Louis Le Roy's Sympose de Platon and three other Renaissance adaptions of Platonic eros*.
The process of heterosexualization involved not only the obvious replacement of the lover and the beloved in the pederastic model with a man and a woman, but also a necessary translation from one set of institutional and social contexts into another. Contexts varied widely for the Renaissance reception of Plato's dialogue on love, and so did the motives informing its recuperation. It would be misleading to suggest that the end result of the various translations and reworkings of Platonic eros for a Christian Renaissance audience was, or is, self-evident. Indeed, Le Roy's translation and commentary pursue a unique agenda and, of the major translations and commentaries, his effort is the only one to efface or transform almost entirely the pederastic original. In fact, close scrutiny shows that, with the exception of Le Roy's Sympose, the familiar narrative of heterosexualization is far more fully realized in the Neoplatonic tradition inspired by Platonic theories of eros that it is in direct commentaries on the Symposium.
Before turning to the Sympose de Platon, I will consider at some length the two other major Renaissance translations of, and commentaries on, the Symposium, and a Neoplatonic passage in a highly influential Renaissance dialogue. This survey will enable me to highlight some differences in a tradition too-often considered homogeneous and to emphasize in particular the innovations in Le Roy's contribution. Most striking in this regard is his suturing of the Platonic original to the exigencies of the mid-sixteenth-century French monarchic state. In his reworking of certain elements central to Plato's discussion of pederasty and through his ascription of meaning to biological reproduction and the institution of marriage, Le Roy contributes, I will argue, to what we might call a metaphysics of procreation and matrimony, one closely aligned to state interest. The specifics of this metaphysics respond to numerous factors. My emphasis here will be on questions about the authenticity of the so-called Salic law. (4) I will also contend that other elements of Plato's discussion, some perhaps less amenable to the process of heterosexualization, are taken up by Le Roy to valorize the contributions of his own practice as translator, commentator, and philosopher. My goal, then, is less to demonstrate the "fact" of the transfer of Platonic love from pederasty to heterosexuality during the Renaissance (something that has already been amply established), than it is to explore some of the implications of, and dynamics behind, this transfer in particular instances without taking for granted a terminus ad quem. Although my primary focus will be on Le Roy's Sympose, I will show that each of the works considered here construes sex and desire (and their utility) quite differently. This essay thus contributes to a critical genealogy of heterosexuality by insisting that we focus on the specific work done by different texts in particular contexts rather than homogenizing the translation of pederastic eros, and that we not presume an inexorable teleology leading "naturally" to a familiar, self-evident, self-identical heterosexuality. (5)
In the pages that follow I will address three texts before turning to Le Roy's translation. Two precede the Sympose: the 1469 De amore by Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) and the 1528 Libro del Cortegiano by Baldassar Castiglione (1478-1529). The third--a commentary by Jean de Serres (1540-98) to the Convivium in the magisterial 1578 Platonis opera quae extant omnia edited and published by Henri Estienne (1528-98)--postdates Le Roy's book and allows me to highlight both the distinctive focus of his project and further idiosyncrasies in the ongoing heterosexualization of commentary on Plato.
Ficino's De amore, ostensibly a commentary on Plato's Symposium, explores at length the uses and abuses of desire and beauty, celebrating the spiritual ascent enabled by celestial love and condemning the desire for the terrestrial that mires us in matter. Ficino's text maintains an often-overlooked emphasis on male beauty and eros between men that is in large part consonant with the Symposium. At the same time, and in sometimes ambivalent ways that occasionally misrepresent the Platonic text, it also introduces condemnations of sex between men. Such condemnations should give us pause, since Ficino's translation of the Symposium, published with the De amore in his vastly influential 1484 Opera Platonis, is unexpurgated, generally accurate, and free of judgments. (6) Conversely, the sustained discussion of love that concludes Il Cortegiano presumes a male lover desiring a female beloved. The ensuing situation does not, however, culminate in a particularly harmonious union; if anything, the Cortegiano's highly spiritualized heterosexual scenario, informed by the Neoplatonic tradition, exacerbates the constitutive hierarchy present in pederasty. As for the pederastic focus of the original, it is explicitly evoked only in a passing joke, although its trace haunts other aspects of the text. By contrast, in Serres's prefatory materials and marginal glosses to the Convivium, we find virulent condemnations of pederasty, a blunt focus on biological reproduction shorn of elaborate metaphysical import, and a stark contempt for Ficino's mystical exegeses. In none of these works does marriage play a central role, and eros expresses little, if any, direct interest in matters political--except, perhaps, by way of displacement. As the occasion for Le Roy's translation might suggest, however, his work will be deeply--and explicitly--concerned with both.
1. "ILLI NATURA ICCIRCO MARES ... AMANT": FICINO'S DE AMORE
That Ficino's De amore esteems love between men is incontrovertible, if sometimes conveniently forgotten. Assuming a male desiring subject, the text explicitly contrasts what we might call the homoerotic and the heteroerotic, focusing on and preferring the former. The elision of Ficino's emphasis on men loving men thus risks occluding important elements of his discussion. (7) In a chapter aptly titled, "Whence comes love for males, whence for females," Tommaso Benci's speech provides the most succinct comparison of love for men and love for women in the De amore: (8)
Just as the human body is pregnant, according to Plato, so the soul is pregnant, and both are stimulated to childbearing by the incitements of love. But some, either by nature or by education, are better fitted for progeny of the soul than of the body, and others, certainly the majority, the opposite. The former follow heavenly love, the latter, vulgar. For this reason the former naturally love males and certainly those already almost adult rather than women or boys, since in them sharpness of intellect flourishes more completely, which, on account of its more excellent beauty, is the most suitable for receiving the learning which they wish to procreate. The others the opposite, motivated by the pleasure of sexual intercourse, and the achievement of corporeal reproduction. (9)
Benci's speech purports to be a commentary on Diotima's exchange with Socrates in the Symposium, although this passage is also clearly indebted to Pausanias's contribution. Indeed, Benci implicitly underscores a key connection between the two Platonic speeches. In an influential comparison, Pausanias asserts that there are in fact two Aphrodites, one the daughter of Uranus born without a mother, and therefore "Uranian," or heavenly, the other the daughter of Zeus and Aphrodite, rightly called "Pandemic," or common. Consequently, Eros, the son of Aphrodite, is also double, coming in heavenly and vulgar models. Pausanias contends that the common Eros "is he by whom perverse and weakly men love, and thus they love women no less than men and bodies more than souls and mindless men rather more than thoughtful ones." (10) About the heavenly Eros, however, Pausanias insists that "whoever is inspired by this love delights in the masculine kind, by nature stronger and more noble, and having more intelligence." (11) Pausanias's two loves anticipate Diotima's distinction between those who become pregnant in the body and those who become pregnant in the soul--or, perhaps better, Diotima's theory implicitly corrects that of Pausanias. According to Benci's synthesis, those who follow "heavenly love" love "almost adult" males and procreate intellectually or spiritually while the rest pursue women or too-young boys, motivated by "the pleasure of sexual intercourse" and "the achievement of corporeal reproduction."
This does not, however, end the discussion. The chapter goes on to condemn sex between men in terms that exceed its general rejection of carnal consummation. After describing the horoscopes of men likely "to satisfy the demands of the genital part" by copulating with other men, he condemns such behavior. (12) "But it should have been noticed that the purpose of the erections of the genital part is not the useless act of ejaculation," Benci asserts, "but the function of fertilizing and procreating; the part should have been redirected from males to females." (13) Evoking Plato's Laws--an oft-cited source for condemnations of sex between men--he concludes the chapter with a passage that associates non-procreative sex acts with abortion and therefore, in the text's logic, murder. (14) Despite the severity of this condemnation, there is some ambivalence in the discussion. Earlier, Benci remarks that "since the reproductive drive of the soul, being without cognition, makes no distinction between the sexes, nevertheless, it is naturally aroused for copulation whenever we judge any body to be beautiful." (15) I would suggest that the word "naturally" is of particular import in this chapter, particularly given that sex between men is referred to as being para phusin (against nature) in the Laws; and, more generally, because of invocations of nature in medieval and early modern condemnations of sodomy. (16) Might we read Benci's use of nature as an implicit rebuttal of such condemnations?
There are other signs of ambivalence in Ficino's text regarding sex between men. In his commentary on Pausanias's speech, the character Giovanni Cavalcanti portrays the prohibitions found there as follows:
What, therefore, does Pausanias censure in love? Indeed I shall tell you. If anyone, through being desirous of procreation, neglects contemplation or attends to procreation beyond measure with women, or against the order of nature with men, or prefers the form of the body to the beauty of the soul, he certainy abuses the dignity of love. This abuse of love Pausanias censures. He who properly uses love certainly praises the form of the body, but through that contemplates the higher beauty of the Soul, the Mind, and God, and admires and loves that more strongly. And he uses the office of procreation and intercourse only as much as the natural order and the civil laws laid down by the prudent prescribe. About these things Pausanias speaks at greater length. (17)
This summary of prescriptive elements implies that Pausanias approves of procreation with women as long as it does not interfere with the "contemplation" by which the lover transcends physical beauty. As the passage from the Symposium cited above suggests, however, this does not accurately reflect Pausanias's speech, even in Ficino's own translation. For Pausanias, virtuous love is entirely focused on males, although love for males is not necessarily virtuous. Pausanias does lament the existence of men who pursue boys who are too young, or for other wrong reasons, but nature does not enter into his deliberations. Indeed, Pausanias's speech manifests an obsessive dependence on custom and tradition that, in the original, is clearly meant to be parody, as his compulsive repetition of the word nomos (custom or tradition) shows.
