The Symposium by Plato

In the literary form known as dramatic dialogue Plato has no rival, ancient or modern, and of all his dialogues the Symposium or Dinner-party is the most varied and the most perfectly finished. It is also the least technical of the great works of his maturity; the philosopher in Plato has not yet banished the artist and the poet, and nowhere else, save in the Phaedo and perhaps in the Protagoras, has he devoted such care to the setting in which he frames his conversation-piece. The conversation, dealing as it does with love, is itself of universal interest, but the pictures which are presented to us of Athenian social life and of the character of Socrates are almost more fascinating, and the two elements are welded together with such consummate art that to dissect them is likely to destroy the perfect balance of the whole. Yet the risk must be run if the dialogue is to be made intelligible, and in what follows the mise-en-scéne, the content of the conversation, and the character of Socrates will be separately discussed, though an attempt will be made to indicate how these various themes are interwoven with complete apparent naturalness so as to shed light reciprocally upon one another.