Tragedy and Civilization: An Interpretation of Sophocles by Charles Segal

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By Charles Segal

Drawing on accomplished analyses of all of Sophocles’ performs, on structuralist anthropology, and on different vast paintings on fable and tragedy, Charles Segal examines Sophocles either as a good dramatic poet and as a significant philosopher. He exhibits how Sophoclean tragedy displays the human situation in its consistent and tragic fight for order and civilized existence opposed to the ubiquitous chance of savagery and chaotic violence, either inside society and in the person. For this version Segal additionally offers a brand new preface discussing fresh advancements within the research of Sophocles.

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Extra resources for Tragedy and Civilization: An Interpretation of Sophocles

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Literally and metaphorically, they inhabit the borderland between savage and civilized realms: they journey between mountain and plain, country and city, and live in intimate contact with the wild. We may compare the mediating function of the herdsman Anchises in the Hymn to Aphrodite or the mysterious goatherd Lycidas in Theocritus' Seventh Idyll. 34 In Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes the violent and boastful Parthenopaeus, who will sack the Cadmeans city in despite of Zeus (Septem 531) is born of a mother from the mountains (531).

One appreciates the vehemence of Plato's struggle against myth and his insistence on the inexorable ancient cleavage between poetry and philosophy(Rep. 607b). VI Tragedy, I have suggested, deals with situations where the division between civilization and savagery no longer seems to apply. Where this division is disturbed, so is the very nature of man and his humanity. Tragedy no longer locates the boundary between the civilized and the savage on the frontiers of the society, at the limits of the inhabited world, but brings it within the polis itself, within the very hearts of its rulers and citizens.

In general, however, what is raw or savage (agrion) lies, by definition, outside the limits of the polis, in the fields (agroi) or on the mountains. The Centaurs, whom the Lapiths have to fight to protect their womenthe sanctions of marriage and the house in a civilized communityare literally mountaindwelling beasts in Homer's phrase, pheres* oresteroi (Il. 268). In their remote mountains they negate both the physical form and the tempered sexuality of civilized beings. Their female equivalents are the Amazons who also dwell beyond the limits of the oikoumene*.

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