my comedy has come to seek you
today, hoping again to encounter such enlightened spectators. As
far away as she can discern her Orestes, she will be able to recognize
him by his curly head. And note her modest demeanor! She has not
sewn on a piece of hanging leather, thick and reddened at the end,
to cause laughter among the children; she does not rail at the bald,
neither does she dance the cordax; no old man is seen, who, while
uttering his lines, batters his questioner with a stick to make his
poor jests pass muster. She does not rush upon the scene carrying
a torch and screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she relies upon herself and
her verses....My value is so well known, that I take no further pride
in it. I do not seek to deceive you, by reproducing the same subjects
two or three times; I always invent fresh themes to present before
you, themes that have no relation to each other and that are all clever.
I attacked Cleon to his face and when he was all-powerful; but he
has fallen, and now I have no desire to kick him when he is down.
My rivals, on the contrary, now that this wretched Hyperbolus has
given them the cue, have never ceased setting upon both him and his
mother. First Eupolis presented his 'Maricas'; this was simply my
'Knights,' whom this plagiarist had clumsily furbished up again by
adding to the piece an old drunken woman, so that she might dance
the cordax. It was an old idea, taken from Phrynichus, who caused
his old hag to be devoured by a monster of the deep. Then Hermippus
fell foul of Hyperbolus and now all the others fall upon him and repeat
my comparison of the eels. May those who find amusement in their pieces
not be pleased with mine, but as for you, who love and applaud my
inventions, why, posterity will praise your good taste.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king
of the gods, great Zeus, it is thou whom I first invoke; protect this
chorus; and thou too, Poseidon, whose dread trident upheaves at the
will of thy anger both the bowels of the earth and the salty waves
of the ocean. I invoke my illustrious father, the divine Aether, the
universal sustainer of life, and Phoebus, who, from the summit of
his chariot, sets the world aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoebus,
a mighty deity amongst the gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS Most wise spectators, lend us all your
attention. Give heed to our just reproaches. There exist no gods to
whom this city owes more than it does to us, whom alone you forget.
Not a sacrifice, not a libation is there for those who protect you!
Have you decreed some mad expedition? Well! we thunder or we fall
down in rain. When you chose that enemy of heaven, the Paphlagonian
tanner, for a general, we knitted our brow, we caused our wrath to
break out; the lightning shot forth, the thunder pealed, the moon
deserted her course and the sun at once veiled his beam threatening,
no longer to give you light, if Cleon became general. Nevertheless
you elected him; it is said, Athens never resolves upon some fatal
step but the gods turn these errors into her greatest gain. Do you
wish that his election should even now be a success for you? It is
a very simple thing to do; condemn this rapacious gull named Cleon
for bribery and extortion, fit a wooden collar tight round his neck,
and your error will be rectified and the commonweal will at once regain
its old prosperity.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing) Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos,
who reignest on the cragged peaks of Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin,
to whom the Lydian damsels offer pompous sacrifice in a temple; of
gold; and thou, goddess of our country, Athene, armed with the aegis,
the protectress of Athens; and thou, who, surrounded by the bacchants
of Delphi; roamest over the rocks of Parnassus shaking the flame of
thy resinous torch, thou, Bacchus, the god of revel and joy.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS As we were preparing to come here, we
were hailed by the Moon and were charged to wish joy and happiness
both to the Athenians and to their allies; further, she said that
she was enraged and that you treated her very shamefully, her, who
does not pay you in words alone, but who renders you all real benefits.
Firstly, thanks to her, you save at least a drachma each month for
lights, for each, as he is leaving home at night, says, "Slave, buy
no torches, for the moonlight is beautiful," not to name a thousand
other benefits. Nevertheless you do not reckon the days correctly
and your calendar is naught but confusion. Consequently the gods load
her with threats each time they get home and are disappointed of their
meal, because the festival has not been kept in the regular order
of time. When you should be sacrificing, you are putting to the torture
or administering justice. And often, we others, the gods, are fasting
in token of mourning for the death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you
are devoting yourselves to joyous libations. It is for this, that
last year, when the lot would have invested Hyperbolus with the duty
of Amphictyon, we took his crown from him, to teach him that time
must be divided according to the phases of the moon.
SOCRATES (coming out) By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the
Air! I have never seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All
the little quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he has learnt
them. Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out here into the open
air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your couch out here.
STREPSIADES (from within) But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
SOCRATES Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
STREPSIADES (coming out, with the bed) Well, here I am.
SOCRATES Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught, do you
wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
STREPSIADES Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two choenixes
the other day.
SOCRATES It's not about that I ask you, but which, according to you, is the best
measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
STREPSIADES The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
STREPSIADES I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will learn the
STREPSIADES Will the rhythms supply me with food?
SOCRATES First they will help you to be pleasant in company, then to know what
is meant by enhoplian rhythm and what by the dactylic.
STREPSIADES Of the dactyl? I know that quite well.
SOCRATES What is it then, other than this finger here?
STREPSIADES Formerly, when a child, I used this one.
SOCRATES You are as low-minded as you are stupid.
STREPSIADES But, wretched man, I do not want to learn all this.
SOCRATES Then what do you want to know?
STREPSIADES Not that, not that, but the art of false reasoning.
SOCRATES But you must first learn other things. Come, what are the male
STREPSIADES Oh! I know the males thoroughly. Do you take me for a fool then? The
ram, the buck, the bull, the dog, the pigeon.
SOCRATES Do you see what you are doing; is not the female pigeon called the same
as the male?
STREPSIADES How else? Come now!
SOCRATES How else? With you then it's pigeon and pigeon!
STREPSIADES That's right, by Poseidon! but what names do you want me to give
SOCRATES Term the female pigeonnette and the male pigeon.
STREPSIADES Pigeonnette! hah! by the Air! That's splendid! for that lesson bring
out your kneading-trough and I will fill him with flour to the brim.
SOCRATES There you are wrong again; you make trough masculine and it should be
STREPSIADES What? if I say, him, do I make the trough masculine?
SOCRATES Assuredly! would you not say him for Cleonymus?
SOCRATES Then trough is of the same gender as Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES My good man! Cleonymus never had a kneading-trough; he used a round
mortar for the purpose. But come, tell me what I should say!
