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Greek Tragedies with Happy Endings

If a play ends happily or makes us laugh, can we still call it a tragedy? The ancient Greeks definitely did. In this course, we will read three works by Euripides, iconoclast of theatre in Athens’ Golden Age: Alcestis, Iphigenia in Tauris, and Ion. All three plays present high-born characters who are confronting family crises and life-altering choices—the very stuff of tragedy—yet who prevail in the end rather than suffer a tear-jerking reversal of fortune. Each of these plays was performed nearly 2,500 years ago in the Theatre of Dionysus as part of the annual Athenian tragedy competition, and neither the judges nor the audience seemed to have doubted the genre, even as Euripides parodied or simply ignored convention. So let’s rejoice a little as we read and discuss three surprisingly delightful Greek tragedies. And to maintain our upbeat mood, we also will listen to excerpts from Gluck’s 18th-century opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, a return to the ideals of Greek tragedy, but with a happy ending that imbues the ancient myth with an unexpected spirit of optimism.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • A fuller understanding of the multifaceted genre of Greek tragedy
  • Knowledge of foundational works of Western literature

Ideal for

  • The curious and creative
  • Professionals who use critical thinking
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.