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Xanthippe's Last Night with Socrates

by Victor Gijsbers profile

Romance, Historical

(based on 15 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

It's your last night together, for literal fuck's sake, but your husband is 'not in the mood'. Can you convince him to fulfil his marital duties?

And will that bring any solace at all?

Game Details


12th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
IFComp 2023: Xanthippe's Last Night with Socrates, October 7, 2023
by Kastel
Related reviews: ifcomp2023

We know little about Socrates. We know even less about Xanthippe, the second wife of Socrates. And yet, here is a story that imagines their last romantic night together before the esteemed philosopher took the hemlock.

As historical fiction, it teeters on the edge of implausibility. As an homage to the philosophy of Socrates, it is deeply Platonic and not very Socratic. But as a fantasy that disrupts our popular notions of the past, it does the job quite well.

On the Dedication page, Gijsbers writes that we'll never know who Xanthippe is or what she's like. However, it is possible to "complicate our idea of her; reimagine her; give her a voice that is necessarily our own voice." Putting on the mask of Xanthippe (and Socrates by extension) in the theater of interactive fiction brings them back to life and lets us "dwell in possibility". They speak with our voices, of course, but "the dead do not resent us." Instead, they will recognize this dialog between Xanthippe and Socrates as necessary "for our sake".

Keeping in the spirit of relevance, the game revels in our current vernacular of love-making: Xanthippe calls Socrates her "big man" and may choose to stroke his cheek. She wants to fulfill her marital duties and the player can make her pounce on poor Socrates. It is no wonder then that Gijsbers's version of Socrates often shudders at her actions. Grumpy at first glance, he is actually vulnerable to Xanthippe's sensuality. He becomes apologetic after a fit of rage and even uncertain of his own beliefs when he talks to her -- a far cry from the popular image of the individualistic Socrates from Plato's Apology. But it's also later revealed that (Spoiler - click to show)both characters lead adulterous lives because they can't help it. Socrates even gets a feminist lecture from Xanthippe about the sex workers he's involved with because they might not be consenting figures. As a result, their relationship has the baggage of most contemporary amours, but they choose to stay together in Socrates's final hours. Their love transcends time and space itself. I imagine their affection is strong enough to melt even the most stoic of hearts.

This is only possible because we have a rigid conception of the Ancient Greek world. We read in Plato's Phaedo that Socrates drinks the hemlock because he believes in his own philosophy and is first and foremost an Athenian citizen. A simple shift in this narrative changes everything. Socrates is not the ubermensch of Platonic philosophy in this story; he is someone who loves Xanthippe in his own way and he owes his life and death to her. Everything in Phaedo, from the Forms to the immortality of the soul, is attributed to his love for Xanthippe. She is his muse and, echoing Stephen Granade's romantic masterpiece of age and death, he "will not let her go". This work reframes everything we know about Socrates and his philosophy into a love ode for Xanthippe.

It's ahistorical and improbable, but the fantasy in Xanthippe's Last Night with Socrates is so strong that I want to believe in it. Those amorous embraces between those two characters we'll never know feel so real to me because I know it's fiction. The dialectical tensions between anachronisms and the quasi-historical details only speak to a higher understanding on why the love of wisdom feels so empty.

Perhaps, Socrates never loved Sophia. Xanthippe is a "horny cow" who sees Socrates as a "beast" that knows how to make her feel good. She's a far more beautiful figure than wisdom herself.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Love or hate you one last time, October 4, 2023
by Hyacinthos
Related reviews: "IFComp 2023"

The extensive and highly informative review posted before this one, provided almost everything one needs to know about the game, so in this one, I'm going to be writing my thoughts and impressions on the overall story instead.

IFComp 2023 has started a few days ago, yet unfortunately, I didn't have the time to check any of the entries. Fortunately, yesterday was my day off. While perusing the entries, the unusual name on the title and Socrates caught my eye first. When I read the description, then it was an insta-"Play online" for me.

I'll have to admit: I failed the first playthrough on reaching the main objective. Following the usual logic of games in the romance genre didn't work. Had to get creative and think out-of-the box, meaning: Searching on google who Xanthippe was and hopefully learn of her personality/relationship with Socrates. Surprisingly, it said Socrates liked her difficult and contrarian personality.....

To make a long story short, I decided to choose the most spiteful options one would expect to start a fight, along with the appreciation for philosophy. Managed to both achieve the main goal and get into a philosophical debate with the famous philosopher, Socrates. That's a win in my book.

Lovely concept the author has here. Seeing the last night before his death from the wife's POV. It was both a touching farewell and a good exploration on Socrates' possible psyche.

Playtime: 3 hours

Would I play it again: Yes, if not only to see the rest of Socrates arguments towards the second half of the game.

IfComp rating scale: 8/10 A great game which I'm pleased to have played, and which I'd recommend to others.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Both silly and deep, November 16, 2023
by alyshkalia
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

A game about your husband’s last night before his execution has no right being this fun! But Victor has accomplished that with a big dose of humor and a richly drawn protagonist who can’t help but be entertaining. Alongside the silliness, though, there’s a lot of emotional depth as the couple’s relationship history and its various layers of love and hurt is gradually revealed. Their conversation—litigating past wrongs, discussing what Xanthippe’s future might hold, and hashing out what they mean to each other—swings from anger to affection in a way that felt very authentic. I liked the bittersweet note of the end, where they’re both able to come to a sort of peace with the impending loss. I was glad to have spent time exploring their relationship, and getting to know Victor’s version of Xanthippe—who is very far from one-dimensional.

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