This chapter asks about the ethics of (lyric and structural) beauty and the politics of pathos in two plays, Trojan Women and Hecuba. The first, Trojan Women, presents a tale of unmitigated misery and renders it self-consciously beautiful. But how are we to watch this sublime suffering? The play won't let us maintain a safe spectatorial distance; it demands that we watch with pity, but also suggests the insufficiency of that response. Our tears do no good. The insufficiency of pity is also a central theme of the second play, Hecuba. Here pity is shown to be not only politically ineffectual, but in fact morally dangerous: the beauty of tragic suffering generates a perverse investment in that suffering itself, and our longing for the beautiful symmetry of justice makes us complicit in a vicious act of injustice. Both plays thus propose that aesthetic judgments bear ethical and political consequences, but neither takes it for granted that beauty will make us just.
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