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Title: Rulers in Greek tragedy
Author: Hill, Theodore
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 4050
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis discusses the depiction of rulers in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. It aims to demonstrate the complexity and variety both of the ideas underlying the presentation of these rulers (Part One) and of how the playwrights use these ideas to depict these rulers (Part Two). Chapter 1 presents the first detailed study of the features shared between rulers in Herodotus and tragedy. Chapter 2 provides a fresh analysis of how the idea of tyrannis was used in Athenian political and intellectual life, before examining how tragedy fits into this context. Chapter 3 examines how the depiction of tragic rulers draws on ideas current in the Athenian democracy, especially concerning leadership and obedience. Chapter 4 argues that, since many tragic plots revolve around supplication and punishment, the depiction of tragic rulers is greatly affected both by the plays’ plots and by contemporary conceptions of supplication and punishment. After setting out a framework for discussing characters in tragedy (Introduction to Part Two), there follow case studies on five rulers. Chapter 5, on Aeschylus, argues that Eteocles (Seven Against Thebes) can best be understood in light of certain conceptions concerning the behaviour of warriors in epic, and that the presentation of Agamemnon (Agamemnon) draws on ideas about basileia current in the early fifth century. Chapter 6 presents a comparison of Sophocles’ Creon (Antigone) and Oedipus (Oedipus Tyrannus), exploring how Sophocles uses similar underlying ideas to depict them, while nevertheless presenting them differently in moral terms. Chapter 7, on Pentheus in Euripides’ Bacchae, considers how Euripides’ technique in presenting him resembles Sophocles’. The thesis provides many novel observations about fifth-century political thought, about the relationship of tragedy to its political and intellectual context and to other genres (epic, lyric, historiography), and about the tragic playwrights’ technique in presenting characters.
Supervisor: Scullion, Scott Sponsor: University of Oxford ; Stonehouse Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Greek drama (Tragedy)