Essay Ber Woyzeck

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Inevitably, this book has taken on an identity of its own.

Above all, he taught me by the example of his own life that great art is not reserved to the specialist or the professional scholar, but that it is best known and loved by those who live most intensely. One is not the same writer as was the author at the time. But, this displacement being the more disconcerting, I do not even read myself as I then did.

No fertility or seasonal rites however expressive, no dance-dramas of south-east Asia however intricate, are at all comparable in inexhaustibility of meaning, economy of means and personal authority of invention with Greek clas- sical tragedy.

It has been argued, plausibly, that Greek trag- edy, as it has come down to us, was devised by Aeschylus, that it represents one of those very rare instances of the crea- tion of a major aesthetic mode by an individual of genius.

Only Lear and Timon of Athen s, an eccentric and perhap s truncated text whose inti mate links w ith Lear are obv ious but difficult to make out, form a real exception.

Thus, to an extent which I failed to grasp clearly when writing this book, the dramas of Shakespeare are not a re- nascence of or humanistic variant on the absolute tragic model They are, rather, a rejection of this model in the light of tragi-comic and "realistic" criteria.They can be the literal or metaphorical conse- quences of a "fall of man" or primal chastisement.They can be located in some fatality of over-reaching or self- mutilation inseparable from man's nature. Furthermore, I would try to develop a theme which, as I now see it, was implicit in the argument from the outset, but which I did not have the nerve or acuity to make explicit. If I was to rewrite The Death of Tragedy (and my favourite critic was the one who lamented the waste of so fine a title ix Foreword on this particular work), I would attempt a change of em- phasis at two significant points. Today, these external readings are bound, in some measure, to in- terleave with my own. It stands somewhat out- side what I now (inexactly) remember to have been its aim and conduct of persuasion. Other readers have approved of the argument or rejected it, proposed addenda and corrections, used one or another of its sections for their own purposes. vii Acknowledgments My warmest thanks go to Professor Whitney Oates and Professor R. I am the more grateful as this book does not represent precisely what its learned sponsors had in mind. Principally, however, this essay belongs to my father. Those who have attended these occa- sions will know how much the speaker owes to the chairmanship and cross-fire of R. Blackmur and to the erudite vigilance of Professors E. This grant enabled me to get on with the job while teaching only part-time. The counsel he gave and the pleasure he took in the work were both of great value to me. If I am able to deal with literature in more than one language, it is because my father, from the outset, refused to recognize provincialism in the affairs of the mind. Foreword to the Galaxy Book Edition It is an ambiguous privilege to be allowed to write a new foreword to a book which is now twenty years old. I do not read, I do not try to interpret today the texts cited in The Death of Tragedy as I read and interpreted them before 1960. But writers tend to be mutineers, even against generosit y. The plays I discuss in it are those which he first read to me and took me to see.


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