Professor Glenn W. Most wearing eye glasses and a grey jacket with a purple shirt.

Agora Speaker Series 2023 - Professor Glenn W. Most

'The Horrific Body in Sophocles'

More even than the other two great Athenian tragedians, Sophocles seems to have a marked tendency to stage the suffering human body in so drastic and so effective a way as to produce emotions of profound horror in the other characters, the chorus, and presumably the audience. This article discusses the mechanisms and possible motivations for this tragic theme in all three tragedians and in the ancient theory of tragedy, but it focuses especially on Sophocles and, in Sophocles, especially on his Trachiniae and Philoctetes. Sophocles’ fascination with the horrific body is largely unparalleled in ancient Greek tragedy; I conclude by offering some possible explanatory hypotheses for this curious fact.