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Plato as Dramatist

  • Dorothy Tarrant

Extract

Editors and translators have long recognised the dramatic element in Plato's work. It might seem superfluous to take up this subject in detail; but the detail in some aspects does not, in fact, appear to have been closely studied or recorded.

The desire to honour the personality and to perpetuate the method of Socrates is an obvious motive for Plato's choice of the dialogue form as medium for his own published expositions of philosophic thought. Such thought takes naturally, for him, the form of Socratic inquiry and response. But much more than this, in interest, inspiration, and technique, goes to the making of the Platonic dialogue. It is this background and this execution that are now to be considered.

We have the familiar tradition, recorded by Diogenes Laertius (III. 6) as received from Dicaearchus, that Plato wrote dithyrambs, lyrics, and tragedies, and was about to compete with a tragedy in the theatre of Dionysus when, still at an early age, he ‘heard’ Socrates, burnt his poems, and took up philosophy.

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1 See my article in CQ, April 1951.

2 I am indebted to Professor A. W. Gomme for suggesting this point, and for criticism in some matters of detail besides.

Plato as Dramatist

  • Dorothy Tarrant

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