Saturday, 22 May 2010

Plato's Symposium

I debated whether to post my initial reaction to reading Plato's Symposium, indeed I thought about it long and hard. I  even consulted with friends, who I consider to be my intellectual equals and It turned out they had the exact same reaction. But could I put it down it writing ? Saying it over a pint is one thing, but out of context... Thankful my answer came courtesy of the South Park episode The F-Word.So here it is:

"Its a bit gay."

This has not been helped at all by the translation and introduction by Walter Hamilton which are from the fifties. The word Homosexual is rattled off at every opportunity in a way that reminded us of the Rowan Atkinson School Master Sketch

Onto the text itself, well to cut short the introduction, there is a celebration going on being hosted by Agathon after wining a dramatic competition.  He has invited over his male chums. They decide not to get absolutely plastered on wine, and instead talk about Love. I should point out, that the love they are talking about, is the love between men - old men and young men in particular. With young men being separated from boys by the fact they are old enough to grow beards.

Women do get a look in,but more in the sense they are in man's way and the love between men and women is more about immortality, compared to pure love which exists only between Men (Plato's words not mine)

There was one speech that I did find interesting which was Aristophanes going on about primeval man, who was round in nature forming a circle with four hands, four arms and a head with two faces. The gods were afraid of their power, so Zeus comes up with the plan to cut them in half to diminish their strength, and Apollo joining in to make the two halves - well human in form.  I  like this idea, as it then goes on to say how each half is yearning for  each other. Sadly from the translation, this speech bursts into comedy gold when we find out the original halves had their genitals on the wrong way round which Zeus has to correct. 

Near the end Aclibiades, a popular Athenian who turns up late and plastered and, well we find out his wooing with Socrates - there is some point here, but it escapes me.  I was Socrates' dialougued out at this point. 

More drunken guests then arrive and then they all go to bed. Except a handful, including Socrates who then  talk about how a good playright should be able to right comedy as well as tragedy. The killer finale is Socrates goes to the Lyceum to wash in the morning and then spends his day doing something before going to bed in the evening - Cracking stuff.

Not my favorite classic by a long shot. Not helped at all by the translation and its unintentional comedic value which detracted a lot from the philosophical side. In the distant future, I will pick it up again, with either with a pre 1900' translation or a modern translation and read it more seriously.  For now, my final thoughts are of the Medieval monks who must of had a cracking time translating this.

The Symposium - Amazon Link

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails