Tragedy and After: Euripides, Shakespeare, and Goethe by Ekbert Faas

By Ekbert Faas

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Almost as if he were trying to mislead us, Aeschylus even makes the prophetic Cassandra say that, lurking about the house of Atreus, there is "a drunken rout/ of ingrown vengeful spirits never to be cast forth" (Agamemnon 1189-90). The resultant chain of blood-lettings seems to be endless. All the world's waters running in a single drift may try to wash blood from the hand of the stained man; they only bring new blood guilt on. Bearers 72-5) (Libation 30 Tragedy and After The truth of this seems to be borne out in the second part of the trilogy.

121-5) Another lesson in human greatness is given by the protagonist himself. H. "48 Ajax's death has regained him his honour and restored the social balance disturbed by his madness. To retrace the evolution of this heroic humanism through Sophocles' individual works, a task carried out by Whitman and others, could add little that is new. It is enough to recall the darkening of the poet's vision in the middle period of the Trachiniae and Oedipus Rex, with their near-existentialist depiction of innocent suffering in a gratuitously cruel universe, and the deepening of his earlier optimism in Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonnus, those final links "in the chain of Sophoclean humanism which sees godhead operative in the moral being of man"49 rather than in the gods of traditional mythology.

After his acquittal, he has learned no more wisdom than to assure his judges that if ever a future prince of Argos should plan to attack their country, he would haunt them even after his death. His language here recalls the justice of curses and revenge from the trilogy's beginning rather than the striving for compromise that marks its end: but though I lie then in my grave, I still shall wreak helpless bad luck and misadventure upon all who stride across the oath that I have sworn: their ways disconsolate make, their crossings full of evil augury, so they shall be sorry that they moved.

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