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[658a] and the right mode of action too, supposing it were carried out?

Clinias
Possibly.

Athenian
But, my dear sir, we must not decide this matter hastily; rather we must analyze it thoroughly and examine it in some such fashion as this: suppose a man were to organize a competition, without qualifying or limiting it to gymnastic, musical or equestrian sports; and suppose that he should assemble the whole population of the State and, proclaiming that this is purely a pleasure-contest in which anyone who chooses may compete, should offer a prize to the competitor who gives the greatest amusement to the spectators,— [658b] without any restrictions as to the methods employed,—and who excels others just in doing this in the highest possible degree, and is adjudged the most pleasure-giving of the competitors: what do we suppose would be the effect of such a proclamation?

Clinias
In what respect do you mean?

Athenian
The natural result would be that one man would, like Homer, show up a rhapsody, another a harp-song, one a tragedy and another a comedy; nor should we be surprised if someone were even to fancy [658c] that he had the best chance of winning with a puppet-show. So where such as these and thousands others enter the competition, can we say who will deserve to win the prize?

Clinias
An absurd question; for who could possibly pretend to know the answer before he had himself actually heard each of the competitors?

Athenian
Very well, then; do you wish me to supply you with the answer to this absurd question?

Clinias
By all means.

Athenian
If the tiniest children are to be the judges, they will award the prize to the showman of puppets, will they not? [658d]

Clinias
Certainly they will.

Athenian
And older lads to the exhibitor of comedies; while the educated women and the young men, and the mass of the people in general, will award it to the shower of tragedies.

Clinias
Most probably.

Athenian
And we old men would very likely take most delight in listening to a rhapsode giving a fine recitation of the Iliad or the Odyssey or of a piece from Hesiod, and declare that he is easily the winner. Who then would rightly be the winner of the prize? That is the next question, is it not?

Clinias
Yes. [658e]

Athenian
Evidently we three cannot avoid saying that those who are adjudged the winners by our own contemporaries would win rightly. For in our opinion epic poetry is by far the best to be found nowadays anywhere in any State in the world.

Clinias
Of course.

Athenian
Thus much I myself am willing to concede to the majority of men,—that the criterion of music should be pleasure not, however, the pleasure of any chance person; rather I should regard that music which pleases the best men

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