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Plato Essay, Research Paper

Plato Philosophies

Plato was one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He is recognized all over the world as one of the greatest minds of all time. Knowledge is required under compulsion has not hold on the mind.(Durant 24). Plato’s dialogues are the fruit of a rare mind; but the could not have kept their perennial freshness if they had not somehow succeeded in expressing he problems and the convictions that are common to Plato’s age and to all later ages. Genius alone is not enough; or perhaps it were wiser to say that we recognize genius only in the power of divination that overleaps the boundaries of a special time and place.(Jowett xi). Although Plato did not come up with the Allegory of the Cave, Socrates did, he transcribed it. In their own ways, Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, and Thomas Becket, prove that one must break the chains of the cave to discover the truth. In view of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, several literary works contain characters who break from the shadows of the cave to witness “the real world”.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, presents Socrates instructing one of his students to imagine that there was a cave that was totally dark, except from the light that comes from the entrance and from a fire. The student was instructed then to imagine that the inhabitants of the cave have their necks and legs chained to the wall, impossible for the inhabitants to move. The people who control the cave place objects in front of the fire so that the inhabitants of the cave only see the shadows of the objects that the people want them to see. The chained inhabitants never get to see the real objects, only the distorted images of the objects. Furthermore, the inhabitants of the cave perceive the distorted objects as real, not the actual objects as being real. Socrates, then tells the student to imagine if the inhabitants of the cave were suddenly freed of the chains. The inhabitants would be in agonizing pain, for the first time in their lives the individuals can stand and move their heads. Their bodies are not used to being in such positions. The inhabitants of the cave, now are able to behold the light glimmering outside the cave. The inhabitants who were only adapted to only darkness, perceive light. The light stabs at their eyes, it is too painful for these individuals. The inhabitants cannot perceive the actual object in front of the fire as reality, but see the distorted images on the cave walls as being reality. These people of the cave must gradually be exposed the real world, if they are to accept the real world as reality. This parable, told by Socrates and recorded by Plato, presents the concept that true enlightenment is slow and agonizing. To discover the truth one must break the chains of the cave and face their destiny.(Gibson).

Oedipus Rex was the King of Thebes. A plague was ravaging Thebes, and the people wanted Oedipus, the king, to do something. Oedipus tells the people of his kingdom that he sent Creon, the brother of Queen Jocasta, to the Oracles at Delphi to find out what was causing this terrible plague on his people. When Creon returns from the Oracle at Delphi, he announces to the people that this terrible plague will only end when the murderer of the late King Lauis, Jocasta’s first husband, is brought to justice. Oedipus then promises the towns people that he will punish the murderer. Oedipus then asks a blind soothsayer to identify who the killer of the late King Lauis was. The blind soothsayer tells Oedipus the killer of the king is a king. When Jocasta arrives to see Oedipus, she points out that the Oracles have been known to lie. She tells him that the Oracles did predicted that the late King Lauis was killed by his own son, when in fact he was killed by thieves at a crossroad. Oedipus was disturbed to hear this because he remembers killing an old man at a crossroad. Jocasta then realizing that she has married her own son and the murderer of her first husband, hangs herself. Oedipus then puts out his own eyes and leaves the city as a blind beggar.(Stravinsky). If Oedipus would have broke the chains on the wall of the cave, he then could have realized that his whole life was a fake. He could have found out that his wife, was actually his mother and probably could have saved her life as well. Failing the break the chains and not seeing the true reality, broke up Oedipus’ family and cost him the ability to see again.

Hamlet was a prince of Denmark, who was visited by the ghost of the King. The King told the young Hamlet to get his revenge on the person that had killed him and married his wife. Hamlet was supposed to leave her fate to heaven. Hamlet was to act crazy so that King Claudius would not suspect him from plotting against him. Claudius then suspects Hamlet, so he sends Rosencrantz and Gildenstern to take Hamlet back to England with them. When they were to get back to England, they were to kill him. On the way back to England the boat that they were on was attacked by pirates. Hamlet was too smart for Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, he changed the letter to say that the bearers of the letter were to be killed immediately after arriving in England. Hamlet then returns to Denmark to extract the revenge that the ghost had told him to get from Claudius. Hamlet finds out that his only love was dead, Ophelia drowned in a stream. Hamlet once said expressing his love towards Ophelia, “I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum.”(Shakespeare). The King and Queen went to the show called “The Murder at Gonzago” and Hamlet called it the mousetrap. Hamlet talked to the actors in the play so that they could stage the murder scene just like the way Claudius had killed the King. As the play went on, they reenacted it just the way it really happened. Once King Claudius saw the murder scene in the play, he raised up out of his seat and ran off. Hamlet went after him and was going to kill him except he found him praying at the alter. Hamlet knew if he killed him while praying it could be a one way ticket to heaven and he did not want Claudius to be forgiven for the sins that he had done. Hamlet then went to his mothers chambers and shoved a sword through the tapestry, thinking it was Claudius, but it was Polonius. Killing Polonius instantly. Claudius sends for Laertes, Claudius wanted Laertes to kill Hamlet. The queen drinks the poison that Claudius left for Hamlet and Laertes, Hamlet, and Claudius are fatally wounded by a sword that had poison on the tip. If the queen could have broke the chains from the cave, then she could have saved herself as well as her family, but she could not see the reality in Claudius’ scheme in becoming the King of Denmark.

Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by swords in the north transept of his own cathedral today as he stood by the altar of the Virgin Mary. He was killed by four knights of the royal household, who rode there that afternoon and began a violent argument with the 52-year-old Becket. Becket struggled for a few minutes with the assailants while a crowd of his men and townspeople who had come to attend evening song looked on. When he knew that death was near he put his hands together and said this prayer: “I commend myself to God, the Blessed Mary, St. Denis and the patron saints of this Church.” The murder came at the brutal climax to a prolonged quarrel between Thomas Becket and King Henry II. The King once said, “Who will free me from this turbulent priest?” and the four knights gave the king the answer he was looking forward to.(Online). Becket once said:

The Rock of God is beneath our feet. Let us meet the Archbishop with cordial thanksgiving: Our lord, our Archbishop returns. And when the Archbishop returns our doubts are dispelled. Let us therefore rejoice, I say rejoice, and show a glad face for his welcome.(Lambeth 2).

If all of these characters had broke free from there chains from the cave, all three could have made a better life for themselves as well as for the people who supported them. These three characters could not see the distortions for what they were and could not see the reality of the big picture. If one does not break free from the chains of the cave and witness the light of the real world, one will never get to see the harsh truth of their destiny.


Gibson, Anna Lee, “Allegory of the Cave.” Advanced Placement English Writing Manual and Literary Guide. Ed. Jewell Worley and Frank Gentry. Wise: Wise County Vocational-Technical Center. 1992.

The Canterbury Story. Anglicans Online. Http://www.anglican.org/online/uk-europe/lambeth/canterbury.html. 3 Dec., 1997.

Jowett, Benjamin. The Dialogues of Plato. Ed. William Chase Green. New York: Liveright Publishing Company. 1954.

Durant, Will. “The live and opinions of the greater philosophers.” The Story of Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster Rockefeller Center. 1961.

Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” England in Literature. Illinois: Scott, Foresman, and Company. 1987.

Becket Murder. Hyperhistory. Online. Http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/ppersons5_n2/beck.html

Stravinsky, Igor. Oedipus Rex . Online. Http://www.coc.ca/98stra-synopsis.htm.

Jaspers, Carl. “Plato.” The Great Philosophers. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1962.

Jowett, B. The Dialogues of Plato. New York: Random House. 1937.

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