Essay on Socrates' "No Evil Can Happen."

Essay by marydHigh School, 12th gradeA+, October 2005

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A great speech resonates throughout time and evokes emotion and espouses values in all audiences, regardless of context. This is due to their skilful and emotive use of rhetorical techniques, language and construction, allowing them to transcend their immediate circumstances.

When Socrates delivered 'No evil can happen' in 399 BC during his trial as an enemy of the state, his purpose seems to be asserting his own virtue and denouncing the values of the contemporary Athenian audience - honour, wealth and glory - thereby antagonising the 500 jurors. The defiant hyperbolic statement "I shall not alter my conduct, no, not if I have to die a score of deaths" establishes Socrates' firm belief in his own virtue, and would have been perceived by the audience as unrepentant and evincing disdain for the power of their jurisdiction. Socrates uses an explicit metaphor, describing himself as "a kind of gadfly to a big generous horse, rather slow because of its very bigness and in need of being waked up" to self-congratulate his dissention, insulting and condemning the Athenian jury by intimating that they are incapable of independent thought.

The religious allusions of "Heaven permits" and "the gift of God" used by Socrates to deify his own actions would have been considered sarcastic and presumptuous by the audience as they had charged him with failure to worship the gods. Socrates denounces the jurors' greed by using the evocative metaphor of "reaping the largest possible harvest of wealth and honour and glory". The farming reference, hinting at selfish and ruthless action, would have been appropriate to his audience since Athenian prosperity was built on agriculture. Socrates furthers the divide between his immediate audience and himself through use of the antitheses "right thing or wrong thing" and "good man or a bad". This emphasises...