Why we continually Misinterpret Classical Tragedy: Ancient Greek Law within the Tragic Tradition
Athens Journal of Humanities and Arts
Literature has long been "seen as a field of activity set apart from ordinary life." But, this modern approach betrays the rich heritage from which tragic theatre arose. Contrary to this view, Greek tragedy, like the law itself, is "not a world of authoritarian clarity, ... but a world of deep uncertainty and openness, of tension and conflict and argument, a world where reasons do not harmonize but oppose one another." It is a world that was firmly connected to "Aristotelian" concepts of
... concepts of justice, a theory of equity and voluntariness largely understood only by academia and the legal community. Great efforts have been made within the United States and Great Britain since the 1970's to rediscover the connections between law and literature. However, outside the work of classics professors, the study of law and classical Greek literature almost exclusively has been conducted in law schools. Yet, of all American Bar Association approved law schools, only twentyone percent of schools have indicated that they offer a course in law and literature. Those that do use classical literature have focused upon Aeschylus's Oresteia and Sophocles's "Antigone" and "Oedipus the King." But, even then, only "Antigone" was listed in more than one syllabus. And, most of these courses have often ignored the actual cultural, historical, and legal context in which the surviving Greek tragedies were written.