What, then, is nature doing in Cavalcanti's speech? The most obvious answer would be that Ficino imports nature as a convenient way to condemn male-male love, although, as we have already seen, nature can potentially swing both ways. Attention to the Latin of this passage suggests that something subtler is happening than a complete condemnation of relationships between men and may suggest that there is in fact a "natural" form of male-male love. Just as "procreation beyond measure with women" deserves censure--but, presumably, moderate desire to do so is acceptable--so too the pursuit of generation with men "against the order of nature" merits condemnation, while that in accordance with nature, the parallel structure of the passage implies, would be acceptable. (18) What exactly such pursuit entails is not spelled out for us, although the value of sight and the danger of touch are repeatedly emphasized in the commentary. (19) Perhaps more striking, however--given the terms in which sodomy was often condemned in the period as sterile--is Cavalcanti's assertion that erotic relationships between men (or between men and boys) could be productive.
As we shall see, Le Roy proves uninterested in the question of unnatural eros. Or rather, the opposition between the natural and the unnatural, of some import to Ficino, will be replaced in Le Roy by a continuum from disordered and destructive desire to a domesticated desire subtending what he calls "civil society"--and matrimony, entirely absent from Ficino's De amore, will be the instrument of this domestication.
Cavalcanti's concern with propriety and his mention of "civil laws laid down by the prudent" is certainly evocative of Pausanias and his obsession with the nomos. It is worth recalling, however, that in the Symposium the concern is entirely directed towards the proper practice of pederasty. Pausanias is not at all concerned with "the office of procreation and intercourse," which will be developed only later in the dialogue, appearing fleetingly in Aristophanes' speech and receiving substantial elaboration in Diotima's exchanges with Socrates. I suggest that this passage engages in a misrepresentation of the Symposium that is meant to be conspicuous, not because the mischaracterization of Pausanias is particularly flagrant, but because of the concluding sentence: "About these things Pausanias speaks at greater length." Anyone pursuing this invitation to read more, be it in the original Greek or in Ficino's own Latin, would discover just how much liberty Ficino's Cavalcanti takes with Plato's text. (It is worth noting that the 1484 editio princeps of Ficino's translation of Plato's complete works included the De amore along with commentaries on the other dialogues.) So when I wrote above that Ficino on occasion misrepresents the Symposium it was not to suggest that he had on those occasions misunderstood or mistranslated Plato. Unlike Le Roy and the Estienne-Serres team, who take Ficino to task for interpretive misprision and exegetical error, I have no interest in castigating the Florentine. I am, however, interested in considering how what could be called conspicuous mischaracterizations, be they determined by prudence, morality, or cultural difference, might be considered productive and read instructively. (20) Given the ongoing debates about the morality of Plato and the possibility of reconciling Platonic philosophy with Christian doctrine--and, more generally, the prescriptions against sodomy in fifteenth-century Florence--Ficino may indeed be exercising prudence when he celebrates biological reproduction (which isn't really his concern at all) and includes pro forma invocations of violations of the natural order to condemn sex between men. (21) He may also be making a joke for an informed audience when he proposes that Pausanias's lengthy discussion of civil law, used in the Symposium to legitimate an ostensibly virtuous pederasty, should regulate relations with women.
Whether or not one finds Ficino's condemnations to be in good faith, it is clear that in his erotic theory handsome young men are the ideal objects of beauty, and that they are objects of desire for other men. According to this theory, the cultivation of this valorized desire enabled the production and dissemination of knowledge, spiritual union between men, and mystical ascent to the Angelic Intellect and God. It could also be described in profoundly erotic terms that probably reflected Ficino's own experience and the conventions of his time, place, and social location. His infatuation with the historical Giovanni Cavalcanti, to whom he dedicated the De amore, is well documented in Ficino's own writings, including his letters to the younger man. (22) This continuity with the pederastic focus of the Symposium would not last, despite the commentary's place as the single most important work disseminating a Neoplatonic theory of love in Europe in the sixteenth century. Subsequent commentaries on (and works inspired by) Plato's dialogues on love and a Neoplatonic hermeneutic would transform Plato's paiderastia and Ficino's homoerotic pedagogy and spirituality into a Renaissance version of fin'amors (courtly love), one that was resolutely heterosexual and ostensibly offered the possibility of moral and spiritual improvement. Among the best known of these would be Baldassar Castiglione's Il Cortegiano, a dialogue that concludes with a dramatic, not to say ecstatic, encomium to love on the part of the character Pietro Bembo.
2. "NEI SECRETI PENETRALI DI DIO": CASTIGLIONE'S IL CORTEGIANO
Bembo's speech, the last major disquisition in The Courtier, ostensibly defends the rights of old men to love and argues that they do so with more pleasure than their juniors. He offers a sustained lecture on beauty, love, desire, and happiness. Bembo maintains, against criticism from his interlocutors but in nearly entire agreement with Ficinian Neoplatonic doctrine, that "rarely does a wicked soul inhabit a beautiful body and thus external beauty is a true sign of internal goodness." (23) As Benci puts it in the De amore, "Certainly we cannot see the soul itself. And for this reason we cannot see its beauty. But we can see the body, which is the shadow and image of the soul. And so, judging by its image, we assume that in a beautiful body there is a beautiful soul. That is why we prefer to teach men who are handsome." (24) Despite an apparent continuity with Ficino, there are also some significant differences. Most conspicuously, in Castiglione the beauty in question is that expressed in and through the body and soul of a woman, not of a beautiful boy or man. This sex change will turn out to be both crucial and indifferent.
As we have seen, according to Benci it is only due to the indiscriminate "reproductive soul" that beauty in a woman's body signifies the same thing as beauty in a male body. For Bembo, however, female beauty does not immediately elicit the same response as beauty in the De amore, be it male or female. Rather than experiencing the pregnancy and parturition of the body or soul described by Diotima in the Platonic text and evoked by Ficino in his commentary, Bembo's lover at first finds an altogether different pleasure in beauty: "and thus sowing [seminando] virtue in the garden of that beautiful soul he will reap fruits of beautiful habits and taste them with miraculous delight; and this will be the true generation and expression of beauty in beauty, which is said by some to be the goal of love." (25) This last phrase is a clear reference to a passage in Diotima's speech in the Symposium, which reads as follows in Le Roy's translation:
Diotima: Love is not of beauty, as you think, Socrates. Socrates: Of what, then? Diotima: Of generation and conception in beauty. Socrates: So be it. Diotima: Good. Socrates: Why of generation in beauty? Diotima: Insofar as generation for mortals is something eternal and immortal. (26)
Whereas Diotima describes a process of generation, be it biological or intellectual, that guarantees immortality, and Benci evokes the production and insemination/dissemination of knowledge through an eroticized pedagogy, Bembo describes--at this point--what amounts to a process of domestication of the female beloved. (27) His speech here actually most resembles Pausanias's account of the production of virtue in the beloved through the lover's tender ministrations--a production impossible to realize with a woman, according to Pausanias's logic, but here redeployed in a heterosexual context, although in similarly bad faith.
Signor Morello, another participant in the discussion at the court of Urbino, is singularly unimpressed with Bembo's metaphorical production and wants something more concrete. "The generation of beauty in beauty with results," he quips, "would be the generation of a handsome son in a beautiful lady." (28) Morello's wisecrack literalizes the key conceit in Diotima's speech whereby the process of spiritual or intellectual production (or, here, domestication), inspired by beauty, is likened to pregnancy. More proximately, it desublimates Bembo's design, exposing the older man's already thinly disguised spiritualizing metaphors--"sowing virtue in the garden of that beautiful soul he will reap fruits"--as crass, if not adolescent. (29) Morello's seemingly indecorous remark therefore underscores the misogyny in Bembo's superficially more seemly discussion, and highlights his disinterest in the question of biological reproduction addressed by Diotima and Socrates and evoked, however grudgingly, by Ficino. We might read Bembo's description of the pleasures and profits his lover achieves from this sowing--particularly in a context where women are, however precariously, the arbiters of taste and figures of authority and intelligence--as symptomatic of what Harry Berger has called the gynophobia of gender. (30) The anxieties expressed earlier in the Cortegiano about the courtier's difficult relationship with his prince and the desire that he might maintain his autonomy even while serving him would here find themselves transposed onto a more explicitly gendered and sexualized context that would compensate for the courtier's figural (and, perhaps, the elderly lover's literal) impotence. (31) What Bembo describes is not, therefore, the traditional courtly love scenario where the lover seeks improvement or favor through long service to his Lady, who is also married to his Lord--although this is, in a sense, the situation that obtained at Urbino, with the Duchess Elisabetta Gonzaga (1471-1526) standing in for Duke Guidobaldo da Montefelto (1472-1508), her ailing husband. More generally, we might say that Morello's rejoinder serves to reveal the constitutive gynophobia of Bembo's Neoplatonic rhetoric, which masquerades as a profeminist discourse. Nothing that follows in his speech undermines this reading.
