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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

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Footnotes to Aristophanes
On Radio 4 Edith Hall has just been talking as if everything the character Aristophanes says in The Symposium was said by the real Aristophanes - with no hint of a caveat. I'm no classics professor (obvs) but I assumed Plato made it up? (Aristophanes wasn't around to sue by then, after all.) Does this mean that in future years we must expect every word spoken by a "real" person in novels and biopics to be treated as genuine by future Ediths Hall?

This seems such a basic and obvious error that I wonder whether I'm missing something.

What a very odd programme.

She presents the text as if Plato had been taking it all down in shorthand. Also, although she knows it's funny - she keeps doing a voice that indicates that she's smiling - she discusses it ever so seriously, without at any point saying, hang on, Aristophanes writes comedy for a iiving, perhaps he is joking?

Weird, isn't it? I can only imagine that a stern producer warned her that there wasn't space to talk about such questions., but then she did seem to have plenty of time to discuss less obviously relevant things.

That was my first thought when I read your post. But what she actually says is quite categorical: there was a dinner party, and this is what happened there.

This seems such a basic and obvious error that I wonder whether I'm missing something.

I'll try to see what she says about Aristophanes elsewhere. She likes him—she says that if she could bring one person back from the ancient world, "Aristophanes would be it. She would throw him a symposium.

(I think I've read her. The name looks familiar. I hate feeling this is not my world anymore, but it hasn't been for nine years; that's even longer than the usual mythic standard.)

Edited at 2015-07-28 04:44 pm (UTC)

She's a pretty well known media don in the UK - probably second only to Mary Beard in classics.

I remember her playing Athene to her brother's Ajax at Oxford in the 1980s.

Her name sounds like an Oxford college! I'd like to think that her brother was called Campion.

I think he was Lindsay.

Ah, then he is merely a hall of residence at Keele.

Yes, odd. I haven't talked to Edith about this, but I can only assume that she believes that speeches in the Symposium do represent views held by the historical persons, and that the producer thought it was too complicated for the audience to explain the subtleties of this.

That seems the most likely explanation - though I'd have thought an audience tuning in to a programme about ancient Greek conceptions of love might be able to get their heads round a phrase such as "Plato's Aristophanes, whose views may or may not correspond to those of the historical Aristophanes, says X."