Aristophanes

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Aristophanes’ Theory Of Love In The Symposium Essay, Research Paper 2. Aristophanes’ Theory of love: from Plato’s Symposium The love as discussed by the characters in the Symposium is homosexual love. Some assumed that homosexuality alone is capable of satisfying ?a man?s highest and noblest aspirations?. Whereas heterosexual love is placed at an inferior level, being described as only existing for carnal reasons; its ultimate purpose being procreation. There are differing views in these dialogues, Aristophanes contradicts his peers by treating heterosexuality at the same level as homosexuality, arguing that both are predestined. Aristophanes considered himself as the comic poet and he began his discourse as such. Yet as the speech continued, he professed to open

another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. ?Mankind?, he said, ?judging by their neglect of him, have never at all understood the power of Love?. He argued that if they had understood him they would have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honor. He sought to describe his power and wanted to teach the rest of the world what he was teaching at that moment. Aristophanes spoke first of the nature of man and what had become of it. He said that human nature had changed: The sexes were originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two. At one time there was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male

and the female: but now only the word ‘androgynous’ remains, and that as a term of reproach. Aristophanes proceeded by telling an anecdote about the terrible might and strength of mankind and how ?the thoughts of their hearts were so great that they made an attack upon the gods?, leaving the celestial councils to decide whether or not to kill them. Zeus found a solution, and decided to cut them in two so as to divide their strength. As he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. He made all the forms complete except in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. Aristophanes continued his discourse in

a vein of seriousness and brought forth an important truth. He related the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half and dying from hunger and self-neglect because they did not do anything apart, to love as a need. Since when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman. The anecdote continued with Zeus, in pity, inventing a new plan: having males generating in the females so that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue. Or, equally so, if man came to man they might be satisfied and go about their ways to the business of life. Aristophanes was trying to demonstrate that our original nature was to search for our other half, to make one of two and to heal the state of

man. Aristophanes thus demonstrated that man was always looking for his other half and this need was perhaps more than purely physical. There was also a longing to regain some lost happiness. ?Such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him.? Aristophanes described that when one half met with his other half the pair became lost in an amazement of love, friendship and intimacy, and spent their whole lives together. Yet they could not explain what they desired of one another. He added that the intense yearning which each of them had towards the other was not that of the lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desired and could not explain. The reason Aristophanes gave to this need was that