Bembo's invocation of generation-in-beauty is but one stop along the path of his divine lover, but gynophobia is operative throughout his discourse. When he finally comes to his description of the spiritual ascent enabled by beauty, Plato's famous "ladder of love," his lover will not climb by way of the right pederasty invoked by Diotima. (32) Rather, his lover "will no longer contemplate the particular beauty of a lady, but rather that which is universal, which adorns all bodies." (33) This process presupposes an entirely utilitarian relationship with woman's beauty, which will be discarded as a mere shadow of true beauty as the lover ascends to contemplate the Angelic Intellect after purging himself of his reliance on "material shadows." (34) Significantly, in the first sentence of the chapter describing the next "step" (grado) in Bembo's scale of erotic perfection, his lover is named as "our courtier," whereas in the two chapters immediately preceding this one, he was "the lover." (35) This shift from lover to courtier evokes the larger political context of the discussion mentioned above at the precise moment when the amorous courtier achieves a kind of self-reliance, weaning himself from external beauty and focusing instead on the internal: "and thus instead of sallying forth from himself in thought, as he who wants to consider physical beauty must do, he turns within himself to contemplate that which is visible with the eyes of the mind." (36) This evolutionary moment could be considered the wish fulfillment of the courtier's desire to maintain his political and erotic autonomy. This position is suspiciously convenient for the elderly lovers whose rights Bembo defends, thus multiplying the points of self-interest in the discourse. Such a multiplication of motivations may suggest less that his rhetoric seeks to compensate for old age and Urbino's "unnatural" hierarchy as emphasized by some critics, than that these provide the occasion for a display of the fundamental gynophobia of Bembo's Neoplatonism. From his autoerotic state, the lover will ultimately enter the "sublime seat" where abides "the celestial, lovable, and true beauty which is hidden in the secret recesses of God." (37) Thus, at the climax of Bembo's speech, we find ourselves at once near and far from the insemination of the "garden of that beautiful soul" where we began: as the lover enters God's private parts we are returned to the (disavowed) homoeroticism of the Platonic original.
Skepticism about the purity of Platonic eros had already been expressed in book 3 of the Cortegiano in a passage that also demonstrates Castiglione's familiarity with its pederastic origin. In vouching for the chastity of two exceptionally virtuous women, Cesare jests that "I have much greater certitude about this than ... you can that Alcibiades arose from Socrates' bed not otherwise than do sons from the beds of their fathers." (38) Noting that night was a strange time for the philosopher to contemplate the beauty of Alcibiades' soul, he evokes a classic criticism of pederasty when he wryly observes that Socrates preferred the souls of green youths to those of wise old men. While the Platonic and Neoplatonic association of women with matter might have been convenient for Ficino in his celebration of the potentially-suspect spiritual love of men for other men, it would seem to pose a problem for the heterosexualization of the tradition and for Bembo's adaption of Platonic eros. In fact, however, the obstacle turns out to be a happy one. The Neoplatonic tradition provides Bembo the perfect discourse within which to celebrate female beauty only to assert its ultimate insignificance, thereby demonstrating the courtier's independence from the feminine. This may be consonant with the theory of love taught by Diotima and espoused by Socrates--insofar as they, too, advocate passing beyond the body--although it contrasts strikingly with the companionate models of coupling enumerated in the Symposium and ecstatically described by Cavalcanti in the De amore. (39) As we shall see, Le Roy employs a similar spiritualizing strategy in the Sympose in his treatment of Mary. First, however, let us jump ahead chronologically to a text more concerned with mundane matters, where companionate coupling receives a particularly vivacious--and desublimated--defense.
3. "VT INDE GENUS HUMANUM PROPAGETUR": THE ESTIENNE-SERRES CONVIVIUM, SIVE, DE AMORE
If in the mid-fifteenth century Ficino mentions biological reproduction grudgingly and Castiglione (or Bembo) in the early sixteenth century barely acknowledges it, Jean de Serres in his 1578 commentary to the Symposium gives procreation greater emphasis than it receives in the Platonic original. He also condemns pederasty with far more passion than we find in Ficino's somewhat mechanical indictments or in Castiglione's urbane allusion. These two attitudes--the celebration of procreation and the virulent condemnation of sodomy--come together around a most unlikely site, the figure of the Androgyne in Aristophanes' speech. Appended to the preface to the Convivium is a note, strikingly entitled "a detestable wart on this discussion." (40) In this note, Serres asserts that Plato "made shameful Aristophanes the servant of the shameful thing"--pederasty--and bewails the comedian's "falsehood regarding that Androgyne." (41) Aristophanes' grave error emerges, according to Serres, "from the workshop of Trismegistus where without any doubt they imagined their female man through a perversion of the truth, which is that God moreover made them man and woman." (42) These charges reappear in the marginal prefatory note to Aristophanes' speech:
Thus are described the power of love and the drive in animate beings to sexual union, which is, obviously, the ardent passion for reproduction in order to give birth to future generations and propagate the human race. Indeed, Socrates, proclaiming with conviction, will later demonstrate the miraculous power of love through this image of immortality. But the vile Aristophanes here describes a vile and unrestrained love. To explain it at greater length would only be to increase its infamy. I wonder, therefore, at the preposterous diligence of interpreters in explaining the image of the Androgyne, as we said in our introduction. The basic doctrine regarding this image is that Love drives the male and the female to reciprocal union, in order that from it the human race might be propagated. But whatever one says here about the monstrosity of pederasty, except that it is shameful and disgusting to consider such sordid things, has at this point already been refuted. In this way the mysteries of Ficino evaporate, which are nowhere on this topic reasonable. (43)
Given that pederasty is omnipresent in the Symposium, we might wonder why Serres should single out Aristophanes for particular condemnation. Pederasty is no more central--indeed, one could argue it is less central--to his speech than it is to those of Pausanias or Phaedrus. And why should the figure of the Androgyne be the object of such opprobrium when it is the most prominent evocation of desire between a man and a woman in the entire Symposium? In fact, it is explicitly, if briefly, associated with biological reproduction: Serres's "basic doctrine" (simplex dogma) for the myth. Moreover, it served as a symbol of heterosexual desire and as an emblem of marriage, if not reproduction, in sixteenth-century France. (44) Finally, why single out Socrates' speech for praise, given the centrality of pederasty to Diotima's exchange with him?
The condemnation of Aristophanes' myth may arise because it is among the most elaborately allegorized passages in the Symposium in a Neoplatonic mystical tradition anathema to the devoutly Calvinist Serres. (This could perhaps account for his evocation of the "Androgyni eidoloi" and "istius eikonos," although he will use the language of idol and icon elsewhere as well.) The concluding jab at Ficino's "mysteria" probably arises because the Florentine humanist, in his own commentary on the Symposium, includes an elaborate allegorical reading of Aristophanes' speech. Cristoforo Landino, the character in the De amore assigned to interpret it, suggests that Aristophanes' account of the split primordial beings represents our separation from God. He goes on to associate what in Aristophanes is a typology of erotic preference based on sex with the virtues courage, justice, and temperance. Before launching into his interpretation of Aristophanes' myth, Landino rather gratuitously observes that in the hermeneutic process of reading allegory not all elements of a text are relevant. While this mitigates the need to address Aristophanes' lengthy discussion of the descendents of the primordial male-male being, it also flags to the reader the possibility that suspect passages might exist and relieves Landino of the need to account for or condemn them. Serres wants no such exemption--and yet it is not the descendents of the male-male being that he condemns but the figure of the Androgyne. Again, why?
It is true that the Androgyne does not appear in a particularly flattering light in Aristophanes' speech. He explains that "At first, there were, evidently, three human genders, not, as there are now, two, male and female. But at that time there was a third, composed of a common nature combined from the other two. Now its name alone remains, for the thing itself has perished. At that time, the Androgyne indeed existed both as a species and in name, a combination of the male and female sexes. Now, in truth, it is rarely found in nature, although the memory of the name has been retained as an affront and an insult." (45) We might read this description as but one element of an elaborate joke at Aristophanes' expense. The primordial being from which men desiring women and women desiring men descend turns out to be associated with a mixture of male and female understood to be monstrous. In addition, Plato will have the comic playwright mention that from this mixture descend adulterers: "Therefore those men from the mixed type that once was called 'Androgyne' are womanizers and by them are acts of adultery committed.... Conversely, the women who are desirous of men and are adulterers are from the same type." (46) While the historical Aristophanes satirized Socrates and the institution of pederasty, Plato's Aristophanes singles out only the descendents of the all-male original being--that is to say, the pederasts--for praise. Presumably, Serres was not amused, and yet this is not what he chose to condemn. Does he merely echo Aristophanes' ironic evocation of the contempt the Androgyne will receive?
Carla Freccero has argued that the Androgyne is, as it were, one side of a coin, the valorized emblem of an idealized spiritual union counterbalanced by the all-too-material monstrosity of the hermaphrodite. (47) This distinction may help us understand why Serres is so driven to condemn the Platonic Androgyne, which is a kind of hermaphroditic being even if it will eventually lend its name to a spiritualized ideal. Perhaps this mixture also evokes an inappropriately-gendered body for Serres. We know that Estienne (if not Serres) had something of an obsession with sodomy and effeminacy, and there is a tradition linking sodomy and hermaphrodites. (48) Moreover, modern critics routinely refer to the three Aristophanic primordial beings as "Androgynes"--the other two (the male-male being and the female-female being) do not receive names in Plato's text. It may be that such critics are merely repeating a misnomer begun in the Renaissance. Serres may not, therefore, distinguish between the three beings. Whatever the precise cause of consternation for our exegete, Serres rectifies the situation by insisting that the Androgyne be understood as a symbol of procreation and nothing more. This insistence on the productive nature of the Androgyne may actually compensate for another difficulty potentially posed by the myth. Of all the speeches in the Symposium, Aristophanes' places the most emphasis on desire and the least emphasis on utility. Biological reproduction, while mentioned, is merely an accidental byproduct generated by the descendents of the Androgyne when they engage in the act that sates desire for all split beings through an approximation, however fleeting, of the primordial unity they have lost. That is to say, the goal of desire in Aristophanes' speech is the union that will sate desire. This could easily be construed as a sodomitical doctrine embracing, as it does, sex without issue.