SOCRATES For trough you should say her as you would for Soctrate.
SOCRATES In this manner you make it truly female.
STREPSIADES That's it! Her for trough and her for Cleonymus.
SOCRATE Now I must teach you to distinguish the masculine proper names from
those that are feminine.
STREPSIADES Ah! I know the female names well.
SOCRATES Name some then.
STREPSIADES Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
SOCRATES And what are masculine names?
STREPSIADES They are are countless-Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
SOCRATES But, wretched man, the last two are not masculine.
STREPSIADES You do not count them as masculine?
SOCRATES Not at all. If you met Amynias, how would you hail him?
STREPSIADES How? Why, I should shout, "Hi, there, Amynia!"
SOCRATES Do you see? it's a female name that you give him.
STREPSIADES And is it not rightly done, since he refuses military service? But
what use is there in learning what we all know?
SOCRATES You know nothing about it. Come, lie down there.
STREPSIADES What for?
SOCRATES Ponder awhile over matters that interest you.
STREPSIADES Oh! I pray you, not there but, if I must lie down and ponder, let me
lie on the ground.
SOCRATES That's out of the question. Come! on the couch!
STREPSIADES (as he lies down) What cruel fate! What a torture the bugs
will this day put me to! (Socrates turns aside.)
CHORUS (singing) Ponder and
examine closely, gather your thoughts
together, let your mind turn to every side of things; if you meet
with a difficulty, spring quickly to some other idea; above all, keep
your eyes away from all gentle sleep.
STREPSIADES (singing) Ow, Wow, Wow, Wow is me!
CHORUS (singing) What ails you? why do you cry so?
STREPSIADES Oh! I am a dead man! Here are these cursed Corinthians advancing
upon me from all corners of the couch; they are biting me, gnawing at
my sides, drinking my blood, yanking my balls, digging into my arse, they are killing
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Not so much wailing and clamor, if you please.
STREPSIADES How can I obey? I have lost my money and my complexion, my blood and
my slippers, and to cap my misery, I must keep awake on this couch, when scarce
a breath of life is left in me. (A brief interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES Well now! what are you doing? are you reflecting?
STREPSIADES Yes, by Poseidon!
SOCRATES What about?
STREPSIADES Whether the bugs will entirely devour me.
SOCRATES May death seize you, accursed man! (He turns aside again.)
STREPSIADES Ah it has already.
SOCRATES Come, no giving way! Cover up your head; the thing to do is to find an
STREPSIADES An alternative! ah! I only wish one would come to me from within
these coverlets! (Another interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES Wait! let us see what our fellow is doing! Ho! are you asleep?
STREPSIADES No, by Apollo!
SOCRATES Have you got hold of anything?
STREPSIADES No, nothing whatever.
SOCRATES Nothing at all?
STREPSIADES No, nothing except my tool, which I've got in my hand.
SOCRATES Aren't you going to cover your head immediately and ponder?
STREPSIADES On what? Come, Socrates, tell me.
SOCRATES Think first what you want, and then tell me.
STREPSIADES But I have told you a thousand times what I want. Not to pay any of
SOCRATES Come, wrap yourself up; concentrate your mind, which wanders too
lightly; study every detail, scheme and examine thoroughly.
STREPSIADES Alas! Alas!
SOCRATES Keep still, and if any notion troubles you, put it quickly aside, then
resume it and think over it again.
STREPSIADES My dear little Socrates!
SOCRATES What is it, old greybeard?
STREPSIADES I have a scheme for not paying my debts.
SOCRATES Let us hear it.
STREPSIADES Tell me, if I purchased a Thessalian witch, I could make the moon
descend during the night and shut it, like a mirror, into a round box and there
keep it carefully. . .
SOCRATES How would you gain by that?
STREPSIADES How? why, if the moon did not rise, I would have no interest to pay.
SOCRATES Why so?
STREPSIADES Because money is lent by the month.
SOCRATES Good! but I am going to propose another trick to you. If you were
condemned to pay five talents, how would you manage to quash that verdict? Tell
STREPSIADES How? how? I don't know, I must think.
SOCRATES Do you always shut your thoughts within yourself? Let your ideas fly in
the air, like a may-bug, tied by the foot with a thread.
STREPSIADES I have found a very clever way to annul that conviction; you will
admit that much yourself.
SOCRATES What is it?
STREPSIADES Have you ever seen a beautiful, transparent stone at the druggists',
with which you may kindle fire?
SOCRATES You mean a crystal lens.
STREPSIADES That's right. Well, now if I placed myself with this stone in the
sun and a long way off from the clerk, while he was writing out the conviction,
I could make all the wax, upon which the words were written, melt.
SOCRATES Well thought out, by the Graces!
STREPSIADES Ah! I am delighted to have annulled the decree that was to cost me
SOCRATES Come, take up this next question quickly.
SOCRATES If, when summoned to court, you were in danger of losing your case for
want of witnesses, how would you make the conviction fall upon your opponent?
STREPSIADES That's very simple and easy.
SOCRATES Let me hear.
STREPSIADES This way. If another case had to be pleaded before mine was called,
I should run and hang myself.
SOCRATES You talk rubbish!
STREPSIADES Not so, by the gods! if I were dead, no action could lie against me.
SOCRATES You are merely beating the air. Get out! I will give you no more
STREPSIADES (imploringly) Why not? Oh! Socrates! in the name of the gods!
SOCRATES But you forget as fast as you learn. Come, what was the thing I taught
you first? Tell me.
STREPSIADES Ah let me see. What was the first thing? What was it then? Ah! that
thing in which we knead the bread, oh! my god! what do you call it?
SOCRATES Plague take the most forgetful and silliest of old addlepates!
STREPSIADES Alas! what a calamity! what will become of me? I am undone if I do
not learn how to ply my tongue. Oh! Clouds! give me good advice.
CHORUS-LEADER Old man, we counsel you, if you have brought up a son, to send him
to learn in your stead.
STREPSIADES Undoubtedly I have a son, as well endowed as the best, but he is
unwilling to learn. What will become of me?
CHORUS-LEADER And you don't make him obey you?
