Socrates runs into Phaedrus on the outskirts of Athens. Phaedrus has just come from the home of Epicrates of Athens, where Lysias, son of Cephalus, has given a speech on love. Socrates, stating that he is "sick with passion for hearing speeches",[Note 1] walks into the countryside with Phaedrus hoping that Phaedrus will repeat the speech. They sit by a stream under a plane tree and a chaste tree, and the rest of the dialogue consists of oration and discussion.

The dialogue, somewhat unusually, does not set itself as a re-telling of the day's events. The dialogue is given unmediated, in the direct words of Socrates and Phaedrus, without other interlocutors to introduce the story or give it to us; it comes first hand, as if we are witnessing the events themselves. This is in contrast to such dialogues as the Symposium, in which Plato sets up multiple layers between the day's events and our hearing of it, explicitly giving us an incomplete, fifth-hand account.

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