If the assertion that the drive to reproduction is the "simplex dogma" of Aristophanes' speech confounds our expectations, the evocation of Socrates as the champion of immortality through procreation may be more readily understood. Plato's exchange with Diotima does indeed address the question of how mortal man becomes immortal and, as we saw earlier, it includes biological reproduction as one of two ways to do so, namely, through the body or through the soul. Serres is well aware that these alternatives are not equal in the Symposium, but the distinction is not relevant for this stage of my argument. (49) What is crucial is how Serres understands biological reproduction. His "simplex dogma" for the figure of the Androgyne suggests that he considers procreation in the Symposium to be about the survival of the species. This is confirmed in his numerous glosses on Diotima's phrase, "birth in beauty through the body and the soul." (50) For example, in the preface to the Symposium he writes: "She [Diotima] says mortal nature achieves a kind of immortality in truth through the body and through the miracle of reproduction insofar as new offspring continually take the place of their parents upon their death. From this, the species itself is perpetuated through a kind of eternal series so that it can indeed be seen to be undying and deathless up to this day through generation." (51) Unlike Le Roy--to whom we are, at last, about to turn--Serres associates biological reproduction with the immortality of the species tout court: it can be any species, not only the human. He ascribes it no mystical significance, no metaphysical import for the individual or for an individual bloodline. Similarly, the Androgyne has no elaborate mystical significance, being reduced, in effect, to a symbol of the biblical imperative to be fruitful and multiply. As we shall see, the version of the Symposium prepared for the Dauphin of France and the Queen of Scotland on the occasion of their wedding attaches significantly more meaning to the kinds of immortality to be achieved through the body.
4. "AUGMENTANT DE IOUR EN IOUR LE ROYAUME FRANCOIS": LE ROY'S SYMPOSE DE PLATON
In its deployment of heterosexuality, Le Roy's commentary on the Symposium combines elements of the mystical-spiritual tradition we saw in Ficino and Castiglione and the imperative to reproduce expounded by Serres. He uses them, however, to very different ends. Whether or not one takes the speeches in the Symposium to be in good faith, most of them construe eros as something productive, useful, beneficial to man and the polis. Thus, the love celebrated by Phaedrus produces glory and brave acts, while that lauded by Pausanias would guarantee the ideal formation of the city-state's youth, and so on. More than the broader heterosexualizing tradition, it may be this general emphasis on the productive nature of love--including the elaborate description of intellectual or spiritual production based on metaphors of biological reproduction found in Socrates' account of Diotima's lesson in erotics--that makes possible Le Roy's appropriation of the Symposium in the service of marriage and humanist practice, as well as their deployment in the project of consolidating the French monarchic state. While "the function of fertilizing and procreating" was of relatively little interest to Ficino and of almost no interest to Castiglione (or at least to his character Bembo), the propagation of the human race is central in Le Roy's commentary. However, alongside this emphasis on biological reproduction Le Roy maintains a focus on the metaphysical dimension of love, but to ends different from those espoused by Ficino and Castiglione; unlike Serres he imbues procreation with its own metaphysical dimension beyond its role as the guarantor of immortality.
The centrality of marriage to Le Roy's discussion is signaled before the reader has even traversed the book's prefatory materials. In the dedicatory letter to his translation, addressed "Au Roy-Dauphin et a la Royne-Dauphine," he writes: "I put the Symposium, or banquet, of Plato in French so as to offer it to you, judging the subject of the book most fitting for your happy marriage, your ages, your sensibilities, and your wills. To which he recommends the honest love that consists principally in marriage." (52) This is probably Le Roy's most aggressive reworking of Plato's Symposium. The Greek text of the dialogue actually has very little to say about marriage. The most prominent evocation of matrimony, found in Aristophanes' explication of his myth of the origin of love, serves to assert that it is a custom imposed on men against their will. The passage in questing, describing the descendants of Aristophanes' primordial all-male being, reads as follows in Ficino's fairly literal translation:
And while they are boys, in order to show that they are part of the male, they delight in men, and they take pleasure in the company of men and in being in constant contact with them. And these are the most excellent of all the boys and the adolescents, since obviously in comparison to all the others they are naturally manly. Some call them shameless, but falsely. For indeed they act with no shamelessness at all, but with nobility, a certain masculine fortitude and a natural manliness. And therefore they celebrate those similar to themselves. The proof of this claim is that when they have matured they alone turn to civil administration and they become the best men. And once in the state of adulthood, they delight in the same adolescents, and in truth naturally spurn marriage and the generation of children, unless they are compelled by law. The unmarried life is therefore pleasing to them. (53)
As I noted above, this is a moment of striking irony in the Symposium. Plato puts an exuberant celebration of the salutary nature of pederasty (including its role in producing good politicians!) in the mouth of his character Aristophanes. Le Roy does not seem to register this irony or entertain the possibility that the myth is an elaborate joke. He does, however, find ways to attenuate the role of pederasty in the passage, substantially altering the sense of the Greek: "And while they are youths, being parts of the male, they love men, and take pleasure in conversing with them. And these are the best youths, and the most noble. Some have called them shameless, but wrongly, for they do not do this because of shamelessness. It is rather because of their fortitude, strength, and virility that they love those similar to them. That this is so may be seen by the fact that upon maturity, only they come to public office, without concerning themselves too much, as is their nature, about marriage, nor the procreation of children, if they are not compelled to it by law. Thus it suits them to live their entire lives as bachelors." (54) Le Roy cleverly underplays the pederastic dimension of the passage through euphemism and elision. (55) His omission of the discussion of adult men's appreciation of boys following the evocation of the "charges publiques" makes it seem that the men in question avoid marriage and seek the company of other men because they are workaholic bureaucrats rather than pederastic politicians. Even so, it can hardly be read as an endorsement of marriage. This actually takes place in Le Roy's commentary on the Symposium rather than in the text of the translation itself.
Abraham Becker observes that Le Roy's astute criticism of the earlier commentary tradition suggests that many of his own misprisions are intentional. In his view, Le Roy's "errors" in translation and interpretation should be understood as defensive stratagems in a political and religious climate not forgiving of heterodox thought. (56) Rather than focusing on this negative account of Le Roy's practice, I seek to read his revisions productively. In the case of Arisophanes' speech, I understand Le Roy's translation and interpretation to be programmatic elements contributing to the ongoing consolidation of heterosexuality and the production of a certain utilitarian understanding of marriage, reproduction, and their metaphysics. (57)
As his commentary makes clear, Le Roy is interested in marriage for two related reasons: in his account, it binds otherwise destructive desire to a constructive end--civilization--and it guarantees right reproduction, thereby offering a form of immortality through progeny. After presenting an impressive list of the calamities that follow from uncontrolled desire, he explains in the preface to the second part of his translation the motivations behind the creation of the institution of marriage: "To avoid such improprieties, ceremonies of marriage were established, which, however they may vary according to differences between lands, nevertheless return without exception to the first principle of divine teaching, which is to perpetuate ourselves through legitimate generation and to acquire immortality through lineage." (58) Given that the destiny of hereditary monarchies often depended upon the "immortality" bestowed upon their rulers by properly contained procreative prowess, Le Roy's choice of dedicatees for the Sympose de Platon, read as an exhortation to reproduce within the bonds of marriage, has a certain logic to it.
This logic may have been particularly salient in mid-sixteenth-century France, when the question of lineage and royal rule was a vexed one, which may in turn help explain why Le Roy's commentary on the Symposium is the only one to address marriage and procreation within marriage as central concerns. Earlier in the century, the so-called French Salic Law, evoked since at least the prior century to exclude women from accession to the throne, had been revealed by jurists to be a deliberate misrepresentation of the Latin text. As a result, Sarah Hanley observes, scholars and legists "developed a French Law Canon, which legitimated the male right to rule in both political state (as king) and marital household (as husband)." (59) Le Roy's Sympose de Platon participates in this same project, not at the level of law, obviously, but through the dissemination of a range of philosophical propositions that would subtend the evolving relationship between kingdom, monarch, and marriage, and support the right of male rule and inheritance. (60) Far from the mismatch it might at first seem to be, Plato's Symposium turns out to be an ideal text to facilitate this dissemination. The very element that would pose a problem for the text's muster in the service of marriage--the emphatic near absence of women but for the ventriloquized Diotima, who voices the doctrines of "straight pederasty" and intellectual androgenesis--reveals itself to be the most enabling. With the addition of the Symposium's emphasis on immortality, the text offered Le Roy the ideal raw material for his project. (61)
By including women in the homosocial space of the Symposium--now to be understood as a celebration of marriage--Le Roy does not effect a radical revision of gender hierarchy; rather, he redistributes the misogyny of the Symposium and contributes to the consolidation of a heterosexuality as constitutively hierarchical as pederasty, but without the promise of the beloved one day growing up to be a citizen and a lover. Thus, in the prefatory letter to the second book of the Sympose, Le Roy writes: "Nature divided us into two sexes, giving the woman to the man for procreation and to serve him as company. She knew so well how to adapt them for each other that they always have need for each other, according to their sex. Separated, they are so feeble that they seem imperfect, neither one able to undertake any duty except that for which it was destined, at least without disorder and derision. How can we at once give laws to the people and our breasts to infants?" (62) A long list of activities for which childbearing makes women unfit follows in the text. Marriage here amounts to a hierarchical division of labor, one that is necessary for the state: indeed, for the inception of civil society itself. According to Le Roy, marriage is the "true beginning and sustainer of civil society, the most holy thing, and the most fair, that could befall humankind for its conservation." (63)
This division of labor, conveniently in line with arguments for male rule, is but one element of several which circumscribe the female role in marriage, procreation, and the state. These include the exaltation of spiritual or intellectual production over biological reproduction, and a model of biological procreation dating back to classical antiquity that asserts that the man provides the form and the woman the matter. (64) In the preface to the second book, Le Roy links the "immortalite par lignee" to the immortality of the "Royaume" and its ruler: "I therefore beseech God, who maintains kingdoms through religion and justice and keeps houses and families in positions of authority through good conduct, who has nothing more agreeable on the earth than well ruled and governed states, that he make your marriage prosper as well as the union of your Kingdoms to come, with the love, fidelity, obedience, and perpetual peace of the subjects, even when, by the order of nature, your time to rule will have come, augmenting day by day the French kingdom, which is the most beautiful, the oldest and the most noble known today, and permit it to come by right succession to the children of your children, always renowned and feared throughout the world." (65)
In this passage, the union of the Dauphin of France and Mary, Queen of Scots parallels the union of their kingdoms; their fidelity to each other merges with the fidelity of their subjects; and the immortality of their "lignee" becomes consubstantial with the survival unto perpetuity of France. Note, however, that Scotland disappears. (66) Just as pederasty in the Symposium is understood to be productive in myriad ways by the guests at Agathon's party, so too Le Roy describes a utilitarian heterosexuality. Crucially, its social utility exceeds the procreative imperative through analogical association to the putatively natural significance of biological reproduction (immortality) and through the elaboration of the role of marriage in managing reproduction and subtending the social order. This is in sharp contrast to Serres's commentary, which argues that immortality achieved by means of the body is something humans share with animals. When we recall that this preface is addressed uniquely to the Roy Dauphin the particular valence of the evocation of the "droitte succession aux enfans de voz enfans" becomes clear--it follows the logic of what Hanley refers to as a "biogenetic seminal theory of authority," the notion that "a husband through nature (i.e., seminal transmission) creates heirs who continue the family" just as "a king creates successors who perpetuate the monarchy." (67) Le Roy thus effectively deploys the Symposium's androcentrism and the logic of immortality that informs Diotima's exchange with Socrates to meet the needs of the French monarch as he confronts a range of challenges to its politics of reproduction. This does not, however, exhaust his project and its service to the state.
