The Philosophy of Tragedy

Fall 2018—Sarah Lawrence College

View the syllabus (.pdf)

Greek tragedy has been performed, read, imitated and interpreted for twenty-five hundred years. From the very beginning it was thought to be philosophically significant—somehow pointing to the truth of human life as a whole (the phrase the “tragedy of life” first appears in Plato). As a literary form it is thought especially revealing philosophically by Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger, to name only a few. Among others, Seneca, Corneille, Racine, Voltaire, Goethe, Shelley, O’Neill and Sartre wrote versions of Greek tragedies. And, of course, there is Freud. Greek tragedy examines the fundamental things in a fundamental way. Justice, family, guilt, law, autonomy, sexuality, political life, the divine—these are its issues. The lectures that follow treat three plays by each of the great Athenian tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides—with a view to understanding how they deal with these issues and with the question of the importance and nature of tragedy itself.


Titles are linked to lecture videos on the Philosophy of Tragedy YouTube Channel.

Lecture 1: Introduction, 1:21:55

Lecture 2: Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, part 1, 1:15:35

Lecture 3: Agamemnon, part 2, 1:15:39

Lecture 4: Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers, 1:11:02

Lecture 5: Aeschylus’s Eumenides, part 1, 1:14:15

Lecture 6: Eumenides, part 2, 1:15:42

Lecture 7: Eumenides, part 3, 1:08:10

Lecture 8: Eumenides, part 4, 1:04:20

Lecture 9: Eumenides, part 5, 1:07:32

Lecture 10: Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, part 1, 1:09:58

Lecture 11: Oedipus Tyrannus, part 2, 1:11:20

Lecture 12: Oedipus Tyrannus, part 3, 1:18:22

Lecture 13: Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, part 1, 1:02:21

Lecture 14: Oedipus at Colonus, part 2, 1:20:45

Lecture 15: Oedipus at Colonus, part 3, 1:13:07

Lecture 16: Oedipus at Colonus, part 4, 1:16:04

Lecture 17: Sophocles’ Antigone, part 1, 1:26:03

Lecture 18: Antigone, part 2, 1:12:04

Lecture 19: Antigone, part 3, 1:19:44

Lecture 20: Euripides’ Bacchae, part 1, 1:05:49

Lecture 21: Bacchae, part 2, 1:06:32

Lecture 22: Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians, part 1, 59:17

Lecture 23: Iphigenia among the Taurians, part 2, 1:01:37

Lecture 24: Iphigenia among the Taurians, part 3, 1:04:27

Lecture 25: Iphigenia among the Taurians, part 4, 1:13:48

Lecture 26: Euripides’ Hippolytus, part 1, 1:13:33

Lecture 27: Hippolytus, part 2, 1:08:40

Lecture 28: Conclusion, 50:09


Translations used in the course:

Further reading: