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Euripides and the Politics of Form$
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Victoria Wohl

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691166506

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691166506.001.0001

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Beautiful Tears

Beautiful Tears

Chapter:
(p.39) Chapter 2 Beautiful Tears
Source:
Euripides and the Politics of Form
Author(s):

Victoria Wohl

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691166506.003.0003

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.

Keywords:   ethics, pathos, Trojan Women, Hecuba, Euripedes, Euripidean drama, Greek tragedy, beauty, pity

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