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The Illusion of Falling in Love

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In Plato's Symposium, Aristophanes tells a myth that explains his opinion about love. While there were only two genders, even in Plato's time, Aristophanes spoke of an original existence of three genders: male, female and androgynous. Each person in those times had eight limbs (four arms and four legs), two heads, and even two sets of genitals. They could move in all directions and could even spin like a sphere because of the eight limbs. These beings were extremely powerful and could make damaging attacks against the gods. However, the gods did not want to wipe them out because they enjoyed the sacrifices that people made. Instead, Zeus decided that he would slice each person in half. As each person was split in half, Apollo aligned their necks so that their heads would face the cut that had been made, at the same time tightening the skin and fastening it at the belly button. However, people longed for the days that had been, and so they would go and look for the other half of their original self. If they did find their true half, they would embrace one another. Eventually, Zeus pitied them and put their genitals on the front of the body so that the couples could have sex, even if they could not fully join one another again (Plato). Of course, this vision of love is complicated, especially when considering that true love is more complex than running into one's former half and embracing it, or even finding it and having sex. In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the idea that we are wondering the earth, looking for our soulmates, is turned on its head. Instead of finding each other to be each other's long lost half, Rosalind and Orlando project their own agendas onto the other; as a result, when Rosalind turns her gaze on Orlando, he is able to become a strong wrestler, and it is only then that Rosalind falls in love with him. As a result, it is difficult to assert with certainty that one actually loves the person one thinks one is in love with.

Consider, for example, the claim of Simone de Beauvoir: “'one is not born, but rather, becomes a woman'” (Butler). This means that not even the category of gender can be considered absolute or permanent; rather, it “is an identity tenuously constituted in time – an identity, instituted through a stylized repetition of acts” (Butler). In other words, in order to make love work, one becomes what is needed over time. The gender roles that are passed down to us, from one generation to the next, gradually take form over the newest people, with a varying degree of success. Similarly, Merleau-Ponty considers the body to be more a figment of history rather than a natural phenomenon (Merleau-Ponty). To extend this idea, the body gains its significance through a specific and historical form of expression in the world. The body may contain a specific set of possibilities; however, those possibilities are determined, in large part, by the precedents and conventions of history. The body, in other words, takes possibilities and converts them into material realities; however, the conversion process acknowledges limits placed upon it by the dominant society. In the play As You Like It, the periodic references to cuckoldry (which appeared in other plays as well during the Elizabethan era) are just part of the play's agenda – to convey the idea of the perfect romance out of the minds of the audience. When the clown insists that while the “horns are odious, they are necessary” (III.iii.42). However, because true love is human in nature, it will always be flawed – and it will always involve the projection of desire from one upon the other, and vice versa.

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