The Ethopoiia of Plato's "Republic"

Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1994)

This work is a study of characterization, or ethopoiia in Plato's Republic. Although there is a tremendous amount of scholarship on this dialogue, the significance of Plato's characterization of the interlocutors in the dialogue is a relatively neglected topic. Scholarship instead has analyzed the definitions advanced by Socrates' interlocutors and the arguments that Socrates makes. Relatively little attention has been paid to how the character of Socrates' interlocutors, as reflected in the definitions they offer, beliefs they mention, and objections they make, affects Socrates' responses to them. What work has been done on this topic usually focuses on book one, where we have three vividly drawn characters: Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus. The assumption of most scholarship on the Republic seems to be that after book one the characterization of Socrates' interlocutors is insignificant for an understanding of the dialogue. ;What I attempt to show in this work is that characterization plays an important role in the entire dialogue. The speeches of Glaucon and Adeimantus at the beginning of book two both characterize them and provide the terms on which Socrates is to defend justice. In the remainder of the dialogue, Socrates responds to the fears, assumptions, and personalities of his two interlocutors in constructing his defense of justice. ;This dissertation has six chapters. The first chapter is an introduction that explains my approach to this topic. The second chapter is on book one, which differs considerably from the other books in the number of characters who speak, in the method of argumentation that Socrates employs, and in its aporetic ending. The third chapter is on the speeches of Glaucon and Adeimantus at the beginning of book two. Their speeches, which provide the first detailed characterization of themselves, set the terms for the rest of the dialogue. The fourth chapter is on Adeimantus and the fifth is on Glaucon. These two characters, Plato's older brothers, are Socrates' addressees for most of the dialogue. The final chapter is on Socrates, addressing his role as the narrator of the dialogue and the self-referential nature of his defense of the philosopher
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