Ischomachus exam question (from 2006)
(c) To what extent do you think Ischomachus treats his wife as a partner in the way he explains her role to her? Explain your answer with reference to this passage and the rest of Ischomachus’ conversation with Socrates.
I do not believe Ischomachus, on the whole, treats his wife as a partner in the way he explains her role to her. First and foremost the entire dialogue between Socrates and Ischomachus is based on a conversation Ischomachus had with his wife, in which she speaks very rarely. It seems Ischomachus is instructing her of her duties, rather than discussing them and sharing them, hence this is not working as a partnership. This can be particularly seen when he uses the leader bee analogy in which he tells his wife that her role is to send out the worker bees and ensure that all the bees in the household are fulfilling their proper roles. The wife is instructed that these are her duties and has no say in the matter; hence I believe this does not show partnership.
Another way that Ischomachus seems to be doling out the duties, as opposed to working in partnership with his wife, is when he states that the gods have “made each more competent in certain respects.” He implies that by nature men and women have been assigned different roles by the gods. The passage given goes on to say that the women’s’ role is indoors and a man’s outdoors, and if “anyone does anything contrary to the nature the god gave him … he will pay the penalty…” Ischomachus seems to be scaremongering or threatening his wife in to believing she must remain indoors and perform the duties ascribed to her by the Gods. This again does not show Ischomachus working in partnership with his wife when discussing the duties ascribed to her as she has no choice in her roles.
On the other hand however, there are instances where it does seem Ischomachus is attempting a partnership, for example when he says that they will share in the education...
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