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pourtray the moral consciousness of a people, and to
express the highest sentiments of which an age, or
at least individual prominent spirits in an age, are
capable. Every deeper tragic plot rests on the con-
flicting calls of duty and interest. To make clear
the origin of the plot, to unfold the action psycho-
logically, to produce the general impression intended,
the poet must bring these two points of view before us,
allowing each to advocate its cause in lively speech
and counter-speech: he must go into the analysis of
moral consciousness, weigh what is right and what is
faulty in human action, and expose it to view. As
a poet he will do this, always having regard to the
particular case before him. Still, even this he cannot
do without comparing one case with another, without
going back to general experience, to the generally
received notions respecting right and wrong-in

Hence tragic Bullet
poetry must always give a lasting impetus to scien-
tific speculation on moral conduct and its laws,
affording, too, for such reflection ample material
itself, and that to a certain extent already prepared,
and inviting partly use, partly correction. Moreover,
inasmuch as moral convictions were in the case of
the Greeks, as in the case of other nations, originally
bound up with religious convictions, and inasmuch
as this connection particularly affects tragedy owing
to the legendary subjects with which it deals, it

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On this point compare the vol. viii. 137, ed. 1870; vol.
excellent remarks of Grote, vii. 7, ed. 1872.
Hist. of Greece, P. II. C. 67,




follows that all that has been said respecting the
connection between tragedy and principles of morality
applies also to the connection between tragedy and
principles of theology: nay more, in exactly the
same way tragedy must busy itself with the nature
and state of men whose deeds and fate it depicts.
In all these respects a most decided and thorough
change in Greek thought may be observed in the
three generations, whose character finds such fit-
ting expression in the three successive tragedians,
Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Without going
so far as to attribute to the poets themselves every
word which they put into the mouths of their heroes,
still the general tone of their sentiments may be
gathered partly from their general treatment of the
materials, partly from their individual utterances,
with no lack of certainty.
In Æschylus there is an earnestness of

purpose, a depth of religious feeling, an overwhelming force and majesty, worthy of a man of ancient virtue, who had himself taken part in the great battles with the Persians. At the same time there is a something bitter and violent about him, which a time of heroic deeds and sacrifices, of mighty capabilities and inspiriting results, could neither soften down nor yet dispense with. The spirit of his tragedies is that of an untamed, masculine mind, seldom moved by softer feelings, but spell-bound by reverence for the gods, by the recognition of an unbending moral order, by resignation to a destiny from which there is no escape. Never were the Titan-like defiance of

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unbridled strength, the wild fury of passion and frenzy, the crushing might of fate, the paroxysms of divine vengeance, more thrillingly painted than by Æschylus. At the bottom of all his sentiments lies reverence for the divine powers; yet these are grouped almost monotheistically together, in his vast vision, as one almighty power. What Zeus says happens; his will always comes to pass, even though it escape the notice of men ;? no mortal can do aught against his will; 2 none can escape the decision of heaven, or rather of destiny,over which Zeus himself is powerless. In face of this divine power man feels himself weak and frail; his thoughts are fleeting as the shadow of smoke; his life is like a picture which a sponge washes out.5 That man mistake not his position, that he learn not to overrate what is human, that he be not indignant with the Gods when in affliction, that his mind soar not too high, that the grain of guilt planted by pride grows to a harvest of tears, such is the teaching which, with glowing words, flashes on us in every page of the poet.

Not even Æschylus, however, was able to grasp these ideas in their purity, or to rise above the contradiction which runs not only through Greek tragedy, but through the whole of the Greek view of life.


Suppl. 598; Agamemnon, 1327. 1485.

6 Niobe, Fr. 155, (154). 2 Prometh. 550.

? Fragm. 369 Dindorf. Sto3 Pers. 93 ; Fragm. 299 Din- bæus. Serm, 108, 43, attributes dorf (352 Nauck.).

the words to Euripides. 4 Prometh. 511.

8 Pers, 820. 5 Fragm. 295 (390); Agam.



the one hand, even he gives utterance to the ancie belief in the envy of heaven, which is so closely co nected with the peculiarity of natural religion; sic ness lurks under the rudest health; the wave fortune, when it bears man highest on its cres breaks on a bidden reef; would the man on whor fortune smiles escape ruin, he must voluntarily thro away a part of what he has ; even fate itself ordain. guilt, when bent on utterly destroying a family. On the other hand, Æschylus never tires of insisting on the connection between guilt and punishment. Not only in the old stories of Niobe and Ixion, of the house of Laius and of that of Atreus, does he paint with telling touches the unavoidable nature of divine vengeance, the mischief which follows in the wake of pride, the never-dying curse of crime; but also in the unexpected result of the Persian expedition he sees a higher hand, visiting with punishment the self-exaltation of the great king, and the insults offered to the gods of Greece. Man must suffer 3 according to his deeds; God blesses him who lives in piety without guile and pride; but vengeance, though it may be slow at first, suddenly overtakes the transgressor of right; some Diké strikes down with a sudden blow, others she slowly crushes ; from generation to generation the curse of crime gathers strength, likewise virtue and happiness 6 descend on

· Agam. 1001 ; compare the 3 Agam. 1563; Choeph. 309 ;
story of Polycrates in Herodo. Fr. 282.
tus, iii. 40.

4 Eumen. 530; Fr. 283.
2 Niobe, Fr. 160 ; blamed by 5 Choeph. 61.
Plato, Rep. 380, A.

6 Agam. 750.



children and children's children; the Furies rule over the destiny of men, avenging the fathers' sins on the sons, sucking the criminal's life-blood, stealthily clinging to his feet, throwing round him the snares of madness, pursuing him with punishment down to the shades. Thus severely and clearly through all the plays of Æschylus runs the thought of divine justice and of implacable destiny.

All the more remarkable on that account is the vigour with which the poet breaks through the fetters which this view of the world imposes. In the Eumenides, these moral conflicts, the play of which Æschylus can so well pourtray, are brought to a satisfactory issue, the bright Olympic Goddess appeasing the dark spirits of vengeance, and the severity of the ancient bloodthirsty Justice yielding to human kindness. In the Prometheus, natural religion as a whole celebrates its moral transfiguration ; the jealousy of the gods towards mortals is seen to resolve itself into

mercy; Zeus himself requires the aid of the Wise One, who, for his kindness to men, has had to feel the whole weight of his wrath; yet, on the other hand, the unbending mind of the Titan must be softened, and Zeus' rule of might be changed by willing submission into a moral rule. What the poet places in the legendary past is in reality the history of his own time and of his own mind. Æschylus stands on the boundary line between two periods of culture, and the story he tells of the miti

i Eum. 830.
? Eum. 264, 312.

* Choeph. 896; Eum. 198, 566.

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