The Symposium

by

Plato

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Symposium can help.

Aristophanes Character Analysis

Aristophanes was considered to be the most accomplished writer of comedies in the ancient world. In Symposium, his speech is an exercise in myth-making, explaining that sexual attraction came about when Zeus cut humans in half from the form in which they originally existed; thus, humans spend their lives seeking their “other half” in order to regain wholeness. Love, in his view, seeks to reunite with its own characteristics.

Aristophanes Quotes in The Symposium

The The Symposium quotes below are all either spoken by Aristophanes or refer to Aristophanes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Symposium published in 1999.
189a-193e Quotes

When a lover of boys, or any other type of person, meets that very person who is his other half, he is overwhelmed … with affection, concern and love … These are people who live out whole lifetimes together, but still couldn’t say what it is they want from each other. I mean, no one can think that it’s just sexual intercourse they want, and that this is the reason why they find such joy in each other’s company and attach such importance to this. It’s clear that each of them has some wish in his mind that he can’t articulate; instead, like an oracle, he half-grasps what he wants and obscurely hints at it. Imagine that Hephaestus with his tools stood over them while they were lying together and …[said], ‘I’m prepared to fuse and weld you together, so that the two of you become one.’ […] We know that no one who heard this offer would turn it down and it would become apparent that no one wanted anything else.

Related Characters: Aristophanes (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
204d-209e Quotes

“The idea has been put forward,” she said, “that lovers are people who are looking for their own other halves. But my view is that love is directed neither at their half nor their whole unless, my friend, that turns out to be good. After all, people are even prepared to have their own feet or hands amputated if they think that those parts of themselves are diseased. I don’t think that each of us is attached to his own characteristics, unless you’re going to describe the good as ‘his own’ and as ‘what belongs to him,’ and the bad as ‘what does not belong to him.’ The point is that the only object of people’s love is the good — don’t you agree?”

“By Zeus, I do!” I said.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Aristophanes
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
212b-222b Quotes

After Socrates’ speech, Aristodemus said, while the others congratulated him, Aristophanes was trying to make a point, because Socrates had referred to his speech at some stage. Suddenly, there was a loud noise of knocking at the front door, which sounded like revelers, and they heard the voice of a flute-girl.

‘Slaves, go and see who it is,’ Agathon said. ‘If it’s any of my friends, invite them in; if not, tell them the symposium’s over and we’re just now going to bed.’ Not long after, they heard the voice of Alcibiades in the courtyard; he was very drunk and was shouting loudly, asking where Agathon was and demanding to be brought to him. He was brought in, supported by the flute-girl and some of the other people in his group. He stood by the door, wearing a thick garland of ivy and violets, with masses of ribbons trailing over his head…

Related Characters: Agathon (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates, Alcibiades, Aristophanes, Aristodemus of Cydathenaeum
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Symposium LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Symposium PDF

Aristophanes Character Timeline in The Symposium

The timeline below shows where the character Aristophanes appears in The Symposium. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
180d-188e
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Aristophanes is supposed to speak next, but he suffers an ill-timed attack of the hiccups and... (full context)
189a-193e
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Aristophanes’s hiccups have stopped, so it’s his turn to speak. Before he begins, he jokes with... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Humans were also shaped differently, Aristophanes says. They used to be round, with four hands, four legs, two faces, and two... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Aristophanes continues that Zeus redesigned human bodies so that they were capable of having intercourse with... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
Those who were halves of a male whole, however, are attracted to other men. Aristophanes describes these as “the best of their generation” because they are “naturally the bravest.” They... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
...person who finds his or her “other half” is overwhelmed with love for that person, Aristophanes goes on to explain. It’s not just sexual intercourse that people desire, however; they can’t... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Aristophanes concludes by saying that the best earthly realization of this innate longing he’s been talking... (full context)
222c-223d
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...he fell asleep, and when he awoke the next morning, he saw Socrates, Agathon, and Aristophanes still drinking and discussing. After the other two drifted off to sleep, Socrates left the... (full context)