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The tragedian as critic: Euripides and early Greek poetics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2010

Matthew Wright
University of Exeter
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This article examines the place of tragic poetry within the early history and development of ancient literary criticism. It concentrates on Euripides, both because his works contain many more literary-critical reflections than those of the other tragedians and because he has been thought to possess an unusually ‘critical’ outlook. Euripidean characters and choruses talk about such matters as poetic skill and inspiration, the social function of poetry, contexts for performance, literary and rhetorical culture, and novelty as an implied criterion for judging literary excellence. It is argued that the implied view of literature which emerges from Euripidean tragedy is both coherent and conventional. As a critic, Euripides, far from being a radical or aggressively modern figure (as he is often portrayed), is in fact distinctly conservative, looking back in every respect to the earlier Greek poetic tradition.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 2010

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