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Tragedy and After: Euripides, Shakespeare, and Goethe by Ekbert Faas

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By Ekbert Faas

Booklet by means of Faas, Ekbert

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The pity and fear aroused will be purged by such hindsight. " Just as the good portrait painter, without losing his subject's likeness, should make him more handsome than he is, so the tragedian should imitate personages better than the ordinary man. "43 Of course, the tragic hero must not be entirely faultless, for then his passing from happiness to misery would cause our moral outrage. He ought to have a flaw, even if only a small one. Whether "a moral fault or failing of some kind,"44 this hamartia, it seems, is basically meant to serve the function of making the hero's superior greatness acceptable to an audience of ordinary mortals.

62 Yet in general we find little to show that Shakespeare's transcendence of tragedy, as evident in the plays themselves, was then discussed within the conceptual framework used in this study. The same is true of Euripides' plays and whatever scanty comments on them have come down to us. Nevertheless, both playwrights were well aware of the visions of life here characterized as anti- or post-tragic. A disbelief in the meaningfulness of suffering, a radical questioning of all values, a cyclical rather than a teleological view of life - such attitudes were current in both classical Greece and Renaissance Europe.

Yet those precisely are the aspects of life which Euripides and Shakespeare retrieved: all the irrational, absurd, and "cruel" forces of nature which the tragic tends to subsume under its anthropomorphic orders. 64 Finally, turning to Euripides himself, we have Aristotle's negative assessment of his tragedies, which our first section will try to translate into the more neutral terminology used here. As noted before, the philosopher, in discussing tragedy, advocated a strict consistency of both plot and character portrayal.

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