The Philosophy of Tragedy: A Free Course on the Philosophy of Great Greek Tragedies

This course features lectures by Michael Davis, Professor of Philosophy, delivered in the fall semester of 2018 at Sarah Lawrence College. All 28 lectures in this course can be viewed above, or on this YouTube playlist. This course is now added to our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Professor Bio:

Davis works primarily in Greek philosophy, in moral and political philosophy, and in what might be called the “poetics” of philosophy. He is the translator, with Seth Benardete, of Aristotle’s On Poetics and has written on a variety of philosophers from Plato to Heidegger and of literary figures from Homer and the Greek tragedians to Saul Bellow and Tom Stoppard.

Course Description:

Greek tragedy has been performed, read, imitated and interpreted for twenty-five hundred years. From the very beginning it was thought to be philosophically significant—somehow pointing to the truth of human life as a whole (the phrase the “tragedy of life” first appears in Plato). As a literary form it is thought especially revealing philosophically by Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger to name only a few. Among others, Seneca, Corneille, Racine, Voltaire, Goethe, Shelley, O’Neill and Sartre wrote versions of Greek tragedies. And, of course, there is Freud. Greek tragedy examines the fundamental things in a fundamental way. Justice, family, guilt, law, autonomy, sexuality, political life, the divine—these are its issues. The lectures that follow treat three plays by each of the great Athenian tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides—with a view to understanding how they deal with these issues and with the question of the importance and nature of tragedy itself.

Translations Used:

Aeschylus, The Oresteia, Hugh Lloyd-Jones trans.
Sophocles I, Grene and Lattimore eds.
Ten Plays by Euripides, Moses Hadas trans.


Lecture 1: Introduction
Lecture 2: Aeschylus’s Agamemnon
Lecture 3: Agamemnon
Lecture 4: Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers
Lecture 5: Aeschylus’s Eumenides
Lecture 6: Eumenides
Lecture 7: Eumenides
Lecture 8: Eumenides
Lecture 9: Eumenides
Lecture 10: Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus
Lecture 11: Oedipus Tyrannus
Lecture 12: Oedipus Tyrannus
Lecture 13: Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus
Lecture 14: Oedipus at Colonus
Lecture 15: Oedipus at Colonus
Lecture 16: Oedipus at Colonus
Lecture 17: Sophocles’ Antigone
Lecture 18: Antigone
Lecture 19: Antigone
Lecture 20: Euripides’ Bacchae
Lecture 21: Bacchae
Lecture 22: Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians
Lecture 23: Iphigenia among the Taurians
Lecture 24: Iphigenia among the Taurians
Lecture 25: Iphigenia among the Taurians
Lecture 26: Euripides’ Hippolytus
Lecture 27: Hippolytus
Lecture 28: Conclusion

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