Simon Critchley's Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us (Vintage, 2020) does not offer a comprehensive theory of tragedy. Instead, it takes issue with the bland simplifications that philosophers have offered in place of a robust engagement with tragedies, plural. Critchley examines Nietzche's wishful speculation on the origin of tragedy, Aristotle's dry and under-examined notion of catharsis, and Plato's excessive hatred of tragedy, finding that each attempt to find an essence of tragedy ignores the fact that tragedy as a form is uninterested in tidy endings or comforting morals. Critchley insists we go back to the experience of theatre in search of what Anne Carson calls a "more devastating" account of what it's like to watch these plays, which somehow resonate with us after more than two thousand years.
Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.
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