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Euripides and the Instruction of the Athenians

Justina Gregory

Publication Year: 1991

Political by its very nature, Greek tragedy reflects on how life should be lived in the polis, and especially the polis that was democratic Athens. Instructional as well, drama frequently concerns itself with the audience's moral education. Euripides and the Instruction of the Athenians draws on these political and didactic functions of tragedy for a close analysis of five plays: Alcestis, Hippolytus, Hecuba, Heracles, and Trojan Women. Clearly written and persuasively argued, this volume addresses itself to all who are interested in Greek tragedy. Nonspecialists and scholars alike will deepen their understanding of this complex writer and the tumultuous period in which he lived. ". . . a lucid presentation of the positive side of Euripidean tragedy, and a thoughtful reminder of the political implications of Greek tragedy." --American Journal of Philology ". . . the principal defect of [this] otherwise excellent study is that it is too short." --Erich Segal, Classical Review ". . . a most stimulating book throughout . . . ." --Greece and Rome Justina Gregory is Professor of Classics, Smith College, where she is head of the department. She has been the recipient of Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson fellowships.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. ix

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pp. 1-17

The earliest assessments of tragedy we possess--one by a fourthcentury philosopher, the other by a fIfth-century comic poet--bear witness to the organic connection between tragedy and the Athenian polis. Aristotle, to be sure, refers to it only in passing. In the Poetics, while discussing the element of "thought" in tragedy, he remarks that...

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1. Alcestis

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pp. 19-49

The relationship of life and death seems to have been a recurrent preoccupation with Euripides. 'Who knows if life is really death," runs a fragment from the Polyidus (6,38 N2), "while death is viewed as life down below?" Two other fragments from lost plays echo similar sentiments.1 The topic was so closely identmed with Euripides that...

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2. Hippolytus

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pp. 51-84

It is a boon to scholarship that Euripides' frrst version of the Hippolytus did not fInd favor with the Athenian public, so that he rewrote the play for presentation at the City Dionysia in 428 B.C. Although only a few fragments of the original version are extant, they allow for a limited comparison of the two versions and the identiftcation of one...

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3. Hecuba

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pp. 85-120

The Hecuba, out of critical favor for many years, has recently become the object of renewed interest. Studies by Reckford (1985) and Nussbaum (1986) both take as their point of departure Hecuba's soliloquy (592-602) on the consistency of human nature. Hecuba reflects that human beings are innately either good or bad (although she...

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4. Heracles

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pp. 121-154

Heracles was the most durable and beloved of the Greek heroes, as his many representations in art and literature attest. Though his origins were probably to be found in the Near East, the Spartan kings claimed him as their ancestor, and by the fifth century his legend had become the stuff of folktale, cult, literature, and art, and it had been dispersed...

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5. Trojan Women

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pp. 155-183

The Trojan Women has often been described as a study in despair.1 Like the Hecuba it adopts a somber perspective on the Trojan War, concentrating on the defeated Trojans rather than the victorious Greeks.2 Yet in this tragedy (produced in 415 as last in a trilogy devoted to the matter...

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pp. 185-189

It has been the premise of this study that Aristophanes' account of the goals of tragedy is a trustworthy guide for analysis; that the plays of Euripides, like those of his fellow tragedians, were intended for civic instruction, and that the tragedians' most urgent task was to reconcile traditional aristocratic values with the democratic order. Because its...


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pp. 191


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pp. 193-204


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pp. 205-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027705
E-ISBN-10: 0472027700
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472084432
Print-ISBN-10: 0472084437

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 1991