Plato, “Apology”

When I first realized that the recitation of Plato’s “Apology” was over an hour long, I knew there would be a lot of content to analyze. Although we could have just read “Apology,” listening to the recording gave me a much better sense of the tone and pace in which Socrates delivered his speech.

Socrates spoke in a very conversational tone, yet he still came across as very knowledgeable and intelligent. As I have mentioned in previous posts, that knowledgeable yet conversational tone is something I strive for when giving speeches because your audience is more likely to maintain interest and learn at the same time.

Throughout his speeches, Socrates appealed to the audience by directly referring to them numerous times when he said “O men of Athens.” As he began to near the end of his speech, he even referenced specific people in the audience. Socrates constantly asked his audience questions as well and forced them to think from his point of view.

Socrates also applied the canons of rhetoric, using figures of speech and stories to convey his message. Early in his first speech, Socrates said, “It is just what you have yourselves seen in the comedy of Aristophanes” (6:55), relating his words to something the audience was familiar with. Another example was when Socrates said that he told Calias, “‘If your sons were foals or calves…” (9:15), comparing humans to animals to make his point clear. He even used the term “ludicrous figure of speech” (45:32) himself to compare himself to a gadfly. Socrates’ ability to use storytelling and figures of speech showed his ability to connect with his audience.

As Socrates neared the end of his final speech, he used the words “us” and “we” many times, inviting his actual friends and his condemners alike to ponder death with him. He referred to the entire room as friends from beginning to end, which once again showed his ability to connect with the audience as a whole. Socrates’ final words, “I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows” (1:18:33) also stuck with me, which showed his ability to craft a conclusion for his speech that his audience would remember.

In addition to the many places I found applicable lessons about speech, I’m also impressed by the memorization ability of ancient philosophers like Socrates. Although our culture is very different today, it’s good to be reminded that if Socrates can memorize over an hour’s worth of words, then delivering a successful speech is not impossible for me.

Source: Plato, “Apology”

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