STREPSIADES You see, he is big and strong; moreover, through his mother he is a
descendant of those fine birds, the race of Coesyra. Nevertheless, I will go and
find him, and if he refuses, I will turn him out of the house. Go in, Socrates,
and wait for me awhile. (SOCRATES
goes into the Think Store, STREPSIADES into his own house.)
CHORUS (singing) Do you
understand, Socrates, that thanks to us
you will be loaded with benefits? Here is a man, ready to obey you
in all things. You see how he is carried away with admiration and
enthusiasm. Profit by it to clip him as short as possible; fine chances
are all too quickly gone.
STREPSIADES (coming out of his house and pushing his son in front of
him) No, by the Clouds! you stay here no longer; go and devour the ruins
of your uncle Megacles' fortune.
PHIDIPPIDES Oh! my poor father! what has happened to you? By the Olympian Zeus!
You are no longer in your senses!
STREPSIADES Look! "the Olympian Zeus." Oh! you fool! to believe in
Zeus at your age!
PHIDIPPIDES What is there in that to make you laugh?
STREPSIADES You are then a tiny little child, if you credit such antiquated
rubbish! But come here, that I may teach you; I will tell you something very
necessary to know to be a man; but do not repeat it to anybody.
PHIDIPPIDES Tell me, what is it?
STREPSIADES Just now you swore by Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES Sure I did.
STREPSIADES Do you see how good it is to learn? Phidippides, there is no Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES What is there then?
STREPSIADES The Whirlwind has driven out Zeus and is King now.
PHIDIPPIDES What drivel!
STREPSIADES You must realize that it is true.
PHIDIPPIDES And who says so?
STREPSIADES Socrates, the Melian, and Chaerephon, who knows how to measure the
jump of a flea.
PHIDIPPIDES Have you reached such a pitch of madness that you believe those
STREPSIADES Use better language, and do not insult men who are clever and full
of wisdom, who, to economize, never shave, shun the gymnasia and never go to the
baths, while you, you only await my death to eat up my wealth. But come, come as
quickly as you can to learn in my
PHIDIPPIDES And what good can be learnt of them?
STREPSIADES What good indeed? Why, all human knowledge. Firstly, you will know
yourself grossly ignorant. But await me here awhile. (He goes back into his
PHIDIPPIDES Alas! what is to be done? Father has lost his wits. Must I have him
certificated for lunacy, or must I order his coffin?
STREPSIADES (returning with a bird in each hand) Come! what kind of bird
is this? Tell me.
PHIDIPPIDES A pigeon.
STREPSIADES Good! And this female?
PHIDIPPIDES A pigeon.
STREPSIADES The same for both? You make me laugh! In the future you must call
this one a pigeonnette and the other a pigeon.
PHIDIPPIDES A pigeonnette! These then are the fine things you have just learnt
at the school of these sons of Earth!
STREPSIADES And many others; but what I learnt I forgot at once, because I am to
PHIDIPPIDES So this is why you have lost your cloak?
STREPSIADES I have not lost it, I have consecrated it to Philosophy.
PHIDIPPIDES And what have you done with your sandals, you poor fool?
STREPSIADES If I have lost them, it is for what was necessary, just as Pericles
did. But come, move yourself, let us go in; if necessary, do wrong to obey your
father. When you were six years old and still lisped, I was the one who obeyed
you. I remember at the feasts of
Zeus you had a consuming wish for a little chariot and I bought it for you with
the first obolus which I received as a juryman in the courts.
PHIDIPPIDES You will soon repent of what you ask me to do.
STREPSIADES Oh! now I am happy! He obeys. (loudly) Come, Socrates,
come! Come out quick! Here I am bringing you my son; he refused, but I have
SOCRATES Why, he is but a child yet. He is not used to these baskets, in which
we suspend our minds.
PHIDIPPIDES To make you better used to them, I would you were hung.
STREPSIADES A curse upon you! you insult your master!
SOCRATES "I would you were hung!" What a stupid speech! and so
emphatically spoken! How can one ever get out of an accusation with such a tone,
summon witnesses or touch or convince? And yet when we think, Hyperbolus learnt
all this for one talent!
STREPSIADES Rest undisturbed and teach him. He has a most intelligent nature.
Even when quite little he amused himself at home with making houses, carving
boats, constructing little chariots of leather, and understood wonderfully how
to make frogs out of pomegranate rinds. Teach him both methods of reasoning, the
strong and also the weak, which by false arguments triumphs over the strong; if
not the two, at least the false, and that in every possible way.
SOCRATES The Just and Unjust Discourse themselves shall instruct him. I shall
STREPSIADES But forget it not, he must always, always be able to confound the
true. (Socrates enters the Think Store; a moment later the JUST and the
UNJUST DISCOURSE come out; they are quarrelling violently.)
JUST DISCOURSE Come here! Shameless as you may be, will you dare to show your
face to the spectators?
UNJUST DISCOURSE Take me where you will. I seek a throng, so that I may the
better annihilate you.
JUST DISCOURSE Annihilate me! Do you forget who you are?
UNJUST DISCOURSE I am Reasoning.
JUST DISCOURSE Yes, the weaker Reasoning."
UNJUST DISCOURSE But I triumph over you, who claim to be the stronger.
JUST DISCOURSE By what cunning shifts, pray?
UNJUST DISCOURSE By the invention of new maxims.
JUST DISCOURSE . . . which are received with favor by these fools. (He points to
UNJUST DISCOURSE Say rather, by these wise men.
JUST DISCOURSE I am going to destroy you mercilessly.
UNJUST DISCOURSE How pray? Let us see you do it.
JUST DISCOURSE By saying what is true.
UNJUST DISCOURSE I shall retort and shall very soon have the better of you.
First, maintain that justice has no existence.
JUST DISCOURSE Has no existence?
UNJUST DISCOURSE No existence! Why, where is it?
JUST DISCOURSE With the gods.
UNJUST DISCOURSE How then, if justice
exists, was Zeus not put to death for having put his father in chains?
JUST DISCOURSE Bah! this is enough to turn my stomach! A basin, quick!
UNJUST DISCOURSE You are an old driveller and stupid withal.
