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Tragedy's Insights: Identity, Polity, Theodicy Preface When the old men of Argos tell us that we come to wisdom through suffering (t?? p??e? µ????), or when Creon cries that his sorrows have schooled him in the truth (??µ??,/ e?? µa??? de??a???),1 we gather that the salutary complexities ofthe tragic stage may center not, as some have argued, on the representation of existential or ontological affliction,2 but rather upon the insights gained through that affliction, however unwillingly we learn them. The essays assembled here focus upon tragedy's insights from various perspectives: the redemption which atones for violence against the divine; the tension between individual strength and oppressive systems of political power; the negotiations which extend the dimensions of human identity; and the unique "interior antinomy" of the tragic drama, whereby action, scenic space, and words lead us to seek all-embracing answers to the bitterest questions.3 Reexamining the critical roots of that antinomy in "The Tragic Emotions," David Konstan (Brown University) argues for the inclusion of other audience responses than the pity and fear of Aristotle's Poetics, namely triumph and exultation. In fresh readings of Sophocles' Ajax and Euripides' Hecuba and Bacchae , Konstan draws our attention to the conflicting experiences of "compassionate terror" and "victorious confidence" in these tragedies. He notably focuses on the mechanisms by which playwrights encourage their audiences to identify with victims and victors; his argument suggests how this Aristotelian notion of identification realigns the emotional world of ancient tragedy. In a particular application of the issue of identity to the most celebrated English tragedy, Robert C. Evans (Auburn University at Montgomery) examines "Friendship in Hamlet." His sustained , scene-by-scene analysis explores anew a social bond especially fascinating to Renaissance thinkers; by offering the reader a bracingly direct and minutely-attentive encounter with Shakespeare's text, Evans vividly presents the contrasts between dependence and independence, trust and betrayal, hatred and viPreface friendship. Brian Johnston (Carnegie Mellon University) pursues an inquiry as expansive as Evan's is intimate in "Ibsen's Cycle as Hegelian Tragedy." Focusing on the dialectical components of Ibsen's corpus, Johnston outlines a vast metaphoric project for the redemption of a modern collective identity, embracing unresolved spiritual conflicts as well as tragically transfiguring action . "The humdrum identities of modern urban life ... are enlarged and galvanized by archetypal forces that extend the dimensions of human identity through individual, familial, communal , national, historical, cultural, natural, and supernatural circumferences ofmeaning." Véronique Plesch (Colby College) investigates redemption within a medieval context in "Killed by Words: Grotesque Verbal Violence and Tragic Atonement in French Passion Plays." She looks at verbal abuse of Christ in the fifteenth-century cycles , closely recording a robust tradition of literally "adding insult to injury" with language drawn as readily from the kitchen as from game and farce. This carnivalesque and often shocking element in sacred drama is in her analysis ultimately regenerative , "since the Christian history of redemption is one of suffering and death that brings beatitude and eternal life." Hence God's justice is a tranquility born of violence. Two essays in this collection place the agon within the context of the polis, linking the tragic drama with politics. The literary scholar David Bevington (University of Chicago) joins with the historian David L. Smith (Selwyn College, Cambridge) in presenting a binocular study of "James I and Timon ofAthens." They set the wanton extravagance of the Jacobean court and of James himself against the world of Shakespeare's play, posing "an historically based reader-response" line of inquiry: what would an audience in 1605-8 have made of such reckless giftgiving as Timon's? The monarchy's bounty being a major political issue, does Shakespeare's characterization embody any sort of critique of James I? The abundant materials presented here compellingly argue for a fruitful correlation between play and historical event. Jerome Mazzaro, writing from Buffalo, New York, studies a neoclassical Biblical drama contexualized within American and European struggles for independence in "Alfieri's Saul as Enlightenment Tragedy." Alfieri related Aristotle's pity and fear to the essence of tyranny, to the sufferings and terror of the tyrant's oppression. "Alfieri's dominant central theme involves conflicts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. v-viii
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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