Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy


Published by Oxford Scholarship Online, 2012

Author: Simon Goldhill


This book offers a revolutionary take on Sophocles’ tragic language – and on how we talk about tragedy as a genre. The first section explores how Sophocles excitingly develops the resources of Greek tragedy: it looks at Sophocles’ manipulation of irony, his construction of dialogue, his deployment of the actors, the role of the chorus, and reveals the playwright’s distinctive brilliance. The second section explores how the critical understanding of tragedy as a genre developed in the nineteenth century: how did Victorian critics develop a distinctive way of talking about irony, the chorus, the development of the actor’s role? Goldhill reveals the deep debt of modern critics to their nineteenth-century forebears. Finally, the book explores the foundational question of literary criticism raised by these two sections: how historical, how historically self-conscious should a reading of Greek tragedy be? This book makes a telling contribution to the discussion of tragedy, of literary criticism, and of how the past is understood.