JUST DISCOURSE And you a degenerate and shameless fellow.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Hah! What sweet expressions!
JUST DISCOURSE An impious buffoon.
UNJUST DISCOURSE You crown me with roses and with lilies.
JUST DISCOURSE A parricide.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Why, you shower gold upon me.
JUST DISCOURSE Formerly it was a hailstorm of blows.
UNJUST DISCOURSE I deck myself with your abuse.
JUST DISCOURSE What impudence!
UNJUST DISCOURSE What tomfoolery!
JUST DISCOURSE It is because of you that the youth no longer attends the
schools. The Athenians will soon recognize what lessons you teach those who are
fools enough to believe you.
UNJUST DISCOURSE You are overwhelmed with wretchedness.
JUST DISCOURSE And you, you prosper. Yet you were poor when you said, "I am
the Mysian Telephus," and used to stuff your wallet with maxims of
Pandeletus to nibble at.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Oh! the beautiful wisdom, of which you are now boasting!
JUST DISCOURSE Madman! But yet madder the city that keeps you,
you, the corrupter of its youth!
UNJUST DISCOURSE It is not you who will teach this young man; you are as old and
out of date at Kronos.
JUST DISCOURSE Nay, it will certainly be I, if he does not wish to be lost and
to practice verbosity only.
UNJUST DISCOURSE (to PHIDIPPIDES) Come here and leave him to beat the air.
JUST DISCOURSE You'll regret it, if you touch him.
CHORUS-LEADER (stepping between them as they are about to come to blows) A truce to your
quarrellings and abuse! But you expound what
you taught us formerly, and you, your new doctrine. Thus, after hearing
each of you argue, he will be able to choose betwixt the two schools.
JUST DISCOURSE I am quite agreeable.
UNJUST DISCOURSE And I too.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Who is to speak first?
UNJUST DISCOURSE Let it be my opponent, he has my full consent; then I shall
follow upon the very ground he shall have chosen and shall shatter him with a
hail of new ideas and subtle fancies; if after that he dares to breathe another
word, I shall sting him in the face and in the eyes with our maxims, which are
as keen as the sting of a wasp, and he will die.
CHORUS (singing) Here are two
rivals confident in their powers of
oratory and in the thoughts over which they have pondered so long.
Let us see which will come triumphant out of the contest. This wisdom,
for which my friends maintain such a persistent fight, is in great
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Come then, you, who crowned men of other days with so many
virtues, plead the cause dear to you, make yourself known to us.
JUST DISCOURSE Very well, I will tell you what was the old education, when I
used to teach justice with so much success and when modesty was held in
veneration. Firstly, it was required of a child, that it should not utter a
word. In the street, when they went to the music-school, all the youths of the
same district marched lightly clad and ranged in good order, even when the snow
was falling in great flakes. At the master's house they had to stand with their
legs apart and they were taught to sing either, "Pallas, the Terrible, who
overturneth cities," or "A noise resounded from afar" in the
solemn tones of the ancient harmony. If anyone indulged in buffoonery or lent
his voice any of the soft inflexions, like those which to-day the disciples of
Phrynis take so much pains to form, he was treated as an enemy of the Muses and
belabored with blows. In the wrestling school they would sit with outstretched
legs and without display of any indecency to the curious. When they rose, they
would smooth over the sand, so as to leave no trace to excite obscene thoughts.
Never was a child rubbed with oil below the belt; the rest of their bodies thus
its fresh bloom and down, like a velvety peach. They were not to be seen
approaching a lover and themselves rousing his passion by soft modulation of the
voice and lustful gaze. At table, they would not have dared, before those older
than themselves, to have taken a radish, an aniseed or a leaf of parsley, and
much less eat fish or thrushes or cross their legs.
UNJUST DISCOURSE What antiquated rubbish! Have we got back to the days of the
festivals of Zeus Polieus, to the Buphonia, to the time of the poet Cecides and
the golden cicadas?
JUST DISCOURSE Nevertheless by suchlike teaching I built up the men of Marathon--But
you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle themselves quickly into their
clothes, and I am enraged when I see them at the Panathenaea forgetting Athene
while they dance, and covering their tools with their bucklers. Hence, young
man, dare to range yourself beside me, who follow justice and truth; you will
then be able to shun the public place, to refrain from the baths, to blush at
that is shameful, to fire up if your virtue is mocked at, to give place to your
elders, to honor your parents, in short, to avoid all that is evil. Be modesty
itself, and do not run to applaud the dancing
girls; if you delight in such scenes, some courtesan will cast you her apple and
your reputation will be done for. Do not bandy words with your father, nor treat
him as a dotard, nor reproach the old
man, who has cherished you, with his age.
UNJUST DISCOURSE If you listen to him, by Bacchus! you will be the image of the
sons of Hippocrates and will be called mother's big ninny.
JUST DISCOURSE No, but you will pass your days at the gymnasia, glowing with
strength and health; you will not go to the public place to cackle and wrangle
as is done nowadays; you will not live in fear that you may be dragged before
the courts for some trifle exaggerated by quibbling. But you
will go down to the Academy to run beneath the sacred olives with some
virtuous friend of your own age, your head encircled with the white reed,
enjoying your ease and breathing the perfume of the yew and of the fresh sprouts
of the poplar, rejoicing in the return of springtide and gladly listening to the
gentle rustle of the plane tree and the elm. (With greater warmth from
here on.) If you devote yourself to practicing my precepts, your chest will
be stout, your color glowing, your shoulders broad, your tongue short, your hips
muscular, but your tool small. But if you follow the fashions of the day, you
will be pallid in hue, have narrow shoulders, a narrow chest,
a long tongue, small hips and a big thing; you will know how to spin forth
long-winded arguments on law. You will be persuaded also to regard as splendid
everything that is shameful and as shameful everything that is honorable; in a
word, you will wallow in degeneracy like Antimachus.
CHORUS (singing) How beautiful, high-souled, brilliant is this wisdom
that you practice! What a sweet odor of honesty is emitted by your
discourse! Happy were those men of other days who lived when you were
honored! And you, seductive talker, come, find some fresh arguments,
for your rival has done wonders.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS You will have to bring out against him all the
battery of your wit, it you desire to beat him and not to be laughed
out of court.
