The last of these may be regarded as marking a transition to a second
series, which are concerned with the trial and death of Socrates. The
Euthyphro opens with an allusion by Socrates to his approaching trial,
and in the Apology we have a Platonic version of Socrates’ speech in
his own defence; in Crito we have the story of his noble
self-abnegation and civic obedience after his condemnation; in Phaedo
we have his last conversation with his friends on the subject of
Immortality, and the story of his death.
Another series of the dialogues may be formed of those, more or less
satirical, in which the ideas and methods of the Sophists are criticised: Protagoras, in which Socrates suggests that all virtues are essentially
one; Euthydemus, in which the assumption and ‘airs’ of some of the
Sophists are made fun of; Cratylus, Of the sophistic use of words; Gorgias, Of the True and the False, the truly Good and the truly Evil;
Hippias, Of Voluntary and Involuntary Sin; Alcibiades, Of
Self-Knowledge; Menexenus, a (possibly ironical) set oration after
the manner of the Sophists, in praise of Athens.
The whole of this third series are characterised by humour, dramatic
interest, variety of personal type among the speakers, keenness rather than
depth of philosophic insight. There are many suggestions of profounder
thoughts, afterwards worked out more fully; but on the whole these dialogues
rather stimulate thought than satisfy it; the great poet-thinker is still
playing with his tools.