Christian Waugh The Better Half It was a great relief for me to read Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium, since, as far as I’m concerned it is definitely the best speech in the book. It encompasses many aspects of love with which I readily agree, and readily embrace myself. The other speeches are good and well thought out, but they involve a variety of the aspects of love which appear to be unrelated. Aristophanes’ speech presents a simple and effective solution for the problems that many of us, both ancient and modern, experience. The idea that love isn’t something we can control, yet attempt to manipulate anyway, is explained in his speech.
He definitely has a close, intimate touch with the reality around him, and his speech reflects that. After Erixymachus’ speech on medicine and how it affects the diseased in a manner different from the healthy is over, he calls on Aristophanes to take his turn. When Aristophanes says something witty and humorous, Erixymachus warns him not to give evidence of a comic speech if he doesn’t intend on giving one. Even though Aristophanes attempts to take back what he said before in order to avoid any prejudgments, the others probably still held to their belief that the speech would be comedic. If, after the speech, Aristophanes’ audience still believed that his speech was a comic one, then they are themselves the fools. For while they may speak on matters that may never be seen in real life, or experienced by real people, Aristophanes brings a difficult subject down to our own human level.
While they may speak in hypotheses and theories that can never be argued because of their ambiguity, Aristophanes speaks of a simple fact of life that need not to be interpreted any other way: love brings us together. Although one may disagree with me that Aristophanes’ views on how the gods created man from three genders may seem far fetched and unprovable, his reasons for this theory are in themselves rather unarguable. From a simple biological po a coincidence that our genitals are interlocking and that in order to have intercourse between the opposite sexes, we almost always have to be facing each other in an embrace. This may seem the most natural thing in the world, and in fact it is. Love is comfort and togetherness, and when human beings embrace it is the most comfortable and uniting thing that we can experience.
Aristophanes knows this, and this is what he explains in his speech. Another valid point made by Aristophanes is that to become whole, our whole lives are dedicated to the finding of another. This is more universal than it may seem at first, because philosophers and great thinkers, such as Shakespeare, have always insisted that love’s comfort isn’t actually a bonus for our normal life; it’s a relief from our normal life. Aristophanes argues that, although we may feel complete while we are alone, we are never actually whole until we are with another in love’s embrace. That soothing relaxing feeling that we get from being with the one we love is a relief of the discomfort and stress of being by ourselves and alone.
Another argument of Aristophanes with whcih I would have to agree is that great things happen when we are with each other in love’s embrace- i.e., children. Children are the most glorious creations that anyone can ever create, and these creations come about only when a man and a woman lock in an embrace of love. They occur only when we are with our other half; when we are whole. Never by ourselves can we create such a masterpiece of nature. This simple yet unarguable point is also made in Aristophanes’ speech to the wise men.
In conclusion, it isn’t hard to understand Aristophanes’ points and how he came up with them. However, the real treasure isn’t in just understanding them; it is in embracing them. The simplicity of the speech is far superior to all of the other speeches in the book. However ridiculous the idea of Zeus cutting humans in half is, the deep philosophical implications and obvious worldly applications can’t be ignored. Instead they should themselves be embraced, and perhaps when this happens, will we each find our other half and become whole ourselves. That is what true love is. ??.