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Seneca and the Idea of Tragedy$
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Gregory A. Staley

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195387438

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387438.001.0001

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Introduction: The Idea of Tragedy

Introduction: The Idea of Tragedy

(p.3) Introduction: The Idea of Tragedy
Seneca and the Idea of Tragedy

Gregory A. Staley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Both the word tragedy and the genre itself have regularly had a problem of signification. In our attempts to understand tragedy, we have turned to the philosophical tradition of criticism, which began with Plato, who rejected tragedy as three removes from reality. In response, Aristotle wrote his Poetics to defend tragedy as a faithful and salutary image of truth. When the Renaissance sought to understand tragedy, it applied Aristotle’s theory of the genre to the tragedies of the Roman poet Seneca, whose place in this history of tragedy is usually thought to be accidental; his plays were simply available to be theorized when Greek tragedies were not. This book argues that this accident was indeed a fortunate one, however, for Seneca knew the essentials of Aristotle’s analysis of tragedy and wrote his plays with an Aristotelian idea of tragedy in mind.

Keywords:   tragedy, signification, Poetics, Renaissance, Seneca

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