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Erôs in Ancient Greece$
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Ed Sanders, Chiara Thumiger, Christopher Carey, and Nick Lowe

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199605507

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199605507.001.0001

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Mad Erôs and Eroticized Madness in Tragedy

Mad Erôs and Eroticized Madness in Tragedy

(p.27) 3 Mad Erôs and Eroticized Madness in Tragedy
Erôs in Ancient Greece

Chiara Thumiger

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes tragic instances in which we can observe an intersection between the erotic emotion as unsettling and disruptive and the broader category of madness, in order to highlight the specifics of erotic mania in this genre. In tragedy erotic passion, whether marital love or illicit sexual desire, tends to be represented as a negative and destructive experience. This is evident in the symmetrical examples of Aeschylus' Supplices and Sophocles' Trachiniae. Conversely, in tragic presentation other monstrous drives are ‘erotized’ and conveyed through reference to a metaphorical, mad erôs, here illustrated by the representation of the bloodthirsty urge to kill in Aeschylus' Agamemnon. The chapter concludes by proposing an interpretation for this one-sided representation of erôs in tragedy in terms of the genre’s interest in a public, rather than private response to crisis and of its concern with the risks posed by strong and uncontrolled emotions.

Keywords:   tragedy, violence, madness, metaphor, duplicity

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