UNJUST DISCOURSE At last! I was choking with impatience, I was burning to upset
his arguments! If I am called the Weaker Reasoning in the schools, it is just
because I was the first to discover the means to confute the laws and the
decrees of justice. To invoke solely the weaker arguments and yet triumph is an
art worth more than a hundred thousand drachmae. But see how I shall batter down
the sort of education of which he is so proud. Firstly, he forbids you to bathe
in hot water. What grounds have you for condemning hot baths?
JUST DISCOURSE Because they are baneful and enervate men.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Enough said! Oh! you poor wrestler! From the very outset I have
seized you and hold you round the middle; you cannot escape me. Tell me, of all
the sons of Zeus, who had the stoutest heart, who performed the most doughty
JUST DISCOURSE None, in my opinion, surpassed Heracles.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Where have you ever seen cold baths called 'Bath of Heracles'?
And yet who was braver than he?
JUST DISCOURSE It is because of such quibbles, that the baths are seen crowded
with young folk, who chatter there the livelong day while the gymnasia remain
UNJUST DISCOURSE Next you condemn the habit of frequenting the market-place,
while I approve this. If it were wrong Homer would never have made Nestor speak
in public as well as all his wise heroes. As for the art of speaking, he tells
you, young men should not practice it; I hold the contrary. Furthermore he
preaches chastity to them. Both precepts are equally harmful. Have you ever seen
chastity of any use to anyone? Answer and try to confute me.
JUST DISCOURSE To many; for instance, Peleus won a sword thereby.
UNJUST DISCOURSE A sword! Ah! what a fine present to make him! Poor wretch!
Hyperbolus, the lamp-seller, thanks to his villainy, has gained more than....do
not know how many talents, but certainly no sword.
JUST DISCOURSE Peleus owed it to his chastity that he became the husband of
UNJUST DISCOURSE. . . who left him in the lurch, for he was not the most ardent;
in those nocturnal sports between the sheets, which so please women, he
possessed but little merit. Get you gone, you are but an old fool. But you,
young man, just consider a little what this temperance means and the delights of
which it deprives you-young fellows, women, play, dainty dishes, wine,
boisterous laughter. And what is life worth without these? Then, if you happen
to commit one of these faults inherent in human weakness, some seduction or
adultery, and you are caught in the act, you are lost, if you cannot speak. But
follow my teaching and you will be able to satisfy your passions, to dance, to
laugh, to blush at nothing. Suppose you are caught in the act of adultery. Then
up and tell the husband you are not guilty, and recall to him the example of
Zeus, who allowed himself to be conquered by love and by women. Being but a
mortal, can you be stronger than a god?
JUST DISCOURSE Suppose your pupil, following your advice, gets the radish rammed
up his arse and then is depilated with a hot coal; how are you going to prove to
him that he is not a broad-arse?
UNJUST DISCOURSE What's the matter with being a broad-arse?
JUST DISCOURSE Is there anything worse than that?
UNJUST DISCOURSE Now what will you say, if I beat you even on this point?
JUST DISCOURSE I should certainly have to be silent then.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Well then, reply! Our advocates, what are they?
JUST DISCOURSE Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Nothing is more true. And our tragic poets?
JUST DISCOURSE Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Well said again. And our demagogues?
JUST DISCOURSE Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE You admit that you have spoken nonsense. And the spectators,
what are they for the most part? Look at them.
JUST DISCOURSE I am looking at them.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Well! What do you see?
JUST DISCOURSE By the gods, they are nearly all broad-arses. (pointing)
See, this one I know to be such and that one and that other with the long hair.
UNJUST DISCOURSE What have you to say, then?
JUST DISCOURSE I am beaten. Debauchees! in the name of the gods, receive my
cloak; I pass over to your ranks. (He goes back into the Think Store.)
UNJUST DISCOURSE Well then! Are you going to take away your son or do you wish
me to teach him how to speak?
STREPSIADES Teach him, chastise him and do not fail to sharpen his tongue well,
on one side for petty law-suits and on the other for important cases.
UNJUST DISCOURSE Don't worry, I shall return him to you an accomplished sophist.
PHIDIPPIDES Very pale then and thoroughly hang-dog-looking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Take him with you. (UNJUST DISCOURSE and
PHIDIPPIDES go into the Think Store. To STREPSIADES, who is just going
into his own house.) I think you will regret this. (The CHORUS turns
and faces the audience.) Judges, we are all about to tell you what
you will gain by awarding us the crown as equity requires of you.
In spring, when you wish to give your fields the first dressing, we
will rain upon you first; the others shall wait. Then we will watch
over your corn and over your vinestocks; they will have no excess
to fear, neither of heat nor of wet. But if a mortal dares to insult
the goddesses of the Clouds, let him think of the ills we shall pour
upon him. For him neither wine nor any harvest at all! Our terrible
slings will mow down his young olive plants and his vines. If he is
making bricks, it will rain, and our round hailstones will break the
tiles of his roof. If he himself marries or any of his relations or
friends, we shall cause rain to fall the whole night long. Verily,
he would prefer to live in Egypt than to have given this iniquitous
STREPSIADES (coming out again) Another four, three, two days, then the
eve, then the day, the fatal day of payment! I tremble, I quake, I shudder, for
it's the day of the old moon and the new. Then all my creditors take the oath,
pay their deposits, I swear my downfall and my ruin. As for me, I beseech them
to be reasonable, to be just, "My friend, do not demand this sum, wait a
little for this other and give me time for this third one." Then they will
pretend that at this rate they will never be repaid, will accuse me of bad faith
and will threaten me with the law. Well then, let them sue me! I care nothing
for that, if only Phidippides has learnt to speak fluently. I am going to find
out; I'll knock at the door of the school. (He knocks.) .... Ho! slave,
SOCRATES (coming out) Welcome! Strepsiades!
STREPSIADES Welcome! Socrates! But first take this sack; (offers him a
sack of flour) it is right to reward the master with some present. And my
son, whom you took off lately, has he learnt this famous reasoning? Tell me.
SOCRATES He has learnt it.
