Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us

Tragedy the Greeks and Us coverTragedy, the Greeks, and Us
Simon Critchley
Narrated by John Lee
Random House Audio, April 16, 2019
$17.15 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

As a classics major in college I took a semester-long Greek Tragedy course and read Greek tragedies in other classes as well. I was intrigued, then, when I read a positive review of this book.

Critchley offers some interesting insights here. He points out that in Greek tragedy the deceiver and the deceived have more insight than the non-deceiver and the non-deceived (Oedipus). He discusses how women in Greek tragedy are the polar opposite of how they were treated and expected to behave in classical Greek society (Clytemnestra, Antigone). Critchley is no elderly, doddering classicist. He makes references to social media, punk rock, and the Marx brothers. He sees Greek tragedy in the light of today’s world.

The author discusses how Greek tragedy was influenced (apparently) by the Sophists, and spends a lot of time analyzing Plato and Aristotle’s perspectives on tragedy. Plato saw no role for tragedy (or poetry) in his “just state” as set forth in The Republic. Such diversions would, Plato believed, take men’s (and only men in classical Greek society) minds away from more essential pursuits. Aristotle, on the other hand, analyzed tragedy in considerable detail and discussed what tragedy should and should not be.

The book is expertly read by John Lee, who does so in a rather declamatory manner, appropriate for both the subject matter and Critchley’s text. This was time well spent.



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