In a passage from Socrates' account of his lesson in erotics with Diotima, we find the following account of the "engendering" of those inclined towards mental, rather than corporeal, reproduction: "For approaching the beautiful one, and conversing with him, he produces and engenders what he had long conceived, remembering him as much in absence as in presence. Together with him he nourishes what results, in such a way that these people have a greater communion and a stronger friendship together than others towards their natural children (for they share children more beautiful, and more immortal). There is no one who would not rather have such children than human ones." (68) This passage--which is typical of the position, proferred by Diotima and Socrates, on that immortality to be gained by production--does use the language of biological reproduction and, indeed, that of child rearing, but to an appropriative metaphoric end that explicitly disparages the offspring of heterosexual union. We have already seen Ficino's gloss on such nonbiological forms of reproduction and Morello's rejoinder to the tradition in Castiglione. Let us look at Le Roy's commentary on this passage: "Have a stronger friendship together than others towards their natural children) Virtue and knowledge together with similar mores serve better to reconcile friendship than familial ties. And often one finds students showing more love to their teachers than children do to their father and mother." (69)
We might begin to wonder just what kind of immortality biological reproduction buys. The commentary continues: "As those who communicate in infants more beautiful, and more immortal.) The majority of children do not live long, and many are malicious and disobedient. But virtue ... remains forever with those people who sincerely nourish it from youth. Similarly, learned and elegant writings never age. Indeed, the more they advance, the more authority and vigor they acquire, as is the case with Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Ptolemy the Mathematician. One cannot render enough thanks to such persons, who have labored for all of mankind, demonstrating to it mores, institutions, and disciplines. For if letters had never been found, if the labors of many people had not left their beautiful and useful books to posterity, what now would be our life in this great obscurity of nature and human ignorance?" (70) The fragile nature of biological reproduction and its attendant, now attenuated, "immortality" are here supplemented by learned and articulate writings. These, it would seem, are the children that give their parents true immortality. Not only that, but it is the production of the learned that is truly of benefit to mankind in ways remarkably reminiscent of Le Roy's list of the benefits of marriage. This public service announcement for humanists--indeed, for Le Roy himself--continues at some length, reminding the reader that in days gone by humanists and teachers were treated better not only in republics, but also by kings and emperors. Moreover, Le Roy suggests, it is not only the poets who receive immortality through their literary production, but the kings and emperors they choose to praise as well. "The striving of poets," he observes, "is almost entirely toward renown." (71) Pages of Latin poetry from such works as Horace's Fourth Ode and Ovid's Metamorphoses ensue, celebrating their authors' power to render themselves and their chosen subject matter immortal. Le Roy thus deftly mobilizes another element of the Symposium--namely, the hierarchy between the procreation of the body and the production of the soul--to valorize his own contribution, as eulogist, to the pursuit of immortality. Kings need to reproduce but, it turns out, this is not enough. They also need poets to immortalize them and their deeds. (72)
5. "AD GALLOS MAGNUM TRASFERRE PLATONA": CONCLUSION
The third book of Le Roy's Sympose de Platon, addressed to Mary Stuart, would seem to serve as a sort of palinode to the first and second books, turning to spiritual matters and nominally embracing the renunciation of worldly ambitions. That this should occur in the book addressed to Marie the Reine Dauphine is no accident. The dedicatory letter of the second book asserts that the Dauphin's future progeny will be the means by which he and his kingdom will maintain immortality. As we have seen, however, the subsequent commentary underscores the fragility of procreation and insinuates the need for a supplemental mythographic practice. (It may be worth recalling here that Francois had poor health for most of his short life.) The dedication of the third book begins with an encomium to Mary's physical beauty, military puissance, and brilliant intellect. The ensuing commentary, through a process reminiscent of that used by Bembo in the Cortegiano, will have undermined all of these before it concludes. Most consistently castigated throughout the third book are the body and its attractions. At one point, Le Roy quotes the following lines from the account of Scipio's dream in Cicero's Republic: "Indeed, those truly live who have flown up away from the chains of the body as from a prison; truly that life which is called life is death." (73) He continues, glossing the Latin, "Divine love is that which delivers us from such imprisonment and misery." (74) The value of Mary's charms thus diminishes as the book progresses. Le Roy will even conclude by impeaching the immortality of nations and books, so vociferously championed in the preceding commentary: "Nations and their languages utterly perish.... Without any doubt we see books (which one might think have more endurance) in the passage of time become corrupted, shredded, incomprehensible, abandoned, lost." (75) In the end, Le Roy asserts, we have no hope but in God and the eternal life he promises us.
But this is not the end of the Sympose de Platon. At the conclusion to the translation of Socrates' speech, the reader finds a note explaining that Le Roy has elected not to translate Alcibiades' oration because it is appropriate neither for French mores nor for the Christian religion. A letter addressed "Aux Lecteurs" follows. In this letter, Le Roy describes how he began his intellectual career by apprenticing himself to the wisest of the ancients, and then admits that, having matured as a writer and a thinker through this apprenticeship, he has used his translation of the Symposium as a pretext to offer his extensive commentary on it. The letter concludes with a prayer that his efforts will be to the honor of God, to the profit of those who will read them, and "to the embellishment of the French language." (76) Next, the reader finds a further attempt to enrich the French language: namely, Du Bellay's French renderings of the Latin and Greek poetry cited in the original throughout Le Roy's commentary. Le Roy's letter and Du Bellay's translations therefore take the place of Alcibiades' absent speech, and the translator thus provides the Sympose de Platon with an unanticipated conclusion. Le Roy does not need Morello to desublimate the ecstatic rhetoric of his third book. His substitution of the letter and the translations deftly recalibrates the parameters of the project of immortality. Just as the king's offspring would guarantee the immortality of his bloodline and his kingdom--and the poet's praise would bolster this project--so too the translator's intellectual progeny contribute to his own glory and, more crucially, to the glory of the French language. The full significance of this conjunction emerges if we recall that Le Roy wrote at a moment when the project of enriching French letters and the French language had a distinctly nationalist aim. His collaborator Du Bellay--nominally the author of the 1549 treatise, La Defense et Illustration de la langue francaise--was a key figure in this project. (77) Through his redeployment of the Symposium's attention to various forms of immortality, Le Roy reminds his readers once again that poets, translators, and philosophers--as well as sovereigns--have their part to play in reproducing the monarchy, and not only through the poetry of praise. The humanist practice of translatio studii, he emphasizes, also participates in the project of producing and transforming the French monarchic state.
The opening of the Sympose de Platon anticipates this concluding glorification of the work of poets and philosophers. On the verso of the title page of the book the reader finds a French sonnet and a Latin epigram by Du Bellay. On the facing page, the prefatory letter to the Roy-Dauphin and the Royne-Dauphine from which I quoted earlier opens with an exercise in self-deprecation and humility. The two poems, however, provide an entirely different perspective on the work. The sonnet celebrates Le Roy's contribution to what we might call the "defense and illustration of the French language and philosophy," thus going beyond the project detailed by Du Bellay in his treatise. The epigram, playing with the meaning of Le Roy's name, manages at once to describe his efforts as being worthy of royalty and to flatter the monarchy:
In all the world nothing greater than kings is born, Nothing so majestic, nothing closer to God. And by his toil to translate great Plato into French, Because no grander work exists upon the earth, Clearly he renders himself worthy of his name "Kingly," and something worthy of great kings he makes. (78)
On the one hand, Le Roy is the loyal courtier celebrating the royal nuptials and urging his crown prince to procreate so as to insure the immortality of his lineage. On the other, he is the "Platon Francois," immortalizing himself through his pedagogical intercourse with the Greeks, contributing to the consolidation of the French national language, and reminding the monarch of the importance of poets and philosophers in the royal venture of state formation.
