Aristophanes Views On Love Essay, Research Paper
Aristophanes Views on Love
In the Symposium, a most interesting view on love and soul mates are provided by one of the characters, Aristophanes. In the speech of Aristophanes, he says that there is basically a type of love that connects people. Aristophanes begins his description of love by telling the tale of how love began. He presents the tale of three sexes: male, female, and a combination of both. These three distinct sexes represented one s soul. These souls split in half, creating a mirror image of each one of them. Aristophanes describes love as the search for the other half of your soul in this quote: When a man s natural form was split in two, each half went round looking for its other half. They put their arms around one another, and embraced each other, in their desire to grow together again. Aristophanes theme is the power of Eros and how not to abuse it.
Aristophanes thinks that a human s love is clearly a lack a lack of one s other half- and having no meant to satisfy themselves they begin to die. Zeus, having failed to foresee this difficulty repairs the damage by inventing sexual reproduction (191 b-c). Any embracements of men with men or of women with women would of course be sterile though the participants would at least have some satiety of their union and a relief, (191 c) and therefore would be able to carry on the work of the world. Sex, therefore, is at this stage a drive, and the object is defined only as human. Sexual preferences are to emerge only as the human gains experience, enabling them to discover what their original form had been.
Aristophanes has mildly insulted the previous speakers in two ways. By claiming that one of the original forms was androgynous, he has suggested that heterosexuality is at least as natural as male homosexuality as is being a lesbian. In contrast, Empedokles in fact did hold to a theory of sorts based on fitness to the environment, the description at 191c strongly suggests that only heterosexual relationships yielding only a temporary satisfaction and relief, allowing the participants to go about their business.
He does go on to suggest that those who are sections of androgynes are adulterers adulteresses (191 d-e), but this can only show the rather bizarre belief that sexual intercourse with a member of the same sex does not constitute adultery. Heterosexual males are woman crazy and heterosexual women are man crazy. Lesbians are quickly brushes aside as lewd women. But his description of homosexual men, though portrayed in more flattering terms, seems to describe precisely the same kind of behavior he condemns in the others: they pursue the masculine, and so long as their boyhood lasts they show themselves to be slices of male by making friends with men and delighting to lie with them and to be clasped in men s embraces (191 e-192a). When mature they are boylovers who have no interest in wiving and getting children (192a-b) and who would be quite contented to live together (with their beloveds) unwedded all their days (192a-b).
At this point Aristophanes reinforces that earlier suggestion that all three forms of love are natural: Well, when one of them whether he be a boy-lover or a lover of any other sort happens on his own particular half, then the two of them are wondrously thrilled with affection and intimacy and love, and are hardly induced to leave each other s side for a single moment. These are they who continue together throughout life, though they could not even say what they would have of one another (192 b-c).
Although sex is an important aspect of this relationship, the joy they take in each other s company cannot just be sex. What they would have of one another if they could is that they be joined together into a single being that so long as they live, the pair of them, being as one, may share a single life; and that when they die they may also in Hades… be one instead of two, having shared a single death (192c).
At this point Aristophanes myth shows a different concept of love that has appeared in the early speeches. Love is the sharing of a life. It is growing together-symbolized in the physical growing together of the sex act expressive of the desire physically to be permanently fused into a single organism, but reaching well beyond the physical in the concept of a shared life, shared experiences, and shared growth, and even a shared death.
Aristophanes returns to his myth, explaining that this sort of love is again natural because it is in its essence an attempt to return to one s original state before the sectioning took place. The reward in such a relationship is the relationship itself not something else for the sake of which the relationship is establishes. The reward is to be what is natural for humans to be. The penalty for not pursuing our humanity in this way is, he reminds us, further separation from what it is to be human.
In Mythology this penalty is presented as the result of opposing Eros (193b). An example is separation between humans and the gods. This example would constitute a separation of humans from Eros. The greatest gift of the god is that of discovering our proper favourites i.e., of finding the kind of love that completes us as human beings. But if this be the best thing of all, the nearest approach to it among all acts open to us…is to find a favourite whose nature is exactly to our mind (193c-d).
Aristophanes had said that he intended to discuss the power of Eros. We can see now that on one level that is the power to returns us to our original state a state in which humans were powerful enough to threaten the gods themselves. Although Eros might give us such power again, we must not use it. Power in use could turn into a conflict, and those who do use it will further take themselves out of humanity. The condition of our establishing a genuine love relationship is at least within the bounds of that relationship- to give up all hopes for power and dominance. Once that is accomplished the true power of Eros emerges: the power to make us more and more human.
Aristophanes had opened his speech with the claim that Eros succors mankind and heals those ills whose cure must be the highest happiness of the human race (189d). He now ends with a similar medical claim that if we supply the gods with reverent duty he will restore us to our ancient life and heal and help us into the happiness of the blest (193d).