[Citizen and Vivian are seated. Citizen should get up and move about, but Vivian should remain seated unless called for in stage directions.]

Vivian: “Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.“

Citizen: Hey didn’t Aristotle say something like that. Oh and do you really go by Vivian? (Citizen rings bell) Cause if I’m doing the math correctly, Vivian, you should be like, well three. I’m just saying…

[Enter Aristotle]

Aristotle: “For the purposes of poetry a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.“

[Citizen and Vivian share a long beat, Aristotle exits from awkward silence.]

Vivian embarrassed continues: “I must read the end of my article: —

What we have to do, what at any rate it is our duty to do, is to revive this old art of lying. Much of course may be done, in the way of educating the public, by amateurs in the domestic circle, at literary lunches, and at afternoon teas. But this is merely the light and graceful side of lying, such as was probably heard at Cretan dinner-parties. There are many other forms. Lying for the sake of gaining some immediate personal advantage, for instance — lying with a moral purpose, as it is usually [51/52] called-though of late it has been rather looked down upon, was extremely popular with the antique world. Athena laughs when Odysseus tells her "his words of sly devising," as Mr. William Morris phrases it, and the glory of mendacity illumines the pale brow of the stainless hero of Euripidean tragedy.

[Vivian looks up afraid to be interrupted. Citizen waves him on to continue.]

Vivian:

and sets among the noble women of the past the young bride of one of Horace's most exquisite odes. Later on, what at first had been merely a natural instinct was elevated into a self-conscious science. Elaborate rules were laid down for the guidance of mankind, and an important school of literature grew up round the subject. Indeed, when one remembers the excellent philosophical treatise of Sanchez on the whole question, one cannot help regretting that no one has ever thought of publishing a cheap and condensed edition of the works of that great casuist. A short primer, "When to Lie and How," if brought out in an attractive and not too expensive a form, would no doubt command a large sale, and would prove of real practical service to many earnest and deep-thinking people. Lying for the sake of the improvement of the young, which is the basis of home education, still lingers amongst us, and its advantages are so admirably set forth in the early books of Plato's Republic that it is unnecessary to dwell upon them here.

Citizen raises a hand

Citizen: Um we’re going to have to run a background check on that last bit--you understand? Um Wikipedia would you be so —

[Wikipedia walks in]

Citizen: Thank you.

[Vivian holds his breath. Wikipedia takes a deep breath, says all with one breath.]

Wikipedia: Several dialogues tackle questions about art: Socrates says that poetry is inspired by the muses, and is not rational. He speaks approvingly of this, and other forms of divine madness (drunkenness, eroticism, and dreaming) in the Phaedrus (265a-c), and yet in the Republic wants to outlaw Homer's great poetry, and laughter as well.

Citizen (interrupting Wikipedia): Yeah, yeah and Aristotle who was a student of Plato who was a student of Socrates said that Homer’s poems teach poets how to lie. Or as you, Vivian, might mean to say in your little article: be creative and or artistic.

[Citizen rings a bell]

[Enter Aristotle]

Aristotle: “Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.“

Citizen: That’ll be all.

[Vivian, Wikipedia, and Aristotle go to leave.]

Citizen: No, no . . . not you two!

Wikipedia: “In Ion, Socrates gives no hint of the disapproval of Homer that he expresses in the Republic. The dialogue Ion suggests that Homer's Iliad functioned in the ancient Greek world as the bible does today in the modern Christian world: as divinely inspired literature that can provide moral guidance, if only it can be properly interpreted.“

[Citizen motions Wikipedia off. Vivian feeling deflated noticeably skips part of his article.]

Vivian:

The only form of lying that is absolutely beyond reproach is lying for its own sake, and the highest development of this is, as we have already pointed out, Lying in Art. Just as those who do not love Plato more than Truth cannot pass beyond the threshold of the Academe, so those who do not love Beauty more than Truth never know the inmost shrine of Art.

Citizen: Hold up. I think Aristotle may have said this too. But it is debatable. Hey buddy why don’t you come out here again just in case…

[Enter Aristotle]

Aristotle: Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.

Citizen: Okay, okay just a minor inconsistency. (To Aristotle) You can go.

[Exit Aristotle]

Citizen: Oh Vivian…silly, silly Vivian. Vivian. You just can’t stick to one school of thought can you? Biting the hand that feeds you . . .

[Citizen slaps/pats Vivian on the back.

Vivian: (with high emotion):

The solid stolid British intellect lies in the desert sands like the Sphinx in Flaubert's marvellous tale, and fantasy, La ChimŹre, dances round it, and calls to it with her false, flute-toned voice. It may not hear her now, but surely some day, when we are all bored to death with the commonplace character of modern fiction, it will hearken to her and try to borrow her wings.

Citizen: That’s right, go to your happy place…


Victorian Web Overview Decadents and Aesthetes Overview Oscar Wilde Leading Questions

Last modified 28 April 2010