Skip to main content

Essays

Students must engage directly with the prescribed plays, whether in Greek or in translation. Suggestions for secondary scholarship are set out beneath; for extra and/or alternative suggestions, please see the main bibliography page and feel free to consult the module convenor.

Essay 1: To be handed in to the Department Office by 12.00 noon on 25th November 2015

Write an essay of about 2,500 words on ONE of the following. Note that special credit will be given for imaginative close-reading of the specific texts under discussion, along with other relevant historical and/or contextual factors.

1. How does the Oresteia explore issues of human moral conduct?

Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1986)

Dover, K. J. 'Some Neglected Aspects of Agamemnon's Dilemma', JHS 93 (1973) 58–69

Griffith, M. 'Brilliant Dynasts: Power and Politics in the Oresteia' Classical Antiquity 14.1 (1995) 62–129


Peradotto, J. 'The Omen of the Eagles and the ethos of Agamemnon', Phoenix 23 (1969) 237–63

Podlecki, A. Aeschylus: Eumenides (Aris and Phillips 1987)


Seaford, R. 'Historicizing Tragic Ambivalence: The Vote of Athena', in Goff (ed.) History, Tragedy, Theory, 202–21

Sommerstein, A. Aescyhlus: Eumenides (Cambridge 1989)


Winnington-Ingram, R. P. ‘Clytaemnestra and the vote of Athena’, JHS 68 (1948) 130–47, reprinted in Segal (ed.), Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy


Zeitlin, F. ‘The Dynamics of Misogyny: myth and myth-making in the Oresteia’, Arethusa 11 (1978) 149–84; also in her collected volume, Playing the Other (Chicago 1996)


2. Is it reasonable to characterize the Oresteia as political propaganda?

Pelling, C. B. R. Greek Tragedy and the Historian esp. introduction and conclusion.

Macleod, C. ‘Politics and the Oresteia’, JHS 102 (1982) 124–44, reprinted in Collected Essays (Oxford 1983) 20–40

Griffith, M. 'Brilliant Dynasts: Power and Politics in the Oresteia' Classical Antiquity 14.1 (1995) 62–129

Goldhill, S. 'Civic ideology and the problem of difference: the politics of Aeschylean tragedy, once again', JHS 120 (2000) 34–56

Zeitlin, F. ‘The Dynamics of Misogyny: myth and myth-making in the Oresteia’, Arethusa 11 (1978) 149–84

Easterling, P. E. 'Theatrical Furies: Thoughts on Eumenides', in Revermann and Wilson (eds.) Performance, Iconography, Reception (Oxford 2008) 219–36


Kennedy, R. F. 'Justice, Geography, and Empire in Aeschylus' Eumenides' Classical Antiquity 25.1 (2006) 35–72

Seaford, R. 'Historicizing Tragic Ambivalence: The Vote of Athena', in Goff (ed.) History, Tragedy, Theory, 202–21


3. ‘Slices from Homer’s great banquets.’ Assess the impact of the literary tradition on Aeschylus and Sophocles.

Rosenmeyer, T. G. The Art of Aeschylus (California 1982)

Winnington-Ingram, R.P. Studies in Aeschylus (Cambridge 1983)

Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy, ch. 6

Knox, B. The Heroic Temper (Berkeley 1966)

Zeitlin, F. ‘The Dynamics of Misogyny: myth and myth-making in the Oresteia’, Arethusa 11 (1978) 149–84; also in her collected volume, Playing the Other (Chicago 1996)

Easterling, P. E. 'The Tragic Homer', BICS 31 (1984) 1–8

Winnington-Ingram, R.P. Sophocles: An Interpretation (Cambridge 1983)


4. To what extent is knowledge of original performance contexts relevant for a proper appreciation of Greek tragedy?

Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1986)

Goldhill, S. 'The Great Dionysia and civic ideology', JHS 107 (1987) 58–76, reprinted in Winkler and Zeitlin

Griffin, J. 'The social function of Attic Tragedy', CQ 48 no.1 (1998) 39–61

Wiles, D. Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning (Cambridge 1997)

