Notes and Quotes – The Birth of Tragedy Chapter 12

April 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Is the Apolline and Dionysiac in Greek tragedy incommensurable/utterly disproportionate?? The proportion is potentially crucial to understanding Nietzsche’s conception of Tragedy.

“What we now see revealed, indeed brilliantly illuminated, is the tendency of Euripides, which was to expel the original and all-powerful Dionysiac element from tragedy and to re-build tragedy in a new and pure form on the foundations of a non-Dionysiac art, morality, and view of the world.” (BoT, p59)

Euripides asks the question, cast in the form of a myth, can the Dionysiac be permitted to exist at all? (BoT, p60) The Dionysiac is accepted to be inseparable from man’s condition. It requires and deserves ‘some diplomatically cautious sympathy.’ (BoT, p60) The main force opposed to the Dionysiac driver is the Socratic influence:

“This is the new opposition: the Dionysiac versus the Socratic, and the work of art that once was Greek tragedy was destroyed by it.” (BoT, p60)

Euipides is the person who employs the new Socratic influence to found drama entirely on non-Dionysiac foundations. The question Nietzsche poses is the goal of this project. Euripides is credited with the introduction of a rationalising prologue. Nietzsche claims that a modern writer for the stage would see an all-revealing and rationalising prologue as a renunciation of the effect of suspense. However, Euripides had very specific idea behind this technique:

“The effect of tragedy never rested on epic suspense, on teasing people and making them uncertain about what will happen now or later, but rather on those great rhetorical and lyrical scenes in which the passion and dialectic of the protagonist swelled into a broad and mighty stream. Everything was a preparation for pathos, not for action; and anything that was not a preparation for pathos was held to be objectionable.” (BoT, p62)

Pathos vs Action: an emotional response, rather than a physiological response. By providing the context and all the directives for the audience, Euripides enhanced the inner-emotional experience and pathos of the audience. Could this be thought of in terms of developing the ideological horizon of understanding for the audience? By subduing the audience into pathos through direct exposition and foretelling of the dramatic outcome, Euripedes was building a sphere or horizon of understanding for the audience to rest in. Perhaps the Dionysiac is the presentation of tragedy without a constructed horizon of understanding, in effect the opposite. An escape from ones horizon; a transcendence.

“As long as the nous, the sole orderer and ruler of the world, remained shut out from artistic creation, everything was together in a chaotic, primal soup; this is how Euripides must have judged things; this is why he, the forst sober man, was bound to condemn the ‘drunken’ poets.” (BoT, p63)

Euripides: “Everything must be conscious in order to be beautiful.”

Socrates: “Everything must be conscious in order to be good.”

“Socrates, however, was that second spectator who did not understand the older tragedy and therefore did not respect it; in league with Socrates, Euripides dared to be the herald of a new kind of artistic creation.” (BoT, p64)

Through this summary of Socratic and Euripidean development and criticism, pre-Socratic tragedy/drama is illuminated.


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