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Socrates himself but different from that which he actually delivered, Plato could have no other object than to show what Socrates would have voluntarily neglected or involuntarily omitted, and how his defence must have been conducted in order to produce a better effect. Not to mention then that this would have been scarcely possible without renouncing the method of Socrates, it is moreover manifest that the defence which we possess is not contrived in accordance with such a purpose. For after such a speech how should the supplement come in subsequent to the pronunciation of the verdict—a supplement which supposes a result not more favourable than the real one * It therefore only remains to suppose that the sole purpose at the bottom of this piece was to exhibit and preserve the essential points in the actual progress of the cause for those Athenians who were prevented from hearing it, and for the rest of the Hellenes, and for posterity. Are we then to conceive that in such a case and under such circumstances Plato was unable to withstand the temptation of ascribing to Socrates an artificial piece, wrought by himself, perhaps perfectly strange to Socrates, with the exception of the first principles, like a pupil in rhetoric who has an exercise set him 2 This we should indeed be loath to believe: rather would we assume at once that in a case like this, where nothing of his own was wanted, and he had entirely devoted himself to his friend, and especially so short a time before or after his death as this piece was certainly composed— we would assume, I say, that his departing friend must have been too sacred in his eyes to allow of his disguising him with any ornament however beautiful, and
his whole form too spotless and noble to be exhibited in a dress, or otherwise than a divinity, naked and enwrapt in nothing but its native beauty. Neither indeed do we find the case to have been different. For the critic in art who had at the same time undertaken to improve this speech would have found in it much to change. Thus the accusation relating to the seduction of youth is far from being repelled with the solidity with which it would have been possible to do so, and in opposition to the accusation of infidelity towards the ancient gods, the defensive power of the circumstance that Socrates did every thing in the service of Apollo, is far from being made sufficiently prominent; and any reader whose eyes are but half open will discover more weaknesses of this kind not in any way founded upon the spirit of Socrates to such a degree that Plato would have been compelled to imitate them. Accordingly nothing is more probable than that in this speech we have as true a copy from recollection of the actual defence of Socrates as the practised memory of Plato, and the necessary distinction between a written speech and one negligently delivered, could render possible. But perhaps some one might say: If then Plato, supposing him to have composed this piece, had nevertheless no hand in it but as a scribe, why are we to insist upon this, or whence can we know even that it was Plato himself and no other friend of Socrates who was present P The questioner, if he is otherwise acquainted with the language of Plato, need only be referred to that to perceive how decidedly this defence betrays that it can only have flowed from the pen of Plato. For Socrates here speaks exactly as Plato makes him speak, and as we, according to all that remains to us cannot say that any other of his pupils did make him speak. And so little does this similarity admit of doubt, that on the contrary an observation of some importance may be founded upon it. I mean, whether certain peculiarities in the Platonic dialogue, particularly the fictitious questions and answers introduced into one proposition, and the accumulation and comprehension under some other of several particular propositions in common, often much too enlarged for this subordinate passage, together with the interruptions almost unavoidably ensuing in the construction of the period as begun—whether these, as we find them here so very prevalent, are not properly to be referred to Socrates. They appear in Plato most in those places in which he is particularly Socratic ; but they are most frequent and least clear of their accompanying negligences in this dialogue and the following one, which is probably homogeneous with this. And from these considerations taken together a manifest probability arises that these forms of speech were originally copied after Socrates, and consequently are connected with the mimic arts of Plato, who endeavoured to a certain degree to imitate the language also of those whom he introduces, if they had peculiarities otherwise which justified him in so doing. And whoever tries this observation by the different works of Plato, especially according to the arrangement here established, will find it very much confirmed by them. And that other Socraticians did not attempt such an imitation is accounted for on the one hand, from the circumstance that no little art was required to bend to a certain degree these peculiarities of a negligent colloquial style to the laws of...written language, and to blend them with the regulated beauty of expression ; and on the other, more courage was required to meet a certain share of censure from small critics than Xenophon perhaps possessed. But to enlarge further upon this belongs not to this place. One circumstance however is yet to be touched upon which might be brought forward against the supposition of this dialogue having come from Plato, and indeed with more plausibility than any other; I mean that it is stripped of the dialogic dress under which Plato produces all his other works, and which is not wanting even in the Menexenus, which otherwise consists in exactly the same manner as this does, of only one speech. Why, therefore, should the defence, which would so easily have admitted of this embellishment, of all the works of Plato alone dispense with it 2 However convincing, then, this may sound, still the preponderance of all the other arguments is too great to allow it to be sufficient to excite a suspicion; and we reply therefore as follows to the objection. It may be that the dialogic dress had not at that time become quite so much a matter of necessity to Plato as it subsequently did, and this may serve to satisfy those who are inclined to set a great value upon the dress of the Menexenus; or Plato himself separated this defence too far from his other writings to admit of his wishing to subject it to the same law. And then again, it would be in general very unworthy of Plato for us to think of considering the dialogic dress, even in the case of works where it does not penetrate very deep into the principal matter, only as an embellishment capriciously appended; on the contrary it always has a meaning and contributes to the conformation and effect of the whole. Now if this would not have been the case here why should Plato have wished forcibly to introduce it Especially as it is extremely probable that he wished to hasten as much as possible the publication of this speech, and perhaps considered it not advisable to commit himself at that time to a public opinion as to the result of the case, which, if he had involved the speech in a dialogue it would not have been easy to avoid, or this form would have been utterly empty and unmeaning. As to the Athenian judicial process in similar cases, we may certainly suppose all that has been contributed from various quarters for the understanding of this piece to be generally known ; moreover, the speech itself explains most of what is necessary.
I have already observed in the introduction to the
preceding “Apology,” that the Crito appears to be similarly circumstanced with that piece. For it is possible that this dialogue may not be a work regularly framed by Plato ; but one which did actually take place as is here described, which Plato received from the interlocutor with Socrates as accurately as the former could give it, while he himself hardly did more than embellish and reinstate it in the well-known language of Socrates, ornamenting the beginning and the end, and perhaps filling up here and there when necessary. This view rests upon exactly similar grounds with those
which have been already explained in considering the