Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Socrates' Wife

"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.."
– Socrates
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Tolstoi's wife and ended it wondering if Socrates' wasn't equally misunderstood. While it may look like I'm on a dishonourable pursuit into the private histories of others' wives, you know it is purely academic, don't you?
As it happens, Socrates said the above words and the fact that HE was a philosopher himself, it is but obvious that he considered himself unlucky in his marriage. Xanthippe was notorious for her sharp tongue and bad temper during her times, as the accounts go. She was berated by several as a hag who dragged Socrates away from his pursuits of knowledge and nagged him to climb down from his high pedestal of a philosopher to become an ordinary man, which he obviously refused to do. Throughout history, several people including literary giants such as Shakespeare painted her as the Goddess of the Shrews.
So I decided to dig up the internet and find out a bit more about it. As proved by Sofia Tolstoi, there might have been a little misunderstanding here. And guess what?! The Net is filled with people who actually think that she was meted out terrible injustice. There are apparently no credible written accounts of her notoriety or biographies of Socrates' married life apart from a few metaphorical references made by the man himself! Now that's dangerously one-sided!
All that we know is folklore that travelled within Europe spread by Romans of a later date. Plato, the only guy who lived in her lifetime, made very little reference to her and whatever little that's there was in flattering light. Shakespeare's words about Xanthippe can't be taken too seriously coz he was just a Karan Johar of his times, an entertainer without any serious sense of responsbility. The fact that he changed the course of english history (we are talking about Shakespeare, not KJo) can't be held against the Xanthippe argument for the simple reason that he didn't materialise in the scheme of things until nineteen centuries later! So the argument remains!
Anyway, here's a link to some Socrates' quotes for timepass:

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