Plato's Apology: Summary and Main Characters

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Socrates - The protagonist of The Apology, as well as all of Plato's other dialogues. Socrates seems to be a very simple man, not having many material possessions and speaking in a plain, conversational manner. However, this seeming plainness is all a part of the ironic characteristic of Socrates' method. Professing his own ignorance, he engages in conversation with someone claiming to be an expert, usually in ethical matters. By asking simple questions, Socrates gradually reveals that his interlocutor is in fact very confused and does not actually know anything about the matters about which he claimed to be an expert. The quest for wisdom and the instruction of others through dialogue and inquiry were considered by Socrates to be the highest aims in life: one of his most famous sayings is, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Some have argued that Socrates himself never advanced any theories of his own, and certainly many of the doctrines that appear in the later dialogues are of Plato's invention. In early dialogues, such as The Apology, Plato presents us with a Socrates who is less informed by Platonic philosophy and serves more as foil for his interlocutors who claim to have positive knowledge. Meletus - The chief accuser of Socrates, responsible for bringing him to trial. Little is known about Meletus and by all accounts, he seems to have been a rather insignificant figure. Plato's portrayal of him, both in The Apology and in The Euthyphro (see 2b) is far from sympathetic. Socrates' cross-examination of him in The Apology puts Meletus to shame. Summary-Plato's The Apology is an account of the speech Socrates makes at the trial in which he is charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates' speech, however, is by no means an "apology" in our modern understanding of the word. The name of the dialogue derives from the Greek "apologia," which translates as a defense, or a...
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