Dionysus and Plato: Philosophy or Experience?

God of the Vine Dionysus

Act 1

Dionysus: I have come to Athens, the protected city of my honored sister, to seek out the mortal Plato. For too long has he offered libations and praise for philosophy, a mere abstraction, a collection of words and phrases. Too much mind and not enough cheer is a dangerous thing dearest mortal of the gods. Dionysus will have his share of praise and propitiation

It is an affront to me, God of the vine and of raw, brute experience! I shall teach him a lesson. Before the sun sets this evening, will Plato learn more than his books could ever teach. I plan on catching him as he comes home from the Academy. In the appearance and guise of Socrates I’ll hail him.

Plato, enrobed and in sandals walks past.Dionysus takes the form of Socrates

Dionysus (as Socrates): Hail Plato, friend of the gods and dearest companion to my bosom

Plato: Ah, Socrates I almost didn’t see you there. To what do I owe this honor?

Dionysus: The honor is all mine, but I have come because quite simply I’d like to drink with a good friend. Let me ask you a question, as you know I love prodding questions, what do the gods want most of all. Is it praise, or imitation?

Plato: This is an interesting question which has many answers. Surely it must be both. They are to be praised for their virtues, and to be imitated for the same reason.

Dionysus: But what if these virtues conflict — Zeus virtuous Zeus wants justice and peace. But his son Ares wants war and bloodthirsty men. Apollo wants order and music, and Dionysus, great great Dionysus, fearful and fickle Dionysus, wants chaos! How do you reconcile this great philosopher?

Plato: As you know my friend, a man cannot be like all the gods at the same time. He must choose to dedicate himself to one, or another, but not all. That would be a great folly, and an impossible mission.

Dionysus: Well, then, let me ask you. Which god do you follow?

Plato: The same one you do my friend. Zeus has been very kind to me, and showed me the ways of philosophy and truth-seeking.

Dionysus: Ah, but I tire of babbling and babbling to the weary and dull sheep of Athens. In truth, I come to you because I think you have been hesitant and unjust to Dionysus. Has anyone ever told you, that you think too much?

Plato: Socrates I don’t understand. This is rich coming from you. If Athens had to hear you now, there would be a great tumult and maybe even cheer. “Socrates has abandoned his ways” “Athens can finally be at peace” “The gadfly has become a drunkard Diogenes.”

Dionysus: Follow me if you love me. We will go to the closest kapeleia (tavern) and I will show you the ways of Dionysus.

Plato: This is exceedingly odd, but I will follow you master.

Dionysus: (soliloquy) Now my plot has begun. Wise, wise Plato can talk and write like the gods, but let’s see if he can drink like them. Before he knows it, I’ll have him in the lap of some wench, or face-down babbling in the gutter. I will show myself in my full power, that even the greatest of mortals should respect my spiritual teachings. Be careful Plato, the devil’s dandy makes fools of the mighty, let alone a light-weight philosopher. Run, run Dionysus, to the tavern of tawdry delights!

Act 2

The kapeleia is small and crowded. Amphorae line the bar, the bartender pours incessantly wine from the vessels into kraters, sloshing and spilling a considerable amount of wine onto the floor. Dionysus and Plato enter the kapeleia — Dionysus lets out a screech of joy which attracts the cheers and toasts of the crowded room. Plato uncomfortably shuffles behind him. They sit down next to two women, who are passing around a krater, slurping down the wine.

Plato: Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer the symposium my friend? This place is wild, so unrefined.

Dionysus: Nonsense, come on lighten up with me. Here watch this

Dionysus grabs an amphora and drinks it straight like a barbarian.

Plato: My god Socrates what has come over you. This is abhorrent.

Dionysus: tush tush, my friend. Now time for you to drink

Dionysus grabs Plato forcefully, tilts his head and pours some wine from the amphora down his reluctant gullet. The women across the table giggle and laugh.

Plato: This is… most ah… peculiar. I (burps) I see, I see you naughty Socrates. Whoow.

Dionysus: Now my friend, look at these beautiful women, Aphrodite and her maid. I will make the approach, follow my lead.

Ladies, sweet ladies, never have I beheld such beauty as I have before now. I swore as I closed my eyes, I saw nymphs dancing and prancing by a river. And then I opened my eyes, and lo and behold, it was even more beautiful than before. Just one gaze had me in a daze.

The ladies blush and whisper to themselves.

This my fair fair princesses, is my friend Plato.

The blushing and whispering intensifies

Plato:(bursting out) “ Your eyes are like… are like trees”

Plato buries his head in his hands. The women giggle louder

Dionysus: Don’t mind him, he’s just excited.

Woman 1: You two are cute

Woman 2: I say let’s have some fun.

The women stand up and move to the other side of the table. One sits on Dionysus’ lap the other on Platos.

Woman 1 (to Plato): Here drink more my dear.

Plato(gulps and spits a little out): Do… do you like philosophy? I’m like the king of it.

She rolls her eyes just as Plato looked down embarrassed.

Woman 1: Of course. In fact the other day I kissed Philo and made love to Sophie.

Dionysus and the second woman are getting raunchier. Dionysus steals naughty glances at her breasts in full sight of her. His hand carefully lowers from her shoulders to just below her pronounced collar bone. She smiles with desire.

Woman 1: Hey baby, why don’t we get out of this place? But drink more before we go.

Plato laughs nervously as he drinks. Dionysus turns to him and winks.

Plato(to himself): Be cool, be cool. (to the woman) Yeah, yeah sure.

The woman leads Plato outside, taking him to a dark spot underneath a tree.

Plato: Wait, wait, what are you doing? (starts hyperventilating) This is… ungodly.

She is lowering herself, leveling her head about his knees.

Woman 1: Just relax, breathe deeply.

Plato looks down one more time. Overwhelmed, he faints.


Dionysus( in his godly form): Awake, awake dear Plato.

Plato moans as he begins slowly to rise. He first notices that his purse is missing and curses aloud. Then he looks ahead and is taken aback by the shining figure.

Plato: Dionysus! Why have you done this to me?

Dionysus: I did nothing. You did all this by yourself. Remember to respect me, and give me my due honor or else misfortune is sure to follow you all the days of your life. I am a fickle god. I may be of Zeus, but I am not like Zeus. Order and philosophy are overrated. Merrymaking and chaos should reign! Farewell Plato, and remember words and ideas are mere wind, experience and intensity is why the world was made!