• Plato’s Phaedo as a Pedagogical Drama

    Sarah Ruth Jansen (see profile)
    Philosophy, Ancient, Plato
    Item Type:
    Ancient philosophy, Classics
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    The Phaedo has long been recognized as dramatic in nature (see, e.g., Jowett 1892, 193). Indeed, the dialogue’s dramatic portrayal of a Herculean Socrates attacking the heads of a hydra naturally invites this assessment (89c). At the out- set of the dialogue Socrates and the fourteen named companions are juxtaposed with Theseus and the fourteen Athenian youth, on their way to defeat the Minotaur (58a-c).1 Also, Socrates’ death scene is particularly dramatic. Fifteen companions, the exact number of a tragic chorus, surround the dying Socrates and lament (117c-d).2 Reflection on this scene has prompted scholars to speculate that it is intended to ‘lend moving force’ to the tragic perspective and to ‘rouse’ readers’ emotions (see Halliwell 1984, 57-58 and Crotty 2009, 87, respectively). Despite these scholarly observations and compelling evidence that the dialogues were treated as dramatic performance literature in antiquity (see Charalabopoulos 2012), a number of key questions have yet to be satisfactorily and systematically answered: What is drama?; What is the Phaedo a drama about?; What is the function, if any, of the dramatic elements of the Phaedo? I undertake to answer these questions. I conclude with some thoughts about Plato’s purpose in writing dramatic dialogues and Plato’s attitude toward poetry. One of my aims throughout will be to demonstrate how a proper understanding of the literary dimension of the Phaedo sheds light on the philosophical content of the dialogue.
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    5 years ago
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