I have sought to show that Le Roy maintained the metaphysical dimensions of love central to Ficino's De amore and Bembo's speech in the Cortegiano while also emphasizing the importance of biological reproduction alluded to by Morello and most ardently championed by Serres. But whereas Serres would envision a biological reproduction shorn of metaphysical import, Le Roy was less interested in the survival of the species than in the continuity of an individual bloodline--that of the king--which he construed as providing the sovereign and his realm immortality through a mystical transmission of authority. Neoplatonism's contempt for the material and its association of the feminine with matter neatly assured the security of this transmission by attenuating the influence of a female and foreign bloodline. At the same time--above and beyond the expanded import of the king's reproductive capability properly deployed in marriage--Le Roy harnessed the Neoplatonic tradition's celebration of the immortality to be achieved through non-biological forms of production to the French project of translatio studii in the service of state formation. The possibility of so linking these two projects, I would argue, is part of the Symposium's heteroclite legacy and heterosexuality's pederastic pedigree.
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Regosin, Richard L. "Language and Nation in 16th-Century France: The Arts poetiques." In Beginnings in French Literature, ed. Freeman G. Henry, 29-40. New York, 2002.
Reverdin, Olivier. "Le Platon d'Henri Estienne." Museum Helveticum 13 (1956): 239-50.
Rocke, Michael. Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence. Oxford, 1996.
Rothstein, Marian. "Mutations of the Androgyne: Its Functions in Early Modern French Literature." The Sixteenth Century Journal 34 (2003): 409-37.
Saslow, James. Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society. New Haven, 1986.
Saulnier, V. L. Henri Estienne. Paris, 1988.
Schleiner, Winfriend. "Linguistic 'Xenohomophobia' in Sixteenth-Century France: The Case of Henri Estienne." The Sixteenth Century Journal 34 (2003): 747-60.
Schmidt, Albert-Marie. "Traducteurs Francais de Platon (1536-1550)." In Schmidt, Etudes sur le XVIe siecle, 17-44. Paris, 1967.
Schreiber, Fred. The Estiennes: An Annotated Catalogue of 300 Highlights of their Various Presses. New York, 2003.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley, 1990.
Turner, James Grantham. Schooling Sex: Libertine Literature and Erotic Education in Italy, France, and England 1534-1685. Oxford, 2003.
Walch, Agnes. La Spiritualite conjugale dans le catholicisme francais (XVIe-XXe siecle). Paris, 2002.
*I would like to thank Maria Park Bobroff for bibliographical assistance as I completed this essay, Carla Freccero and Todd Reeser for sharing forthcoming work with me, Gerry Milligan for conversation about Castiglione, Helen Solterer and Deanna Shemek for timely and astute feedback, and several anonymous Renaissance Quarterly readers for attentive engagement and helpful suggestions. Unless otherwise noted, translations are my own. This essay is dedicated to Eric Galipo.
(1) On the pomp and circumstance of the wedding as well as its political significance, see Carpenter and Runnalls.
(2) The Sympose was first published in 1558. A second issue bearing the date 1559 would seem to be identical but for the year. When citing text from the Symposium I will give references both to the specific edition and to the corresponding Stephanus number. On Le Roy's career and translations, see Becker; Gundersheimer. For a magisterial overview of early editions and translations of Plato, see Hankins.
(3) For a discussion of sodomy laws in France and an excellent bibliography of primary and secondary sources on the subject, see Poirier, 45-59. For an overview of the heterosexualization of the early modern Neoplatonic tradition, see Kraye; Reeser.
(4) The Catholic Church's renewed emphasis on marriage as a sacrament--following Protestant critiques as well as Gallic efforts to establish the state's cognizance of marital matters over and against canon law and Church interest--is also relevant but beyond the scope of this paper. Contemporaneous with the Sympose de Platon, the Council of Trent (1545-63) produced numerous statements regarding the sacramental status of marriage. See Walch.
(5) On the concept of genealogy, see Foucault, 1984. On the dangers of homogenizing modern sexuality in attempts to identify the specificity of earlier periods, see, in particular, Sedgwick, 47-48.
(6) As we shall see, Le Roy's commentary is aided in the task of straightening out the Symposium by his translation, which leaves out or reworks key passages. On Ficino's 1484 Opera Platonis, see Kristeller 1979; Hankins. The general Ficino bibliography is enormous: classic works include Marcel; Festugiere; Kristeller, 1956.
(7) In particular, glossing over Ficino's distinction between the love of men and the love of women (where the genitive is only objective) renders the text less accessible to analyses interested in the history of homosexuality and in feminist critique.
(8) The question of women's desire, be it for men or for women, is never addressed in the De amore, although it is evoked in Plato's Symposium, most prominently in Aristophanes' speech: "Therefore those men who are part of the mixed type that formerly was called Androgyne are women-lovers, and adulterers are mostly found among them.... Conversely, those women desirous of men, along with adulteresses, are born from this branch. And indeed those women who are part of the feminine do not desire men in the least, but are passionately inclined towards women, and thus those women who desire women are born" (Plato, 1567, 289: "quamobrem quicunque ex viris promiscui generis portio sunt, quod olim Androgynum vocabatur mulierosi sunt, adulterique, vt plurimum ex his reperiuntur.... Rursus quaecunque mulieres uirorum cupidae moechaeque sunt, hac stirpe nascuntur. Quae vero mulieres mulieris pars existunt, haud multum viros desiderant, sed foeminas magis affectant, atque hinc foeminae quae foeminas cupiunt nascuntur"). Women's desire is a contested topic in Baldassar Castiglione's Il Cortegiano: for example, see Castiglione, 453-54 (IV.lxxii), where its suitability for enabling spiritual ascent is debated. References to Cortegiano give the page number followed by the book and section number.
(9) Ficino, 1994, 135 (VI.14); Ficino, 2002, 183: "Ita pregnans hominum corpus est, ut Plato uult, pregnans et animus, et ambo amoris incitamentis stimulantur ad partum. Ceterum alii uel propter naturam uel educationem ad animi fetus sunt quam corporis aptiores, alii, et quidem plurimi, contra. Illi celestem secuntur amorem, isti uulgarem. Illi natura iccirco mares et illos quidem iam pene adultos potius quam feminas aut pueros amant quoniam in eis magis admodum uiget mentis acumen, quod ad disciplinam, quam illi generaturi sunt, propter excellentiorem sui pulchritudinem est aptissumum. Alii contra, propter congressus ueneri uoluptatem et corporalis generationis effectum."
(10) Plato, 1567, 286 (181b): "is est, quo praui abiectique homines amant. Amant porro foeminas non minus quam masculos & corpora magis quam animos, & sine mente homines potius quam prudentes."
(11) Ibid. (181c): "quicunque amore hoc inspirati sunt, genus masculum natura robustius & generosius, & mentis magis particeps diligunt."
(12) Laurens provides some context for understanding the astrological discussion and observes (Ficino 2002, 302, n. 83) that it was one of the passages added after the original composition of the De amore in 1469 and before its 1484 print publication. Ficino's horoscopes are also discussed by Dall'Orto, 36-39; Turner, 91: I disagree with their conclusion that the astrological theory expressed by Benci implies something like a modern understanding of homosexuality. I would, however, agree that the text strongly suggests an understanding of men likely "by nature" to prefer sex with boys or other men, even if the discussion is taken to be humorous.
(13) Ficino, 1994, 135 (VI.14); Ficino, 2002, 185: "Oportebat autem animaduertere parties illius incitamenta non irritum hoc iacture opus, sed serendi et procreandi officium affectare atque a masculis ad feminas eam traducere."
(14) See Plato, Laws, 636c-d and 836b-841d. These passages condemn pederasty and the "unnatural" desire of man for boy as bad for the individual and the state. In a footnote to the passage in Benci's speech, Sears Jayne remarks that "[t]he subject of this paragraph, abortion, is irrelevant to the rest of the chapter" (Ficino, 1994, 151, n. 108). I think this is to ignore the associative "logic" that often operates in condemnations of sodomy; all that should lead to proper biological reproduction (but does not) may be equally tainted. Indeed, Ficino's discussion may not be about abortion per se so much as any ejaculation that does not result in offspring.
(15) Ficino, 1994, 135 (VI.14); Ficino, 2002, 185: "Quoniam ... genitalis illa uis anime, utpote cognitionis expers, sexuum nullum habet discrimen, natura tamen sua totiens incitatur ad generandum, quotiens formosum corpus aliquod iudicamus."
(16) For examples, see Chiffoleau. For an account of humanist homoerotics that emphasizes the conflict between the spirit and the flesh, see Saslow. For another perspective on this conflict, see Barkan.
(17) Ficino, 1994, 54 (II.7); Ficino, 2002, 41-43: "Quid igitur in Amore Pausanias improbat? Dicam equidem. Si quis generationis auidior contemplationem deserat aut generationem preter modum cum feminis uel contra nature ordinem cum masculis prosequatur aut formam corporis pulchritudini animi preferat, is utique dignitate amoris abutitur. Hunc amoris abusum uituperat Pausanias. Quo qui recte utitur, corporis quidem formam laudat, sed per illam excellentiorem animi mentisque et dei spetiem cogitat eamque uehementius ammiratur et amat. Generationis autem et congressus officio eatenus utitur, quatenus naturalis ordo legesque ciuiles a prudentibus statute prescribunt. De iis diffusius Pausanias."
(18) "generationem preter modum cum feminis ... prosequatur"; "generationem ... contra nature ordinem cum masculis prosequatur."
(19) Throughout the Commentary there is a consistent condemnation of desire that turns from the pleasures offered by sight to those offered by touch. See, for example, chapter 8 of Benci's speech (Ficino, 1994, 118-20), which develops the opposition between the heavenly and the common loves proposed by Pausanias by suggesting that there are actually five human loves in the human soul: the twin Platonic Venuses with their accompanying Loves (called "demones" by Ficino) and three intermediate Loves which are less stable and therefore referred to as "motus" or "affectus" rather than "demones" (Ficino, 2002, 151).
