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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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The Very Ends of Poesy

The Very Ends of Poesy

(p.24) 2 The Very Ends of Poesy
Seneca and the Idea of Tragedy

Gregory A. Staley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Seneca does not compose a poetics, but he regularly shows in his prose writings a wide knowledge of ancient poetic theory. This chapter examines Seneca’s own occasional comments on poetry and the various theories based upon them that scholars have advanced to explain his tragedies: Seneca as Stoic moralist, as aristocrat at play, or as Platonic “mad” poet. None of the theories that have been woven from Seneca’s occasional comments on poetry, however, provides the essential clue to the “end” of Senecan tragedy, for none of them focuses on tragedy in particular and on the critical traditions in which it was featured. The search for a Senecan poetics that might explain Senecan tragedy has failed essentially because it has not focused on what Seneca says about epistemology and psychology, the basis on which after Plato the traditional poetics of tragedy had been established.

Keywords:   tragedy, Poetics, Stoic moralist, aristocrat, “mad” poet, epistemology, psychology

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