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What Was Tragedy?Theory and the Early Modern Canon$
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Blair Hoxby

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198749165

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198749165.001.0001

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Simple Pathetic Tragedy

Simple Pathetic Tragedy

Chapter:
(p.110) (p.111) 3 Simple Pathetic Tragedy
Source:
What Was Tragedy?
Author(s):

Blair Hoxby

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198749165.003.0003

The idealist philosophy of the tragic distinguishes between the truly tragic and the merely pathetic. The early modern poetics of tragedy, in contrast, elaborated Aristotle’s description of Sophocles’ Ajax as a simple pathetic tragedy. Trissino revived the species in his Sofonisba (1515), the first regular tragedy of the Renaissance, and from there it descended through masterpieces of the tragic repertoire, including Racine’s Bérénice (1670), Milton’s Samson Agonistes (1671), and Gluck’s Alceste (1767, 1776). The critical tide began to turn when Winckelmann stressed the reticence and moral resistance of Philoctetes and Laocoön. Soon all the major literary critics of the day (Schiller, Herder, Schlegel) were distinguishing the merely pathetic from the truly tragic, deeming pathos to be aesthetic only when it served as a portal to the noumenal realm.

Keywords:   simple pathetic tragedy, Aristotle, Poetics, Sophocles, Ajax, Sophocles, Philoctetes, Trissino, Sofonisba, Racine, Bérénice, Milton, Samson Agonistes, Gluck, Alceste, La Harpe, Philoctète

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