STREPSIADES Wonderful! Oh! divine knavery!
SOCRATES You will win just as many causes as you choose.
STREPSIADES Even if I have borrowed before witnesses?
SOCRATES So much the better, even if there are a thousand of them!
STREPSIADES (bursting into song) Then I am going to shout with all my
might. "Woe to the usurers, woe to their capital and their interest and
their compound interest! You shall play me no more bad turns. My son is being
taught there, his tongue is being sharpened into a double-edged weapon; he is my
defender, the savior of my house, the ruin of my foes! His poor father was
crushed down with misfortune and he delivers him." Go and call him to me
quickly. Oh! my child! my dear little one! run forward to your father's voice!
SOCRATES (singing) Lo, the man himself!
STREPSIADES (singing) Oh, my friend, my dearest friend!
SOCRATES (singing) Take your son, and get you gone.
STREPSIADES (as PHIDIPPIDES appears) Oh, my son! oh! oh! what a pleasure
to see your pallor! You are ready first to deny and then to contradict; it's as
clear as noon. What a child of your country you are! How your lips quiver with
the famous, "What have you to say now?" How well you know, I am
certain, to put on the look of a victim, when it is you who are making both
victims and dupes! And what a truly Attic glance! Come, it's for you to save me,
seeing it is you who have ruined me.
PHIDIPPIDES What is it you fear then?
STREPSIADES The day of the old and the new.
PHIDIPPIDES Is there then a day of the old and the new?
STREPSIADES The day on which they threaten to pay deposit against me.
PHIDIPPIDES Then so much the worse for those who have deposited! for it's not
possible for one day to be two.
PHIDIPPIDES Why, undoubtedly, unless a woman can be both old and young at the
STREPSIADES But so runs the law.
PHIDIPPIDES I think the meaning of the law is quite misunderstood.
STREPSIADES What does it mean?
PHIDIPPIDES Old Solon loved the people.
STREPSIADES What has that to do with the old day and the new?
PHIDIPPIDES He has fixed two days for the summons, the last day of the old moon
and the first day of the new; but the deposits must only be paid on the first
day of the new moon.
STREPSIADES And why did he also name the last day of the old?
PHIDIPPIDES So, my dear sir, that the debtors, being there the day before, might
free themselves by mutual agreement, or that else, if not, the creditor might
begin his action on the morning of the new moon.
STREPSIADES Why then do the magistrates have the deposits paid on the last of
the month and not the next day?
PHIDIPPIDES I think they do as the gluttons do, who are the first to pounce upon
the dishes. Being eager to carry off these deposits, they have them paid in a
day too soon.
STREPSIADES Splendid! (to the audience) Ah! you poor brutes, who
serve for food to us clever folk! You are only down here to swell the number,
true blockheads, sheep for shearing, heap of empty pots! Hence I will sing a
song of victory for my son and myself. "Oh! happy, Strepsiades! what cleverness is thine! and what a son thou hast here!" Thus
my friends and my neighbours will say, jealous at seeing me gain all my suits.
But come in, I wish to regale you first. (They both go in. A moment later
a creditor arrives, with his witness.)
PASIAS (to the WITNESS) A man should never lend a single obolus. It would
be better to put on a brazen face at the outset than to get entangled in such
matters. I want to see my money again and I bring you here to-day to attest the
loan. I am going to make a foe of a neighbor; but, as long as I live, I do not
wish my country to have to blush for me. Come, I am going to summon Strepsiades.
STREPSIADES (coming out of his house) Who is this?
PASIAS . . . for the old day and the new.
STREPSIADES (to the WITNESS) I call you to witness, that he has named two
days. What do you want of me?
PASIAS I claim of you the twelve minae, which you borrowed from me to buy the
STREPSIADES A horse! do you hear him? I, who detest horses, as is well known.
PASIAS I call Zeus to witness, that you swore by the gods to return them to me.
STREPSIADES Because at that time, by Zeus! Phidippides did not yet know the
PASIAS Would you deny the debt on that account?
STREPSIADES If not, what use is his science to me?
PASIAS Will you dare to swear by the gods that you owe me nothing?
STREPSIADES By which gods?
PASIAS By Zeus, Hermes and Poseidon!
STREPSIADES Why, I would give three obols for the pleasure of swearing by them.
PASIAS Woe upon you, impudent knave!
STREPSIADES Oh! what a fine wine-skin you would make if flayed!
PASIAS Heaven! he jeers at me!
STREPSIADES It would hold six gallons easily.
PASIAS By great Zeus! by all the gods! you shall not scoff at me with impunity,
STREPSIADES Ah! how you amuse me with your gods! how ridiculous it seems to a
sage to hear Zeus invoked.
PASIAS Your blasphemies will one day meet their reward. But, come, will you
repay me my money, yes or no? Answer me, that I may go.
STREPSIADES Wait a moment, I am going to give you a distinct answer. (He goes
indoors and returns immediately with a kneading-trough.)
PASIAS (to the WITNESS) What do you think he will do? Do you think he will
STREPSIADES Where is the man who demands money? Tell me, what is this?
PASIAS Him? Why, he is your kneading-trough.
STREPSIADES And you dare to demand money of me, when you are so ignorant? I will
not return an obolus to anyone who says him instead of her for a
PASIAS You will not repay?
STREPSIADES Not if I know it. Come, an end to this, pack off as quick as you
PASIAS I go, but, may I die, if it be not to pay my deposit for a summons.
STREPSIADES Very well! It will be so much more loss to add to the twelve minae.
But truly it makes me sad, for I do pity a poor simpleton who says him for a
kneading-trough (Another creditor arrives.)
AMYNIAS Woe! ah woe is me!
STREPSIADES Wait! who is this whining fellow? Can it be one of the gods of
AMYNIAS Do you want to know who I am? I am a man of misfortune!
STREPSIADES Get on your way then.
AMYNIAS (in tragic style) Oh! cruel god! Oh Fate, who hast broken the
wheels of my chariot! Oh, Pallas, thou hast undone me!
STREPSIADES What ill has Tlepolemus done you?
AMYNIAS Instead of jeering me, friend, make your son return me the money he has
had of me; I am already unfortunate enough.
