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Guilt by DescentMoral Inheritance and Decision Making in Greek Tragedy$
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N. J. Sewell-Rutter

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199227334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227334.001.0001

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Inherited Guilt

Inherited Guilt

(p.15) 2 Inherited Guilt
Guilt by Descent

N. J. Sewell‐Rutter

Oxford University Press

This chapter pursues a line of enquiry suggested by the consideration of Herodotus in Chapter 1. It asks whether those unfortunate descendants in tragedy who are punished for the sins of their fathers are presented as innocent in and of themselves. It also considers the functioning of inherited guilt, its place and its workings within the architecture and the emotional and conceptual dynamics of the plays in which it appears. It argues that the study of inherited guilt must take account of the intimate and indissoluble connection between the dramatic and emotional aspect of tragedy and its conceptual burden in order to do justice to the richness and complexity of these texts. The tragedians do not examine inherited guilt aridly or in a vacuum: they weave it into the structure of their plays, introducing it at crucial moments and making it a central part of the emotional dynamics of the texts.

Keywords:   Greek tragedy, Herodotus, inherited guilt, descendants, plays, Agamemnon, emotional dynamics

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