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A portion of the expense of printing this thesis has been borne by the Modern Language Club of Yale University, from funds placed at its disposal by the generosity of Mr. George E. Dimock, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a graduate of Yale in the Class of 1874.

CINCINNATI, October 9, 1910.


The origins of the English dialogue are clearly to be found in classical times, and especially in the work of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian. So directly did writers of after-times look back to these men for inspiration, that one cannot gain any true understanding of modern dialogues without first calling to mind the general characteristics of their work.

As a developed literary type, the dialogue certainly begins for us with Plato. Tradition tells, indeed, of earlier Greeks who were writers of dialogues, among whom Zeno is reputed the earliest, but the work of these men has left no permanent impress on literature or on mankind. From Plato flowed a steady stream of influence that has affected, in a greater or less degree, all succeeding ages.

Lucian, looking back to the days of Plato, called the dialogue a son of philosophy. Born of such parentage, it was bred up among the beautiful youths and the earnest disciples who followed Socrates about the streets of Athens, and thus, like all the best things we know, sprang naturally and spontaneously from life itself. To Socrates, truth lay within man's soul, and was to be called forth from that inner abode through question and answer. His memorable conversations were stored away in men's thoughts, and repeated to the friends who never wearied of hearing them. The eagerness of the interest they aroused is strongly suggested in the words of praise with which the brilliant Alcibiades addresses Socrates in the Symposium. “The mere fragments of you and your words,' he declares, even at second-hand, and however imperfectly repeated, amaze and possess the soul of every man, woman, and child who comes within hearing of them.'1 Whatever may be the truth of such a statement with respect to the historic Socrates, it is hardly an exaggeration with respect to the words of the master portrayed by Plato. The intellectual life of that wonderful age in Greece flowered and found rare fruit in those conversations that ever called forth each speaker's best strength.

Thus one of the many literary forms bequeathed to us by the Greeks of Athens was linked in the closest manner with the life of the city. As Greek tragedy grew and developed from the songs of the chorus that worshiped Dionysus and sought to represent his wanderings on earth, so the Platonic dialogue, as closely united with the life of its birthplace, put into lasting form the changing scenes of the market, the street, and the banqueting-hall, in the days when Socrates gave them permanent significance. And as the tragedy of Athens came to represent the conflict of a soul with the forces of life—or of fate, the dialogue came to represent the conflict of thought with thought-a conflict that Fénelon has called “une espèce de combat dont le lecteur est le spectateur et le juge.

As a literary form, the Platonic dialogue was naturally shaped by its origin and purpose. Representing the speech of men, and often filled with intense lyric fervor, it stands close to the narrative and dramatic 2

1 Tr. Jowett.

2 As a matter of detail, its quick interchange of speech may bear some relation to the stichic dialogue of the dramatists.

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