Classicist Edith Hall on Aristophanes in Plato
Classicist Edith Hall explores Aristophanes's speech in the Symposium about the nature of love.
In 416BC the Greek playwright Aristophanes went to a drinking party. The guests included many famous Athenians, including Socrates, and all of them delivered a speech about love. Aristophanes' speech, says presenter Edith Hall, is 'quite simply the most charming account of why humans need a love partner, another half, in world literature.'
In the beginning, he says, humans had two bodies - four legs, four arms. These early humans wheeled around the planet doing cartwheels and were blissfully happy. Then they offended the gods who split them in two. This explains why we are always looking for our other half.
This speech appears in Plato's Symposium. Edith's programme also features matchmaker Mary Balfour who shares some of her own experience about the search for love; while Edith explains her belief that the absence of love begins with the primal separation of mother and child.