Politics and drama in ancient Athens

All art has a political dimension, but tragedy actually began life in fifth-century Athens as a political institution, locked into the structures of the state. The authorities appointed an official to train and pay the Chorus, the city preserved play scripts in its archives, and there was a state fund which poor Athenians could draw on for the entry fee. Tragedy was a form of ethicopolitical education for the city state as a whole, not just a night off for the toffs.

Wild. What if the US government paid for movie tickets? They probably should! We were pretty close to a merger like this during World War II I suppose, when they’d show the GIs Mrs. Miniver and stuff.

That’s Terry Eagleton reviewing A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI edited by Rebecca Bushnell in LRB back in February. Cleaning out my files!



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