STREPSIADES What money?
AMYNIAS The money he borrowed of me.
STREPSIADES You have indeed had misfortune, it seems to me.
AMYNIAS Yes, by the gods! I have been thrown from a chariot.
STREPSIADES Why then drivel as if you had fallen off an ass?
AMYNIAS Am I drivelling because I demand my money?
STREPSIADES No, no, you cannot be in your right senses.
STREPSIADES No doubt your poor wits have had a shake.
AMYNIAS But by Hermes! I will sue you at law, if you do not pay me.
STREPSIADES Just tell me; do you think it is always fresh water that Zeus lets
fall every time it rains, or is ill always the same water that the sun pumps
over the earth?
AMYNIAS I neither know, nor care.
STREPSIADES And actually you would claim the right to demand your money, when
you know not an iota of these celestial phenomena?
AMYNIAS If you are short, pay me the interest anyway.
STREPSIADES What kind of animal is interest?
AMYNIAS What? Does not the sum borrowed go on growing, growing every month, each
day as the time slips by?
STREPSIADES Well put. But do you believe there is more water in the sea now than
there was formerly?
AMYNIAS No, it's just the same quantity. It cannot increase.
STREPSIADES Thus, poor fool, the sea, that receives the rivers, never grows, and
yet you would have your money grow? Get you gone, away with you, quick! Slave!
bring me the ox-goad!
AMYNIAS I have witnesses to this.
STREPSIADES Come, what are you waiting for? Will you not budge, old nag!
AMYNIAS What an insult!
STREPSIADES Unless you start trotting, I shall catch you and stick this in your
arse, you sorry packhorse! (AMYNIAS runs off.) Ah! you start, do
you? I was about to drive you pretty fast, I tell you-you and your wheels and
your chariot! (He enters his house.)
CHORUS (singing) Whither does the
passion of evil lead! here is
a perverse old man, who wants to cheat his creditors; but some mishap,
which will speedily punish this rogue for his shameful schemings,
cannot fail to overtake him from today. For a long time he has been
burning to have his son know how to fight against all justice and
right and to gain even the most iniquitous causes against his adversaries
every one. I think this wish is going to be fulfilled. But mayhap,
mayhap, will he soon wish his son were dumb rather!
STREPSIADES (rushing out With PHIDIPPIDES after him) Oh! oh! neighbors,
kinsmen, fellow citizens, help! help! to the rescue, I am being beaten! Oh! my
head! oh! my jaw! Scoundrel! Do you beat your own father?
PHIDIPPIDES (calmly) I do.
STREPSIADES See! he admits he is beating me.
PHIDIPPIDES Of course I do.
STREPSIADES You villain, you parricide, you gallows-bird!
PHIDIPPIDES Go on, don't stop there, call me a thousand other names, if you
want. The more you curse, the greater my amusement!
STREPSIADES You ditch-arsed cynic!
PHIDIPPIDES How fragrant the perfume breathed forth in your words.
STREPSIADES Do you beat your own father?
PHIDIPPIDES Yes, by Zeus! and I do right in beating
STREPSIADES Oh, wretch! can it be right to beat a father?
PHIDIPPIDES I will prove it to you, and you shall own yourself vanquished.
STREPSIADES Own myself vanquished on a point like this?
PHIDIPPIDES It's the easiest thing in the world. Choose whichever of the two
reasonings you like.
STREPSIADES Of which reasonings?
PHIDIPPIDES The Stronger and the Weaker.
STREPSIADES Miserable fellow! Why, now that you've learned to refute
what is right, you would persuade me that a son should beat
PHIDIPPIDES I shall convince you so thoroughly that, when you have heard
me, you will not have a word to say.
STREPSIADES Well, I'm sure curious to hear you.
CHORUS (singing) Consider well, old man, how you can best triumph over
him. His brazenness shows himself sure of his case; he has
some argument that gives him nerve. Note the confidence in his look!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But how did the fight begin? tell the Chorus; you cannot
help doing that much.
STREPSIADES I will tell you what was the start of the quarrel. At the end of the
meal, as you know, I bade him take his lyre and sing me the air of Simonides,
which tells of the fleece of the ram. He replied bluntly, that it was stupid,
while drinking, to play the lyre and sing, like a woman when she is grinding
PHIDIPPIDES Why, by rights I ought to have beaten and kicked you the very moment
you told me to sing.
STREPSIADES That is just how he spoke to me in the house. . . and he said that Simonides was a detestable poet.
But I mastered myself and I said to him, 'At least, take a myrtle branch and recite a
passage from Aeschylus to me.' He replies at once: 'For my own part, 'I look
upon Aeschylus as the first of poets, for his verses are nothing but incoherence,
stuff and nonsense.' Still I smothered my wrath
and said, 'OK then, recite one of the famous pieces from the modern poets.' Then he
commenced a piece in which Euripides shows a brother who rapes his own sister. I
just couldn't restrain myself any longer, and I let him have it, but he sprang at me, broke my bones, bore me to earth,
strangled and started killing me!
PHIDIPPIDES I was right. What! not praise Euripides, the greatest of our poets?
STREPSIADES He the greatest of our poets? Ah! if I but dared to speak! but the
blows would rain upon me harder than ever.
PHIDIPPIDES Undoubtedly and rightly too.
STREPSIADES Rightly! What impudence! to me, who brought you up! when you
could hardly lisp, I guessed what you wanted. If you said broo, broo, well, I
brought you your milk; if you asked for mam mam, I gave you bread; and you had
no sooner said, caca, than I took you
outside and held you out. And just now, when you were strangling me, I shouted,
I bellowed that I was about to crap; and you, you scoundrel, had not the heart
to take me outside, so that, though almost choking, I was compelled to do my
shitting right there.
CHORUS (singing) Young men, your hearts must be panting with impatience.
What is Phidippides going to say? If, after such conduct, he proves
he has done well, I would not give an obolus for the hide of old men.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Come, you, who know how to brandish and hurl
the keen shafts of the new science, find a way to convince us, give
your language an appearance of truth.
