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Posts Tagged ‘Aristophanes’

Welcome to our new unofficial*  Open University A396 2009 blog for discussing Plato’s Symposium.  I am hoping this is going to be as simple as setting up some categories with very basic posts about the different sections of the Symposium and inviting all you knowledgable poeple to comment about them.  I was thinking of having sections for

1 The Framing Narrative

2 Phaedrus’ Speech

3 Pausanias’ Speech

4 Eryximachus’ Speech

5 Aristophanes’ Speech

6 Agathon’s Speech

7 Socrates’ Speech

8 Alcibiades’ Speech

9 The Conclusion

How does that sound to the rest of you?

I think you will be able to leave comments without logging in but the first one will need to be approved before it appears – I will try not to take too long 🙂

*NB This is not an official Open University site – it is provided by students for students but anyone is welcome to contribute 🙂

[This content was provided by Mairsmagic]

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YouTube video illustrating Aristophanes’ Speech

Aristophanes, the master of Old Comedy, and Menander, the master of New Comedy, here depicted in a push-me-pull-you form that might or might not have amused them both, but which is certainly reminiscent of Aristophanes description of the original male-male creatures. Provided by Wikipedia Commons.

Aristophanes, the master of Old Comedy, and Menander, the master of New Comedy, here depicted in a push-me-pull-you form that might or might not have amused them both, but which is certainly reminiscent of Aristophanes' description of the original male-male creatures. Provided by Wikipedia Commons.

The above link gives as good an introduction to Aristophanes’ speech as we are likely to get. However, for completeness, sake, I suppose we had better have one here as well. Aristophanes imagines a time when men were twice what they are now. Each individual had two faces, looking in opposite directions on one head, and a spherical torso with four arms, four legs and two sets of genitals. It follows from the last that there were three genders: all-male (two sets of male genitalia), all-female (two sets of female) and hermaphrodite (one set of each). For details on how this came about, their mode of progression and other technicalities you must read the full account. These men, as is the wont of men (cf. Ephialtes and Otus) overreached themselves and attacked the gods. Zeus decided, therefore, to reduce their power by cutting them all in half: the resulting individuals had one face, two arms, two legs – and only one set of genitals, meaning that there were now only two genders. For details on just how he did this and how Apollo stitched them up after the operation, see the text.

The poor humans were distraught and went about searching for their other halves, as they still do. Those who were half of an original all-male looked for another male: these were the best, for they were the most manly and virtuous; those who were half of an original all-female looked for another female: these were the Lesbians and we don’t need to bother much about them (my apologies to any Lesbians out there, but that’s the way it was). Finally, those who came from an original hermophrodite searched for an individual of the other gender: these included the adulterers and prostitutes, and we don’t want to talk much about them either. Sometimes an individual found his actual other half, with whom he then formed a lifelong and intense partnership.

At this point Aristophanes decides he had better introduce Eros, who has played no part in the above at all and is not really needed now. However, he, apparently, will help us all find our other halves. He will also help us behave properly towards the gods and so avoid being chopped up again and having to hop about on one leg (we aren’t told what would happen about the genitals in this scenario).

While the speeches of Phaedo, Pausanias and Eryximachus seem to present something of a progression in our view of Eros, Aristophanes’ flies off at a tangent.. Should we just take it as a comic interlude? Is Plato seeking to make the Symposium look less contrived by introducing a brilliant irrelevance? Do we, perhaps, have here the authentic voice of Aristophanes? It is not difficult to imagine that he really did present some such account, perhaps, even, at a symposium. Did it suit Plato to take this account and insert it here?

[Mageiros kindly provided this summary]

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