Discuss the action, the characters and the dramatic setting of "The Laws" by Plato

Essay by Shel68University, Bachelor'sB+, February 2007

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The Laws is Plato's last and longest dialogue. The book begins not with the question "What is law?" as one would expect, but rather, "Who is given the credit for laying down your laws?" (624a) It is generally agreed that Plato wrote this dialogue as an old man, having failed in his effort in Syracuse on the island of Sicily to guide a tyrant's rule, instead having been thrown in prison.

We have in the dialogue, The Athenian Stranger and two other old men, an ordinary Spartan citizen (Megillus) and a Cretan politician and lawgiver (Kleinias) from Knossos. The Athenian Stranger, who is much like Socrates but whose name is never given, joins the other two on their religious pilgrimage to the cave of Zeus. The entire dialogue takes place during this journey, which mimics the action of Minos, who is said by the Cretans to have made their ancient laws, who walked this path every nine years in order to receive instruction from Zeus on lawgiving.

It is also said to be the longest day of the year, allowing for a densely-packed twelve chapters.

There are many topics discussed in the Laws. For example, divine revelation, divine law and lawgiving, the role of intelligence in lawgiving, the relations of philosophy, religion, and politics, the role of music, exercise and dance in education, natural law and natural right and countless other philosophical subject.

The Laws seems to be divided into more or less four unequal parts. The first three books comprise of a critical-theoretical introduction to the problem of legislation: what legislation is and on what basis it should be undertaken. At its conclusion Kleinias, a Cretan, reveals that he has been charged with leading a commission established by his native Knossos and drafting legislation for a prospective colony. He...