Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Symbolism at the End of Symposium

The end of Plato’s Symposium sees the entrance of Alcibiades, claiming to be drunk, but still speaking very eloquently. This section is ripe with interesting symbolism and activity between the speakers, and it is these I want to focus on.

 Alcibiades makes quite an entrance, stumbling in resting his weight on others, including the flute girl who the party had earlier dismissed to play for the women of the house. It is interesting that she returns here, at the beginning of a section filled with strife between would-be lovers. She was sent away because Eryximachus wanted the men to be alone for intelligent conversation, but now, under the arm of a drunken younger man and directly after a speech regarding love from a woman (Diotima), the female presence returns to the room.

A second piece of symbolism that sticks out is the desire of Alcibiades to crown Agathon with a wreath of garlands. Alcibiades is already wearing it himself, though, and says “I want this crown to come directly from my head to the head that belongs… to the cleverest and best-looking man in town” (212e). He does not mention Agathon’s name, and sure enough, a few minutes later he has given part of the crown to Agathon, but gives a second part to Socrates, implying that there is some dispute as to whom it really belongs to. Alcibiades speech is in great praise (and some frustration) to Socrates, but the warning he issues at the end is to Agathon. Alcibiades cautions him not to fall in love with Socrates, or end up like him.


  1. You are a good reader of texts, Rowan. Your parents trained you well.

  2. Good observations. You're a good writer too.