Aristophanes’ Speech – Plato’s Symposium on Love

Before launching his speech, Aristophanes warns the group that his eulogy to love may be more absurd than funny. His speech is an explanation of why people in love say they feel “whole” when they have found their love partner. He begins by explaining that people must understand human nature before they can interpret the origins of love and how it affects the then present time. It is, he says, because in primal times people had doubled bodies, with faces and limbs turned away from one another. As somewhat spherical creatures who wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels, these original people were very powerful. There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the “androgynous,” who was half male, half female. The males were said to have descended from the sun, the females from the earth and the androgynous couples from the moon. The creatures tried to scale the heights of heaven and planned to set upon the gods. Zeus thought about blasting them to death with thunderbolts, but did not want to deprive himself of their devotions and offerings, so he decided to cripple them by chopping them in half, in effect separating the two bodies.

Zeus then commanded Apollo to turn their faces around and pulled the skin tight and stitched it up to form the navel which he chose not to heal so Man would always be reminded of this event. Ever since that time, people run around saying they are looking for their other half because they are really trying to recover their primal nature. The women who were separated from women run after their own kind, thus creating lesbians. The men split from other men also run after their own kind and love being embraced by other men. Those that come from original androgynous beings are the men and women that engage in mutual love. He says some people think homosexuals are shameless, but he thinks they are the bravest, most manly of all, as evidenced by the fact that only they grow up to be politicians, and that many heterosexuals are adulterous men and unfaithful wives. Aristophanes then claims that when two people who were separated from each other find each other, they never again want to be separated. This feeling is like a riddle, and cannot be explained. Aristophanes ends on a cautionary note. He says that men should fear the gods, and not neglect to worship them, lest they wield the axe again and we have to go about with our noses split apart. If man works with the god of Love, they will escape this fate and instead find wholeness.

Source: Wikipedia
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symposium_(Plato)

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