Literature Study GuidesSymposiumEntry Of Alcibiades Summary

Symposium | Study Guide


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Symposium | Entry of Alcibiades | Summary



With Socrates's unusual eulogy of Love, the contest seems to be over. Just at that moment, however, Alcibiades is ushered into the house, roaring drunk and wearing ribbons in his hair. He seats himself on the couch between Socrates and Agathon, whom he proceeds to adorn with the ribbons. Then, complaining that everyone else is too sober, he calls for another round of drinks. Eryximachus informs him about the speechmaking contest, and Alcibiades agrees to participate—except his speech will be about Socrates, whom he loves and admires, rather than about love in general. Socrates suspects he is about to be mocked, but Alcibiades promises to tell only the truth.


Alcibiades's raucous behavior is a sharp counterpoint to the dignified speeches that precede his entry. The other men have been drinking in somewhat leisurely fashion throughout the evening, but Alcibiades has outpaced them all by a wide margin. Now, party animal that he is, he wants to get everyone else drunk, too. To this end, he proposes a switch to undiluted wine, rather than the watered-down drink typically consumed at symposia. However, Socrates apparently has a liver of steel to go along with his brilliant mind: Alcibiades claims he will remain sober no matter how much he drinks.

Alcibiades's attempt to put ribbons in the hair of Agathon might seem to be just another drunken whim. In fact, it is a mildly irreverent tribute to Agathon's victory in the Lenaea, an Athenian theatre festival; it was the custom in classical Athens to crown winning playwrights with laurel wreaths. Alcibiades's gift of ribbons also gives him a pretext for sitting close to Agathon, whom he seems to have a bit of a crush on. As further evidence for this, beyond the gifts and the flattering remarks, consider how annoyed Alcibiades is with Socrates for monopolizing Agathon's attention.

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