The Legacy of Euripides



There is widespread agreement about the nature of Euripides’ legacy to the West, and, for sure, this nature includes or implies a value, but Nietzsche is almost alone in casting doubt upon the Euripidean enterprise from the standpoint of value. As usual, Nietzsche does this by means not of logic but of psychological insight. Euripides did not understand tragedy, and that was his starting point. What, he wondered, was this ritualistic, obscure, ill-motivated business that so thrilled the other spectators, not one of whom was remotely represented by masked figures called Orestes or Prometheus or Oedipus? From such bemused beginnings, Euripides, according to Nietzsche, developed his own (relatively unpopular) sort of tragedy, by means of which ‘the everyday man forced his way from the spectators’ seats onto the stage’. Euripides was painfully faithful to the ‘botched outlines of nature’.1


External Object Phenomenal World Psychological Insight Original Intuition Presocratic Philosopher 
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  1. 5.
    Quoted in H. A. Reyburn’s Nietzsche: The Story of a Human Philosopher (London: Macmillan, 1948), p. 33.Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    See Derrida, Jacques, Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, translated by Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), especially pp. 39f. First published in Paris, 1978.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Reading Nietzsche, ed. Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    Nietzsche, F., ‘Schopenhauer as educator’, Untimely Meditations, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, with an introduction by J. P. Stern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 143 (UM).Google Scholar

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© Keith M. May 1993

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