Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation explores responses of the ancient audiences to Greek tragedy in the fifth and fourth-century BC. The emphasis is on psychological, aesthetic, and ethical implications of emotions, pleasure, and learning associated with watching tragedies in Greek culture. A first part of my study considers less explored topics of Aristotelian theory, such as the nature and the techniques of arousing pity and fear in the audience, through looking at the Rhetoric in connection with the Poetics, De Anima, etc. A second part is dedicated to possible reactions to individual plays, through examining Aeschylean, Sophoclean, and Euripidean tragedies. My analysis first reconsiders the nature of the pity and fear, the enigmatic tragic emotions in the Poetics, by looking at the Rhetoric. Pity (Rhetoric, 2. 1385b13-a3) is likely the most complex emotion in Aristotle's theory, because it combines temporal and personal detachment with imaginative involvement in the suffering of another. A feature distinguishes pity from all the other pathe is a very specific visual component, pro ommaton (Rh.2. 1386a28-b1). A strikingly similar formula occurs in the Poetics: playwrights should work out their plots by bringing them before the eyes (Po. 17. 1455a21-24). While Aristotle dislikes visual effects, opsis (Po. 6. 1450a), he admires the imaginative vision that conveys emotion to their audiences in oratory as well as tragedy. Furthermore, my analysis suggests possible explanations for the puzzling Aristotelian formula "proper pleasure of tragedy," by showing similarities between tragic pleasure and the joys of memory and mourning. It concludes that the oikeia hedone relies on the emotional syllogism of the spectator that involves contemplation of the universal human condition. Ethical, political, and historic implications of the spectator’s emotional responses to tragedies such as the Persians, Prometheus Bound, Ajax and Orestes go far beyond the Aristotelian preferences and prescriptions. My analysis also considers likely differences in reactions to tragedies, between and popular audiences as well as later ancient criticism of particular plays.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:greek tragedy and philosophy


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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