(20) For a meditation on productive approaches to reading cultural translation, see Barkan, 26. Sears Jayne (Ficino, 1985, 4) observes that the De amore is more a compilation of ideas about love than a dedicated commentary on the Symposium.
(21) On sodomy in fifteenth-century Florence, see Rocke.
(22) Dall'Orto discusses Ficino's letters. For the dedication, see Ficino, 2002, 3-4. It is probably not by chance that Cavalcanti suggests that a productive form of "generation" is possible between two men. In a note to a passage in Speech II, chapter 8 ("On Simple and Reciprocal Love: Exhortation to Love"), Jayne observes that "The whole of this playful discussion on rejection as a form of murder is evidently directed at Giovanni Cavalcanti, who is, ironically, the speaker" (Ficino, 1994, 60-61, n. 47).
(23) Castiglione, 434 (IV.lviii): "rare volte mala anima abita nel bel corpo e percio la bellezza estrinseca e vero segno della bonta intrinseca."
(24) Ficino, 1994, 131-32 (VI.11); Ficino, 2002, 177: "Animum quidem ipsum non cernimus. Ideo neque eius inspicimus pulchritudinem. Corpus autem umbram animi imaginemque uidemus: itaque ex eius imagine suspicantes, in corpore formoso spetiosum esse animum conijectamur. Quamobrem formosos homines libentius erudimus."
(25) Castiglione, 441 (IV.lxii): "e cosi seminando virtu nel giardin di quel bell'animo, rancorra ancora frutti di bellissimi costumi e gustaragli con mirabil diletto; e questo sara il vero generare ed esprimere la bellezza nella bellezza, il che da alcuni si dice esser il fin d'amore."
(26) Plato, 1559, 104r-v: "[DIO.] Amour n'est de beaute, comme vous pensez Socratez. SO. Dequoy donc? DIO. De generation & conception en beaute. SOC. Soit. DIO. Bien. SOCR. Pourquoy de generation en beaute? DIOT. D'autant que generation au mortel est quelque chose sempiternelle & immortelle."
(27) The passage continues, "In such a way our courtier will be most pleasing to his lady and she will always show herself to him to be submissive, sweet and agreeable, and thus desirous both of pleasing him and of being loved by him"; Castiglione, 441 (IV.lxii): "In tal modo sara il nostro cortegiano gratissimo alla sua donna ed essa sempre se gli mostrera ossequente, dolce et affabile, e cosi desiderosa di compiacergli, come d'esser da lui amata."
(28) Ibid. (IV.lxiii): "Il generar ... la bellezza nella bellezza con effetto, sarebbe il generar un bel figliolo in una bella donna."
(29) For the usage that I am suggesting is echoed here, see the attestations provided under the entries "Seminare un seme, una verdure" and "Seminare un terreno" under the heading "Seminare" in Boggione and Casalegno.
(30) On gynophobia, see Berger, 71-72. See also Jordan, 78-79; Freccero, 1992, 268-69, 275-79.
(31) The reading I sketch here draws generally on Jordan; Freccero, 1992. But note Berger's warning at 83.
(32) Castiglione is clearly aware of the pederastic origins of this model of love: see Castiglione, 318 (III.xlv); Dall'Orto, 46. For Diotima's right pederasty, see Plato, 1998, 211b5-6: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]"; Plato, 1567, 295: "recte pueros amando"; Plato, 1559, 165v: "le vray chemin"; Plato, 1578, 211b: "legitimo puerorum amore." The move from the Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to the Latin recte and the French vray may track the transformations in the problematization of sexual conduct traced by Foucault, 1985, particularly 253-54.
(33) Castiglione, 446 (IV.lxvii): "non piu la bellezza particulate d'una donna, ma quella universale, che tutti i corpi adorna, contemplara."
(34) Ibid., 447 (IV.lxvii): "tenebre materiali."
(35) Ibid. (IV:lxviii): "il nostro cortegiano"; 444 (IV.lxvi): "L'amante"; 446 (IV.ixvii): "lo amante."
(36) Ibid., 447 (IV.lxviii): "e cosi in loco d'uscir di se stesso col pensiero, come bisogna che faccia chi vol considerer la bellezza corporale, si rivolga in se stesso per contemplar quella che si vede con gli occhi della mente."
(37) Ibid., 450 (IV.lxix): "sublime stanzia"; "la celeste, amabile et vera bellezza, che nei secreti penetrali di Dio sta nascosta."
(38) Ibid., 318 (III.xlv): "n'ho molto maggior certezza che non potete aver ... che Alcibiade si levasse dal letto di Socrate non altrimenti che si facciano i figlioli dal letto dei padre."
(39) The question of anteros (reciprocity) merits its own sustained analysis.
(40) Plato, 1578, 171: "NAEVVS IN HAC DISPVTATIONE DETESTANDVS." On Stephanus in general, see the essays collected in Saulnier, which includes an extensive bibliography. On the Stephanus print dynasty, see Schreiber. On the difficult collaboration between Estienne and Serres, see Reverdin.
(41) Plato, 1578, 171: "foedum Aristophanem foedae rei ministrum facit"; "Commentum ... illud Androgyni."
(42) Ibid.: "ex Trismegisti officina, suum illud [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] baud dubie imaginati ex deprauatione veritatis, quae ait, Deus autem illos fecit marem & foeminam." Le Roy's Symposium commentary includes a lengthy and remarkably erudite discussion of the Genesis passage cited here by Serres and of potential confusion between the biblical text and the Platonic Androgyne. See also Meeks; Boyarin.
(43) Plato, 1578, 189, n. b: "Describitur ergo amoris vis atque impetus in animantium venereo congressu. quod quidem est incentiuum generationis ad prolem suscipiendam, genusque humanum propagandum: sicuti Socrates postea ostendet, mirabilem amoris vim in imagine illa immortalitatis depraedicans. At impurus Aristophanes impurum effraenemque amorem hic describit. quae copiosius explicare, esset augere infaniam. Itaque miror praepos-teram interpretum diligentiam in hoc Androgyni [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] explicando: sicuti diximus in argumento. Simplex istius [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] dogma est, Amor impellit masculum & faeminam ad mutuum congressum, vt inde genus humanum propagetur. Quod autem de [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] portento hic ait, praeterquam quod pudet pigetque mouere has sordes, hactenus est etiam refutatum. Ita euanescant mysteria Ficini, quae nullibi hic sane sunt." On the semantic range of the word "preposterous," see Parker, 1987, 1992, and 1993.
(44) In his "L'Androgyne," an oft-published poem reproduced by Le Roy in his Symposium commentary, the French poet Antoine Heroet describes at length the origins of heterosexual desire in a loose paraphrase of Aristophanes' myth that erases the male-male and female-female possibilities. On Heroet's poem in Le Roy, see Reeser. On the figure of the Androgyne and marriage, see Rothstein. As the title of her essay suggests, she only addresses material written in French. To her extensive bibliography of criticism on the Androgyne must be added Freccero, 1986. Rothstein and Reeser both follow common usage in employing the term androgyne to refer to all three primordial beings (female-male, female-female, and male-male) in the myth. I would argue that confusion about this nomenclature, be it in the early modern period or in more modern times, merits scrutiny rather than repetition.
(45) Plato, 1578, 189d-e: "Principio videlicet tria errant hominum genera, non, quamad-modum nunc, duo, mas & foemina: sed & tertium quoddam aderat, communis cuiuisdam naturae ex his vtrisque compositum: cuius solum nomen adhuc restat; ipsum vero perriit. Androgynum tunc quippe erat & specie & nominee, ex maris & foeminae sexu commixtum: nunc vero minime extat in rerum natura, nominis tamen memoria ad contumeliam opprobriumque reseruata est."
(46) Ibid., 191d-192a: "Quicunque igitur ex promiscui generis viris portio sunt, quod olim Androgynum vocabatur, mulierosi sunt, & adulteria ab his vt plurimum perpetrantur.... Rursum & mulieres quae virorum appetentes & adulterae sunt, ex hoc item sunt genere."
(47) See Freccero, 1986, 149.
(48) On Stephanus, see Schleiner. On the link between hermaphrodites and sodomy, effeminacy, and pederasty, see Boswell, 68, n. 30, 185, 375-76.
(49) See, for example, Plato, 1578, 209, note a.
(50) Ibid., 169: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."
(51) Ibid.: "In corpore quidem, & in miraculo generationis, quo ait naturam mortalem immortalitatem quandam moliri, dum nouos subinde foetus in demortuorum parentum locum sufficit, vnde species ipsae sempiterna quadam serie perpetuentur, vt hactenus quidem in generatione [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] quiddam esse videatur."
(52) Plato, 1559, a ij r & v: "i'ay mis le Sympose ou banquet de Platon en Francois pour le vous presenter: estimant le subiect du liure fort conuenable a vostre heureux mariage, a voz aages, a voz espritz, & voluntez. Auquel il recommande l'honneste Amour qui consiste principalement en mariage."
(53) Plato, 1567, 289 (192b): "At dum pueri sunt, vtpote qui maris particula sunt, viros diligunt, uirorumque familiaritate assidua congressuque gaudent: hique sunt puerorum adolescentulorumque omnium generosissimi, quippe qui natura prae caeteris omnibus sunt viriles. Hos quidam impudicos falso appellant. Neque enim impudentia vlla, sed generositate, & fortitudine quadam mascula virilique natura hoc agunt: nam simili suo congratulantur. Huius euidens argumentum est, quod cum adoleuerint, soli ad ciuilem administrationem conuersi, viri praestantes euadunt, & in aetate virili constituti, ipsos adolescentes diligunt, matrimonium vero filiorumque generationem natura spernunt, nisi lege cogantur. Caelebs porro vita his placet."
