Reading Comprehension

Aristophanes' Speech in Plato's Symposium on Love

Mr. Steel




Background Information:

         The word "symposium" literally means a "drinking party."

         The word "eros" means love or desire.

         The speeches that the various characters give at this drinking party are in praise of Eros. In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of desire.

         Aristophanes is a famous comic poet. He wrote very funny (and sometimes very hostile) criticisms of people at the time who he thought were ruining the character of the Greek polis, or city. One of the people he criticized as a corrupter of the youth and a slanderer of the gods was Socrates in his comic play, The Clouds.

         Socrates was a philosopher whom Plato, also a philosopher and the author of The Symposium, loved very much. Socrates was sentenced to death based on the accusations of those, like Aristophanes, who saw him as a destructive social force, and by the accusations of others who felt slandered and insulted by Socrates' questioning of their own knowledge and understanding.


1. How does Aristophanes describe Eros in the first few lines?





2. Describe what Aristophanes' myth says human beings were like before we took our current form.

a. How many sexes were there?


b. What did they look like?


c. What were the differences between the three sexes?



2. What did the first human beings do that offended the gods? What does it mean to offend the gods? What might a person have to do in order to offend the gods?










3. What were Zeus' choices, and what decision did he make?









4. Describe how Zeus re-fashioned our nature.















5. Explain in detail where love, desire, or eros comes from as explained in this excerpt.


















6. According to this story, what is it that human beings want when they love each other. Why do we want this?








7. What comical image is evoked to warn us about what might happen if we once again challenge the gods?



8. In Aristophanes' story, where does he suggest that true happiness lies?











9. What is piety? What is the relationship between piety and happiness in this short excerpt?