Impious Euripides

  • Keith M. May


To an extraordinary degree Nietzsche thinks in terms of millenia, judging centuries and generations as phases of millenial developments. The attitude towards history in the essay ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’ is likewise unusual, since the argument is that we need history ‘for the sake of life and action’;1 that is to say, not as a record, not as a compartment of knowledge, not as a field from which lessons might be learned, and certainly not as an insider’s discipline. Nietzsche presumes that history is quite different from the actual character of events (whatever that might have been) and, in any case, should be compiled and respected for its life-giving properties alone. This does not mean that historians are free to invent, but that they should never forget their mission to invigorate, since facts are nothing in themselves.


Realistic Fiction Great Drama Familiar World Ideal Spectator Dramatis Persona 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    F. Nietzsche, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, Untimely Meditations (UM), trans. R. J. Hollingdale with intro. by J. P. Stern (Cambridge University Press, 1983) p. 59.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See HAH, Volume i, ‘A Glance at the State’, no. 475, pp. 174f.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., no. 473, p. 173.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., p. 174.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    WP, Book One, ‘European Nihilism’, Section 1, p. 7.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    BT, Section 10, p. 75.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For an illuminating discussion of this possibly central factor in human psychology, see Gilles Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (Athlone Press 1983) Chapter 5, part 8. ‘Is Man Essentially Reactive?’ pp. 166ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    TI, ‘The Problem of Socrates’, Section 5, p. 31.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    BT, Section 10, pp. 75f.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Aristotle, On the Art of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1954) p. 51.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Euripides, Volume iv, Alcestis, trans. Arthur S. Way (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, and London: William Heinemann, 1980) line 558, p. 455.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See H. D. F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy — A Literary Study (Methuen, 1939) Chapter XI,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. A. M. Dale’s edn of Alcestis (Oxford University Press, 1954)Google Scholar
  14. and D. J. Conacher, Euripidean Drama — Myth, Theme and Structure (University of Toronto Press, 1967) Chapter 19.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Victor Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates — Greek History and Civilization during the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. (Methuen, 1967) p. 349.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    Euripides, Collected Plays (George Allen and Unwin, 1954) Medea, p. 285, line 18.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    Ibid., line 15.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    Ibid., pp. 307f, lines 292–315.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    Ibid., p. 331, line 618.Google Scholar
  20. 18.
    Ibid., Hippolytus, pp. 7f.Google Scholar
  21. 19.
    H. D. F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy — A Literary Study (Methuen, 1939)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 20.
    Gilbert Murray, introductory note to The Trojan Women, Collected Plays of Euripides (see note 14) p. 7.Google Scholar
  23. 21.
  24. 22.
    See F. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra — A Book for Everyone and No One (Z), trans. with intro. by R. J. Hollingdale (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980) Part Four, ‘The Sign’, p. 336.Google Scholar
  25. 23.
    AC, Section 7, p. 118.Google Scholar
  26. 24.
    Albin Lesky, Greek Tragedy, trans. H. A. Frankfort with a foreword by Professor E. G. Turner (London: Ernest Benn, and New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1965), p. 171.Google Scholar
  27. 25.
    G. M. A. Grube, The Drama of Euripides (Methuen, 1941) p. 314.Google Scholar
  28. 26.
    See above, Chapter 2, pp. 27ff.Google Scholar
  29. 27.
    Euripides, Volume iii, The Bacchanals, trans. Arthur Way (New York: William Heinemann, and London: Macmillan, 1932) line 310, p. 29.Google Scholar
  30. 28.
    Gilbert Murray, Collected Plays of Euripides (see note 14) The Bacchae, p. 20.Google Scholar

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© Keith M. May 1990

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  • Keith M. May

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