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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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Conclusion: Stoic Tragedy

Conclusion: Stoic Tragedy

Chapter:
(p.121) Conclusion: Stoic Tragedy
Source:
Seneca and the Idea of Tragedy
Author(s):

Gregory A. Staley (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387438.003.0006

Seneca’s idea of tragedy included more than simply his tragedies. By linking tragedy with both his art and his death, Seneca played a role in transforming the idea of tragedy from the theory of a literary genre into a vision of experience. The Stoics regularly used tragedy as a metaphor for life, and Seneca’s use of the analogy demonstrates that tragedy was not for him the antitype of philosophy; it was the perfect vehicle for imaging lives that were antithetical to philosophy. If all the world’s a stage, then the stage must represent not just itself but all the world as well: an emperor on the stage, a philosopher wearing a mask, a society of bread and circuses, the rhetorical world of fictional debates, and a soul where passion and reason act out their parts. Shakespeare misunderstood his Senecan source when he asserted that tragedy is “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Keywords:   tragedy as a metaphor, Stoics, Shakespeare, fury, signifying

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