An Athenian citizen and harried father, burdened by the debts his son, Pheidippides, has incurred. Strepsiades is the "hero" of the play, but he is not very heroic. He is concerned instead with pursuing his dishonest aim: shirking his debts instead of taking responsibility for them. Therefore, Strepsiades is more of an "anti-hero." He does not have the subtle, esoteric mind that it takes to succeed at the school, but rather frustrates Socrates and the other Students at the school with his stubbornness, his violence, and his limited, literal mind. He is a pragmatist, not a philosopher, and as such he is rooted in the physical world, happiest delivering a sound beating or masturbating. Because of his bumbling, brutish physicality, he is a fitting foil to Socrates's pure intellectualism.
The spend-thrift and arrogant son of Strepsiades. He has adopted the aristocratic posturing of his mother and Uncle Megacles and demonstrates a passion for horses as well as a passion for esoteric knowledge. He is cocky and smug and proves a receptive pupil for the subtle rhetoric taught by Socrates. He is fascinated by himself—at first, his own material needs and finally his own whirling dervish of an intellect—and his egotism makes him cruel and ruthless.
The master-sophist at the infamous school. Socrates is a spokesman for the "new education" of rhetoric, atheism, science, and sophistry. He represents the heights of esoteric knowledge—so removed from the reality of everyday life in Athens as to appear floating! In contrast to the brutish physicality of Strepsiades, Socrates represents pure, rarified intellect at its most ethereal and impractical. However, Socrates is not "above" human emotions such as anger and impatience, especially when plagued with such a buffoonish student as Strepsiades.
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The Chorus of Clouds
The personified quasi-divinities who bring rain and thunder. The Chorus of Clouds acts as a core voice in the play, explaining certain motives and egging on the action. At times, they act as prophets, foreshadowing actions and obstacles to come. The Chorus of Clouds can interact directly with the audience and thus may seem to be removed from the action of the scene, much like the gods the chorus is supposed to be replacing. The chorus' prescience and sense of resolve makes its members obvious candidates for divinity; with their singing and dancing en masse they lend the necessary air of ritual and spirituality. Also, because the Chorus members speak directly to the audience about the play and about playwriting itself, they become mouthpieces for Aristophanes himself.
A personified school of thought. Unjust Argument is Just Argument's necessary foil. Like Socrates, Unjust Argument represents all that is wrong with sophistry and the "new education"—the specious moral content masked by slippery, well-wrought persuasion and rhetoric. Like Pheidippides, Unjust Argument is smug and disdainful of tradition. He has a facile mind, if not necessarily an upright set of values.
A personified school of thought. Just Argument is Unjust Argument's necessary foil. He, like Strepsiades, represents the "old" or "traditional" system of education, one that stressed obedience, reverence for one's elders, values indoctrinated in martial poetry such as Homer, and physical fitness. However, like Strepsiades, Just Argument's overdeveloped sense of the physical will be his undoing: his own over-zealous sexual appetite undermines the moral content in his argument, making him into a foolish pederast and not a wise pedagogue.
A disciple at Socrates's school who shows Strepsiades the ropes with characteristic verbal flair and an air of secrecy worthy of the Free-Masons. The Student takes great, albeit serious, delight in the minutiae of Socrates's scientific investigations. He is, however, defensive of his school when Strepsiades drops by and he acts defensively, even a bit neurotically, in order to maintain the order and sanctity of their proceedings.
An angry Athenian to whom Strepsiades owes money. He comes to demand Strepsiades's appearance in court and acts with great brashness and surety. He pays great attention to detail and procedure—attention that he demonstrates in bringing a witness with him when he pays his call. He is not overjoyed to be prosecuting Strepsiades, but acts with good energy and organization in preparing his case.
A mopey Athenian to whom Strepsiades owes money. He is a morose, weepy figure, prone to swearing great, pathetic oaths to the gods. A comical figure of pathos. A great Greek Eeyore (of Winnie the Pooh fame).
A household slave to Strepsiades. He is obedient, but will stand up for himself when challenged.
A philosopher-sophist from Socrates's school. Renowned for his paleness and his esoteric intellect, he is also whiny and helpless.
Pupils of Socrates and Chaerephon. Blind adherents to esoteric knowledge. Moony, silent, pale types without physical vigor.