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(C) The Interludes.

The first Interlude, worthy of the name, occurs between the second and third encomia (185 C—E), and it is noticeable, first, for the reference to the “isology” of the rhetorical sophists; secondly, for the device by which the natural order of speakers is changed (Eryximachus taking the place of Aristophanes); and thirdly, for the alleged cause which renders such a change necessary, namely the hiccough (λύγξ) of Aristophanes. As regards the significance of this last matter considerable diversity of opinion exists among the commentators. Of the ancients, Olympiodorus (vit. Plat. 3) supposed that Plato here ἐκωμῴδησε Ἀριστοφάνη when he εἰσάγει αὐτὸν μεταξὺ λυγγὶ περιπεσόντα καὶ μὴ δυνάμενον πληρῶσαι τὸν ὕμνον: and similarly Athenaeus (187 C) writes τὸν μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς λυγγὸς ὀχλούμενον...κωμῳδεῖν ἤθελε καὶ διασύρειν: and Aristides (or. 46, II. p. 287), ἀλλ᾽ οἶμαι λύζειν αὐτὸν ἔδει, ἵνα εἰς ἀπληστίαν σκωφθῇ. Of the moderns, some have followed the ancients in supposing that the incident is meant to satirize Aristophanes and his intemperate habits (so Stallbaum, Rückert, Steinhart); while some (Stephens, Sydenham, Wolf, Schwegler) take the object of the ridicule to be not so much the habits of the poet as his speech with its “indelicate ingredients.” On the other hand, Schleiermacher held the view that Eryximachus with his “physiological and medical notion of love” is here being satirized; while Ast—whose view is shared in the main by Hommel, van Prinsterer and Rettig—argued that the real object of the ridicule is Pausanias, by whose speech Aristophanes implies that he has been “fed up” to the point of loathing. This view Rettig thinks is supported by the phrase Παυσανίου παυσαμένου, which he takes to indicate Apollodorus' ridicule,—by the allusion made by Aristophanes to Pausanias' speech in 189 C,—and by his mention of Pausanias again in 193 B; and he construes the hint of another possible cause ( ὑπό τινος ἄλλου, 185 C) as “affording the key to the hidden meaning of the word πλησμονή.” This view, however, is open to the objections (urged by Rückert against Ast) that, first, it makes Aristophanes guilty of excessive rudeness in feigning a hiccough to show his disgust (“aliud est in convivio iocari, aliud in scena,” e.g. Nub. 906 ff., Ach. 585 ff., the places cited by Rettig); and that, further, there is no plain sign that the hiccough was feigned, but on the contrary the whole incident is stated by Aristodemus as matter-of-fact. It seems safe, therefore, to conclude that the most obvious view— that of the ancients—is nearest to the truth. The incident shows up Aristophanes in a ludicrous light, and at the same time it gives further occasion to Eryximachus to air his medical lore; so that we can read in it the intention of satirizing gently both these personages. But to construe it as aimed at Pausanias is far-fetched and improbable: he is already disposed of in the satirical reference to sophistical “isology”; and to discover a fresh allusion to him in the “other cause” of the hiccough is to discover a mare's nest, for—as the Scholiast ad loc. informs us—other physical causes of this symptom were as a matter of fact recognized by the medical profession, and it is only polite on the part of Aristodemus to leave the matter open.

The second Interlude (189 A—C) and the third (193 D—194 E) call for no special remark.

The fourth Interlude (198 A—199 C), which follows on the speech of Agathon, is linked to the third both by a remark which Socrates addresses to Eryximachus, and also, at the close, by his appeal to Phaedrus (cp. 199 B with 194 D). Here, in even a greater degree than in the previous Interludes, Socrates is the central figure of interest, and this position he continues to hold throughout the rest of the dialogue. This Interlude, indeed, may be regarded as one of the cardinal points of the structure, in which the First Act, as we may term it, passes on into the Second; and in the Second Act we reach at length the theoretical climax, in the doctrine of Socrates-Diotima. To this climax the present Interlude, wherein is laid before us Socrates' confession of rhetorical faith, serves as prologue.

The fifth Interlude (212 C—215 A) is by far the longest and, as regards the action of the piece, the most important. For it introduces a new actor, and he a protagonist, in the person of Alcibiades. The contrast is striking between the prophetess in her soaring flights to the heavenly places of the spirit and the tipsy reveller with his lewd train who takes her place in claiming the attention of the audience. The comic relief which, in the earlier scenes, had been supplied by Aristophanes, as γελωτοποιός, is now supplied by Alcibiades. We should notice also how a link with the Second Act is furnished here, at the commencement of the Third Act, by the mention of an attempt by Aristophanes to reply to an observation made by Socrates in the course of his speech. But apart from this, the rest of the speakers and banqueters are left out of account except only Agathon, Socrates and Eryximachus. The action of the last of these here is parallel to his action at the commencement of the First Act where he had taken the lead in fixing the rules for the conduct of the symposium. As regards Agathon and Socrates, the most important incident in this Interlude is the decision concerning their contest in σοφία which is pronounced by Alcibiades, when, acting the not inappropriate part of Dionysus, he awards the crown to Socrates,—an incident to the significance of which we have already (§ ii. B, C) drawn attention.

Of the Epilogue or concluding scene (222 C—end) it is unnecessary to say much. The persons that figure most largely in it are the three central characters, Alcibiades, Agathon and Socrates; while towards the close the rest of the characters receive, as it were, a farewell notice. When the curtain finally falls, it falls significantly on the solitary figure of Socrates, the incarnation of the Eros-daemon, behind whom in his shadow stands the form of his erastes, the “shadow”-biographer Aristodemus.

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