Wiles, D. Greek Theatre Performance: an Introduction (Cambridge 2000)

Wilson, P. J. The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia (Cambridge 2000)

Foley, H. 'Choral Identity in Greek Tragedy', CPhil 98 (2003) 1–30

Goldhill, S. 'Collectivity and Otherness – The Authority of the Tragic Chorus', in M. Silk (ed.) Tragedy and the Tragic

Gould, J. 'Tragedy and Collective Experience', in M. Silk (ed.) Tragedy and the Tragic (Oxford 1996)

Murnaghan, S. 'Choroi achoroi: the Athenian politics of tragic choral identity', in D. M. Carter (ed.) Why Athens? A Reappraisal of Tragic Politics (Oxford 2011), 245–67


Essay 2:

To be handed in to the Department Office by 12.00 noon on 9th February 2016

NB Any Q800 students taking the module with Greek language should consult the Q800 syllabus page for their own specific Term 2 coursework questions.


Write an essay of about 2,500 words on ONE of the following. Note that special credit will be given for imaginative close-reading of the specific texts under discussion, along with other relevant historical and/or contextual factors.


1. Which factors are most significant in the downfall of Oedipus in Sophocles’ play?

Knox, B. Oedipus at Thebes (Yale 1957)

Parker, R. 'Through a glass darkly: Sophocles and the divine', in Griffin (ed.)

Segal, C. Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge (2nd ed. Oxford 2001)

Segal, C. Sophocles' Tragic World: Divinity, Nature, Society (Cambridge, MA 1995)

Dodds, E. R. 'On misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex', Greece and Rome 13 (1966), reprinted in The Ancient Concept of Progress (Oxford 1973) and in Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy

Easterling, P. E. 'Character in Sophocles', Greece and Rome 24.2 (1977) 121–9, reprinted in Oxford Readings


2. ‘Sophocles’ female characters are not heroes.’ Discuss.

C. Sourvinou-Inwood, 'Assumptions and the Creation of Meaning: Reading Sophocles' Antigone', Journal of Hellenic Studies 119 (1989) 134–48

Foley, H. 'Tragedy and Democratic Ideology: The Case of Sophocles' Antigone' in Goff (ed.) History, Tragedy, Theory, ch. 5


L. Bennett and W. B. Tyrrell, ‘Sophocles’ Antigone and Funerary Oratory’, AJP 111.4 (1990) 441–56

Foley, H. 'Antigone as moral agent', in Tragedy and the Tragic, 49–73


Knox, B. The Heroic Temper (Berkeley 1966)

Gill, C. 'Ajax' Womanized Speech', in Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue (Oxford 1996) 204–16

Kitzinger, R. 'Why Mourning Becomes Elektra', CA 10 (1991) 298–327 [TWO Photocopies in Box in Office]


Segal, C. 'The Electra of Sophocles', TAPA 97 (1966) 473–545

Burnett, A. P. Revenge in Attic and Later Tragedy (California 1998): chapter on Electra


3. What is significant about Euripides’ use of sophistic ideas in his plays?

Croally, N. Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women and the Function of Tragedy (Cambridge 1994)

Goff, B. The Noose of Words: Readings of Desire, Violence and Language in Euripides, Hippolytus (Cambridge 1990)


Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy, ch. 9

Whitmarsh, T. 'Atheistic Aesthetics: The Sisyphus Fragment, Poetics, and the Creativity of Drama', The Cambridge Classical Journal 60 (2014) 109–26



4. Is tragedy realistic? Focus on Euripides, but consider all three major tragic dramatists, and perhaps contemporary comedy also.

Goff, B. 'Try to Make it Real Compared to What? Euripides' Electra and the Play of Genre', in Cropp and Lee (eds.) (2000), 93–105.

Torrance, I. 'Writing and self-conscious mythopoiesis in Euripides', The Cambridge Classical Journal 56 (2010) 213–51

Torrance, I. Metapoetry in Euripides (Oxford 2013)

Silk, M. S. Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford 2000)