Article Title

The Tragic Emotions1


David Konstan


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Among the critical ideas-such as imitation, catharsis, recognition, and peripety-that Aristotle's Poetics has bequeathed to the world is the thesis that tragedy engenders two characteristic emotions, pity (eleos) and fear (phobos).2 Few scholars have quarreled with this proposition: but do these two feelings exhaust the range of responses typically evoked by tragedy? In what follows, I suggest that Aristotle's account is in fact deficient, and, more specifically, that Greek tragedies characteristically produce, alongside pity and fear, a sense of triumph and exultation in the audience. Furthermore, I argue that this question of the tragic emotions may have been in the air toward the end of the fifth century B.C., at a time when dramatists were experimenting with stories that simultaneously evoked the contradictory experiences of compassionate terror and victorious confidence.

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