PHIDIPPIDES How pleasant it is to know these clever new inventions and to be
able to defy the established laws! When I thought only about horses, I was not
able to string three words together without a mistake, but now that the master
has altered and improved me, and I live in this world of subtle thought, of
reasoning and of meditation, I count on being able to prove satisfactorily that
I have done well to thrash my father.
STREPSIADES Mount your horse! By Zeus! I would rather defray the keep of a
four-in-hand team than be battered with blows.
PHIDIPPIDES I revert to what I was saying when you interrupted me. And first,
answer me, did you beat me in my childhood?
STREPSIADES Why, assuredly, for your good and in your own best interest.
PHIDIPPIDES Tell me, is it not right,
that in turn I should beat you for your good, since it is for a man's own best
interest to be beaten? What! must your body be free of blows, and not mine? am I
not free-born too? the children are to weep and the fathers go free? You will
tell me, that according to the law, it is the lot of children to be beaten. But
I reply that the old men are children twice over
and that it is far more fitting to chastise them than the young, for there is
less excuse for their faults.
STREPSIADES But the law nowhere admits that fathers should be treated thus.
PHIDIPPIDES Was not the legislator who carried this law a man like you and me?
In those days he got men to believe him; then why should not I too have the
right to establish for the future a new law, allowing children to beat their
fathers in turn? We make you a present of all the blows which were received
before his law, and admit that you thrashed us with impunity. But look how the cocks
and other animals fight with their fathers; and yet what difference is
there betwixt them and ourselves, unless it be that they do not propose decrees?
STREPSIADES But if you imitate the cocks in all things, why don't you scratch up
the dunghill, why don't you sleep on a perch?
PHIDIPPIDES That has no bearing on the case, good sir; Socrates would find no
connection, I assure you.
STREPSIADES Then do not beat at all, for otherwise you have only yourself to
PHIDIPPIDES What for?
STREPSIADES I have the right to chastise you, and you to chastise your son, if
you have one.
PHIDIPPIDES And if I have not, I shall have cried in vain, and you will die
laughing in my face.
STREPSIADES What say you, all here present? It seems to me that he is right, and
I am of opinion that they should be accorded their right. If we think wrongly,
it is but just we should be beaten.
PHIDIPPIDES Again, consider this other point.
STREPSIADES It will be the death of me.
PHIDIPPIDES But you will certainly feel no more anger because of the blows I
have given you.
STREPSIADES Come, show me what profit I shall gain from it.
PHIDIPPIDES I shall beat my mother just as I have you.
STREPSIADES What do you say? what's that you say? Hah! this is far worse still.
PHIDIPPIDES And what if I prove to you by our school reasoning, that one ought
to beat one's mother?
STREPSIADES Ah! if you do that, then you will only have to throw yourself, along
with Socrates and his reasoning, into the Barathrum. Oh! Clouds! all our
troubles emanate from you, from you, to whom I entrusted myself, body and soul.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS No, you alone are the cause, because you have pursued the
path of evil.
STREPSIADES Why did you not say so then, instead of egging on a poor ignorant
LEADER OF THE CHORUS We always act thus, when we see a man conceive
a passion for what is evil; we strike him with some terrible disgrace,
so that he may learn to fear the gods.
STREPSIADES Alas! oh Clouds! that's hard indeed, but it's just! I ought not to
have cheated my creditors. . . But come, my dear son, come with me to take
vengeance on this wretched Chaerephon and on Socrates, who have deceived us
PHIDIPPIDES I'll do nothing against our masters.
STREPSIADES Show some reverence for ancestral Zeus!
PHIDIPPIDES Mark him and his ancestral Zeus! What a fool you are! Does any such
being as Zeus exist?
STREPSIADES Of course.
PHIDIPPIDES No, a thousand times no! The ruler of the world is the Whirlwind,
that has unseated Zeus.
STREPSIADES He has not dethroned him. I believed it, because of this whirligig
here. Unhappy wretch that I am! I have taken a piece of clay to be a god.
PHIDIPPIDES Very well! Keep your stupid nonsense for your own consumption. (He
goes back into STREPSIADES' house.)
STREPSIADES Oh! what madness! I had lost my reason when I threw over the gods
through Socrates' seductive phrases. (Addressing the statue of Hermes) Oh! good Hermes, do not destroy me in your wrath. Forgive me;
their babbling had driven me crazy. Be my counselor. Shall
I pursue them at law or shall I....? Order and I obey.-You are right, no
law-suit; but up! let us burn down the home of those praters. Here,
Xanthias, here! take a ladder, come forth and arm yourself with an axe; now
mount upon the Think Store, demolish the roof, if you love your master, and may
the house fall in upon them. Ho! bring me a blazing torch! There is more than
one of them, arch-impostors as they are, on whom I am determined to have
A DISCIPLE (from within) Oh! oh!
STREPSIADES Come, torch, do your duty! Burst into full flame!
DISCIPLE What are you doing?
STREPSIADES What am doing? Why, I am entering upon a subtle argument with the
beams of the house.
SECOND DISCIPLE (from within) Help! Help! Who is burning down our house?
STREPSIADES The man whose cloak you have appropriated.
SECOND DISCIPLE You are killing us!
STREPSIADES That is my hope, unless my axe plays me false, or I
fall and break my neck.
SOCRATES (appearing at the window) Hey! you fellow on the roof, what are
you doing up there?
STREPSIADES (mocking SOCRATES' manner) I am traversing the air and
contemplating the sun.
SOCRATES Ah! ah! woe is upon me! I am suffocating!
SECOND DISCIPLE And I, alas, shall be burnt up!
STREPSIADES You insulted the gods! You studied the face of the moon! Chase
them, strike and beat them down! Forward! they have richly deserved their
fate-above all, by reason of their blasphemies.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS So let the Chorus file off the stage. Its part
for Powers of Literature
(with Lesson numbers):
Odysseus' voyage 1
Mission to Achilles
Death of Patroklos
Burial of Hektor
Return of Odysseus
City of Dreams
the Homeric king
Socrates gets busted
Socrates on trial
Socrates in jail
Socrates in heaven
Paul does Christ
gospel without text
The Knight of the Cart
Sire Lance's genes
18. Virgil, Aeneid
Aeneas & Dido