(54) Plato, 1559, 41v (192b): "Et ce pendant qu'ilz sont enfans comme particules du masle, ayment les hommes, & prennent plaisir a conuerser auec eux. Et sont ceux-cy les meilleurs enfans, & plus genereux: quelqu'vns les appellent a tort impudens: Car ilz ne font cecy par impudence: ains par hardiesse, force, & virilite, ils ayment leur semblable. Qu'ainsi soit, il appert par ce qu'estans grands: eux seuls paruiennent aux charges publiques, sans se soucier beaucoup selon leur naturel de mariage, n'y d'engendrer enfans: s'ilz n'y sont contraintz par la loy. Ains leur suffit de viuvre tousiours en Celibat."
(55) Le Roy's "ayment les hommes, & prennent plaisir a conuerser auec eux" translates the Greek "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (Plato, 1998, 192b), already somewhat attenuated in Ficino's Latin translation reproduced above. See the discussion of Le Roy's finessing of this passage in Lloyd-Jones, 100. For a survey of earlier French translations of Plato, including some discussion of strategies for transforming pederasty for a French audience, see Schmidt.
(56) Becker, 142-44.
(57) See also Reeser, who discusses Le Roy's erasure of "male-male" love in his treatment of Aristophanes' myth. I might add that female-female love, although mentioned only briefly by Aristophanes, is also erased.
(58) Plato, 1559, 70v: "Pour euiter ces inconueniens, les ceremonies de mariage ont este ordonnees, lesquelles iacoit que different selon la difference des pays, ce nonobstant elles reuiennet toutes au premier point de l'institution diuine, qui est de nous perpetuer par generation legitime, & d'acquerir immortalite par lignee."
(59) Hanley, 1994, 108. See also Hanley, 1996.
(60) For a somewhat related argument that has influenced my thinking, see Freccero, 2004.
(61) Early in the Symposium, Eryximachus dismisses the flute girl, leaving the men alone together (176e). On the figure of Diotima, see Halperin.
(62) Plato, 1559, 68v-69r: "Nature ... nous diuisa en deux sexes, donnant la femme a l'homme pour generation, & pour luy seruir de compaignie. Qu'elle sceut si bien accommoder ensemble, qu'ilz ont tousiours besoing l'vn de l'autre chascun en son sexe. Se sont si debiles separez, qu'ilz semblent imperfaitz, ne pouuant l'vn deux exercer autre charge, sinon celle a laquelle il est destine, a tout le moins sans desordre & moquerie. Comment pourrions nous tout en vn temps donner les loix aux peuples, & les tetins aux petis enfans?"
(63) Ibid., 69v: "vray commencement, & entretenement de la societe ciuile, la plus saincte chose, & la plus honneste qui pouuoit aduenir au genre humain pour sa conseruation."
(64) See Hanley, 116, n. 27. As Hanley notes, this concept is based on the Aristotelian rather than the Galenic model of reproduction. For the distinction between the two, see Laqueur, 25-52, as well as the bibliography cited by Hanley. For a related discussion of form, matter, and reproduction in antiquity, see Irigaray, 160-79. For invocations of the association of man with form or idea and woman with matter in the other texts I treat in this essay, see Ficino's pun on the word mater at Ficino, 1994, speech II, chapter 7, page 53; see also Ficino, 2002, 41, and the exchange between Gasparo and Il Magnifico in Castiglione, 278-79 (III.xv-xvi). Cox, 87-88, and Berger, 89-90, offer differing interpretations of the significance of this last passage and, in particular, of Emilia's ensuing rejoinder. Although I find Cox's situating of the genre of the Italian dialogue in a social context quite helpful, my own interpretive practice aspires to the close reading and discourse analysis performed so dazzlingly by Berger. See also Jordan, 79.
(65) Plato, 1559, 71r: "Donques ie prieray Dieu, qui maintient les Royaumes per religion & iustice, conserue les maisons & familles en authorite par bonne conduitte, qui n'a rien plus aggreable en terre, que les estatz bien pollicez & gouuernez, qu'il face prosperer vostre marriage & vnion de Royaumes a l'aduenir, auec l'Amour, fidelite, obeissance & concorde perpetuelle des subiectz: mesmement quand par l'ordre de Nature vostre temps de regner sera venu, augmentant de iour en iour le Royaume Francois, qui est le plus beau, le plus ancien & le plus noble que lon sache auiourd'huy, & le permettre venir par droitte succession aux enfans de voz enfans, tousiours renomme & redoute par tout le monde."
(66) According to Carpenter and Runnalls, 147, the French actually prepared two versions of the marriage contract: "The first, about which [the Scottish Commissioners] knew nothing, decreed among other things that, should Mary die without issue, the Scottish crown would revert to France; it also decreed that any subsequent marriage contract would be invalid. The second contract, which the Scottish Commissioners negotiated and signed, envisaged, in the event of Mary's death without issue, the return of the Scottish crown to the Scottish inheritance."
(67) Hanley, 1994, 116. See also Jackson. Concerning the importance of the procreative imperative, the case of the Roy Dauphin and of Mary, Queen of Scots is telling. The year after their marriage, the Dauphin became Francois II, King of France when his father, Henri II, died several days after a freak accident--his opponent's lance plunged through the visor of his helmet and into his eye during a jousting tournament. And thus began the ignominious fall of the Valois. The glorious reign of Francois II would last for all of a year, and he would die in December 1560 without leaving an heir, although two of his brothers--Charles IX and Henri III--would be king after him, prolonging the dynasty's denouement. As was the case with their eldest brother, neither of these men would manage to produce an heir. When Henri III was assassinated in 1589, the crown passed to the House of Bourbon. In the case of Mary, the situation was somewhat different. When she was executed by Queen Elizabeth I of England, she had in fact produced children in her second marriage, to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Upon the death of Elizabeth, who left no direct heir, Mary achieved a sort of post mortem revenge when her son, already James VI of Scotland, became James I of England. This was the sort of outcome the French Law Canon sought to avoid in France where, for example, the crown did not pass to Elisabeth of France, daughter of Catherine de' Medici and Henri II, and her husband Philip II of Spain upon the death of Henri III. This example suggests how the Salic Law and the French Law Canon could be used to protect the crown from what was perceived to be undue foreign influence.
(68) Plato, 1559, 127v: "Car approchant du beau, & conuersant auec luy, il produit & engendre ce qu'il auoit conceu de long temps, se souuenant de luy tant absent que present, & nourrit ce qu'en prouient communement auec luy, de sorte que tels personnages ont plusgrande communion, & plus ferme amytie ensemble, que les autres enuers leurs enfants naturelz: comme ceux qui communiquent en enfans plus beaux, & plus immortels. Il n'y a celuy qui n'aymast mieux auoir tels enfans, que les humains."
(69) Ibid., 129v: "Ont plus ferme amytie ensemble, que les autres enuers leurs enfans naturelz) La vertu & le scavoir auec similitude de meurs seruent plus a concilier l'amytie, que le parentage: & souuent se trouuent disciples, portans plus d'amour a leurs precepteurs, que les enfans a leur pere & mere." Here and below I reproduce as closely as possible the typography of Le Roy's text, including the parenthesis that separates the translation from the commentary.
(70) Ibid., 129v: "Comme ceux qui communiquent en enfans plus beaux & immortels) La pluspart des enfans naturelement viuent peu, plusieurs sont vicieux & desobeissans: Mais la vertu ... demeure tousiours auec les personnes qui l'ont de ieunesse sincerement nourrie. Aussi les escriteurs doctes & elegantes iamais ne vieillissent: ains tant plus elles vont en avant, plus elles acquierent d'authorite, & de vigueur. Comme il est advuenu a Platon, & a Aristote, a Hypocrates, & Ptolemee le mathematicien. Lon ne pourroit rendre assez de graces a tels personnages, lesquels ont trauaille pour tout le genre humain, luy monstrans meurs, institutions, disciplines. Car si les lettres n'eussent este trouuees, si les actes de plusieurs personnages n'eussent laisse leurs beaux & utiles liures a la posterite: Que seroit ce auiourduy de nostre vie, en ceste grande obscurite de nature, & ignorance humaine?"
(71) Ibid., 131r: "L'estude des poetes est Presque tout en la renommee."
(72) On the politics of praise in sixteenth-century France, see Langer.
(73) Plato, 1559, 148r: "Imo vero hi viuunt qui ex corporis vinculis tanquam e carcere evolauerunt, uita uera quae dicitur vita, mors est." The passage may be found at Cicero, Republic, 6.14.
(74) Ibid.: "Amour diuin est celuy qui nous deliure de tele prison & misere."
(75) Ibid., 176v: "Les nations, & leurs langues perissent entierement.... Sans doutes nous voyons les liures (ausquels lon penseroit auoir plus de diuturnite) estre par succession de temps corrumpuz, lacerez, non entenduz, delaissez, perduz."
(76) Ibid., 184v: "a la decoration de la langue Francoise."
(77) On literature and nation in sixteenth-century France see, most recently, Regosin; Hampton.
(78) Plato, 1559, commendatory poem: "Regibus in toto maius nil nascitur orbe. / Nil magis Augustum, nil propiusve deo. / Dum studet ad Gallos magnum trasferre Platona, / Quo nullum in terris grandius extat opus, / Scilicet ipse suo dignum se nomine reddit / Regius, & magnis regibus aequa facit."
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|Date:||Jun 22, 2006|
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