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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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The Work Of Tragedy

The Work Of Tragedy

Chapter:
(p.13) 1 The Work Of Tragedy
Source:
The Strangeness of Tragedy
Author(s):

Paul Hammond

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.003.0002

The space delineated by tragedy often carries a mythic freight and temporal complexity: these are places which are inhabited not only by the creatures of the human and visible present, but by people of the past, by ancestors, giants, heroes, gods, witches, ghosts. And by abstract nouns which perhaps have their own autonomy and agency — Fate, Fear, Justice. At the opening of Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Sophocles' Electra, or Seneca's Thyestes we are made aware that the house is a richly-stored space of family lore; some form of narrative will uncoil from inside this store-house of myth, sacrifice, murder, generational resentments, blood grudges, and dishonoured gods. Something will spill out of these spaces to haunt the stage. In tragedy there are ways in which the self dies and undergoes decomposition long before the actual physical death of the body, which, however horrific or pitiful, is often but an afterword to the deep work of the drama: it is not death which makes tragedy tragic, but the path which leads to it.

Keywords:   Seneca, tragedy, space, ghosts, autonomy, self, decomposition, death, drama, agency

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