Dionysian Plato in the Symposium
The characters of Plato’s Symposium are faces of literary genres, masks of traditional wisdom, or innovation, about love. Plato orders up a mutual challenge amongst friends, affable and philosophical, to celebrate not only Eros and Aphrodite but Dionysus as well (177e). What are the masks of Dionysus in Plato’s Symposium? Aristophanes presents a cosmogonic speech, following the model of the Orphic-inspired Theogony, found in the The Birds, by the true Aristophanes. It introduces a hermeneutic lesson, the first stage of the Dionysian rite. Diotima, under the dialectic and ascetic mask of philosophy, seeks to initiate the mysteries. This second stage makes a jump from the particular to the universal. Alcibiades, unmasking himself and Socrates, produces either an epoptic revelation for the initiated or the desecration of a mystery. It is the third stage that brings the profound truth, which is said only by those taken by madness. Three stages in three steps: Cosmogonic hermeneutics, Ascetic initiation, and Revelation of the erotic mysteries of Dionysos.
KeywordsPlato Dionysus Symposium Initiation Mysteries Love Mask Aristophanes Diotima Alcibiades
English translation made by Simon Goodman. I gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance of Capes (Brazil)/Cofecub (France) for this research.
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