Poetry’s Birth into the Polis

The Olympia, “sporting world” is a human world, we can live there; it is even at first glance perfect since it is out there, on high, where a “world champion” exists, that is to say, where a man is universally recognised in his particularity as a result of a struggle. But this sporting struggle lacks seriousness (no risk of life), and what is more, man is only recognised here as equal to his body or physical performance. He is an object. The imperfection, therefore of the “sporting world”: it does not include real individuality (integral) and therefore no real “satisfaction.”

All Literature is the creator of a World. The pagan literary world (religious) starts with the Epic, lives in Tragedy and dies as a Comedy. Hence three dialectical stages: (1) The Epic: the executives of this World; (2) The Tragedy: the actor who acts within these frameworks; (3) The Comedy: the result of this actor’s action. The real action of the real man.


The Epic World

1st paragraph: First union of peoples under a political entity or a nation for a common goal, for example, the Trojan War. This unity was achieved only by exclusion (union against …). Its action is not the result of the “essence” of this World: there is no universal State, no Empire.

2nd paragraph: Analysis of the Epic World. It is total; you can live there. But there is an Oberbefehl – a supreme command- and not Oberherrschaft supreme sovereignty: a single command, but no single government. This is reflected in the Pantheon. (Sensation stage, not yet Perception-Tragedy or Understanding-Comedy. There is no real, unique Hero (of Actor): when he appears, he will have to destroy this union; it will be Tragedy. Then the conflict between the Universal and the Particular, which is latent in the World of “sacred union”, will plainly manifest itself.

3nd paragraph: This World reveals itself to Man through the Epic. Der Schluss (the “Syllogism”) of the Epic:

c.a) das Extrem der Allgemeinheit = die Gôtterwelt;

c.b) die Mitte (Besonderheit) – = das Volk in seinem Helden;

c.c) das Extrem der Einzelkeit = der Sânger.

The People, acting through their Heroes and individualised in them, serves as a middle ground between Olympus, representing the Universal, and the epic Cantor who embodies the Individual. The Sânger cries out this World and out of this world. He does not reproduce it. No “realism”. The Gods act (new element compared to the above: before (in Art) Man became aware of himself as a being, now (in Literature) he becomes aware of himself as an Action).

4th paragraph: the action of the epic Hero. (P. 508, L 11: “Synthetische” here means “juxtaposed”, because there is no true synthesis yet.) It will destroy the calm of the Nation, its (pseudo) synthesis, and manifest its internal contradiction: it is not a State which presides over the victorious coalition of Nations; it is not a particular Nation which is victorious, but the United Nations. So: either we eliminate the victory, or the different Nations, by integrating them into an Empire. In both cases. it’s the end of the Epic World.

5th paragraph; the epic conflict is also manifested in the divine world of the Epic. It is funny to see the gods forget in their quarrels their eternal nature: why do they fight if there is no victory that could have changed their nature? It is a simple game with no result or success.

Silence of the animal (and of the Athlete) – * Literature – * Absolute knowledge. Isolated particularity Nation – * Empire.

The Nation, in order to realize itself, “suppresses” itself by and into the Empire. The first Empire: that of Alexander, who is the first tragic Hero (the Actor); Alexander fails because he tries to achieve Empire in a World of Masters, and not of Citizens (as Napoleon will).


The Tragedy (pp. 509,1. 2 from the bottom – 517)

(Aeschylus. “Oresty” is the basis of the analysis; cf. also Chap. VL A, a-ii.)

New and important character: the second Actor, hence the actor or even the mask.

The Tragedy manifests the conflict between the Particular and the Universal in the World of the Pagan Masters: an insoluble conflict. After the “United Nations” epic victory, the coalition dissolved, each people is a closed political entity in itself. The Universal is fragmented but is maintained because each person (and each man) finds the contradiction between universal action and particularist activity. In the Epic World, the conflict seemed external and blotted out; now, in the tragic world, it becomes necessary, manifest and essential.

(By “Notwendigkeit”, we must understand here Destiny, that is to say, the Empire to which the Nations or Peoples would be integrated. Extrem: Imperial Destiny, represented by the gods; Just before the Tragedy \ Mitte: the Nation or the Heroic People; we had the Extrem: the Rhapsode, which sees the Epic “Syllogism”: born of the Empire and understands it, announces it: but by that it excludes itself from the Nation and is annihilated. In the Tragedy, the Actor, in whom the two “extremes” are actualized, appears. (The author who understands Destiny must become active). The Actor sees the solution to the conflict but cannot (otherwise, he would be Alexander) achieve it. But the action of the tragic Actor is obviously imaginary. The pinnacle of the art will be the Comedy in which the Actor acts exactly as a man acts in everyday life. So art removes itself; we go to real life.

The Epic Hero was silent; it was the Rhapsode who spoke for him (recounted it). The tragic hero speaks; the Actor speaks for himself and takes his mask.

In the Epic, you have to know what’s going on; in the Tragedy, – what is said. In the foreign war (epic), there is no need to speak; in the (tragic) civil war: speech. P. 511, paragraph: “Der allgemeinen Boden” … etc.

Three constitutive elements of the Tragedy: 1) the Choir; 2) the Actor; 3) Spectators.

The first condition of the tragic situation: the People (“Choir) is passive. Action that is not his. He sees the two Heroes (Actors) going to their ruin without being able to intervene. He sees the conflict but does not see the possibility of resolving it and laments. It is the most tragic character of the Tragedy, and also the author as being in solidarity with the Choir.

The Choir knows that the end of the Action will be tragic, and yet it makes the Hero act. The situation is analogous to the Mystical Religion: the Hero is a scapegoat. But this is not serious; we obviously do not kill the actor, and finally the conflict will be resolved in that the Hero will lose the tragic quality to become comic.

There can only be two Actors in the Tragedy, no third since no “medium term” would resolve the conflict. So only one tragic Author: Aeschylus.

A reminder of Chapter VI, A, a-b. – The Society (the Wesen of the Society) of Masters is contradictory in itself and, in actuality, we, therefore, make it disappear. This Action I perform inside a closed world is criminal: the civil war, particularly the crime par excellence. The polytheism of the Epic becomes in the Tragedy a dualism: the superior gods of the City, and the infernal gods, the gods of the Family. Apollo, Zeus, Athena on the one hand; on the other, the Erinyes, – in Orestia.



The sacrifice of Iphigenia manifests the contradiction between the State and the Family. By the murder of Agamemnon, the very principle of Kingship = State) is suppressed, and the Family tales the place of the State (Aegisthus is not a King.) By destroying the Family (by killing the mother), Orestes wants to restore the Kingship to his father by becoming King himself: for Agamemnon will become King’s father and will thus be King. The infernal gods will kill Orestes. There is no solution. Aeschylus disavows Agamemnon. The “domestication” of the Erinnyes equals the transformation of Tragedy into Comedy).

P. 514, last L: “Das Bewusstsein schloss” … etc.

The important word here is Betrug (deception or imposture; hypocrisy). The deception, the imposture of the-Tragedy: the Master believes and wants to make believe that he is entirely Master, which also means that, in his activity as a Master, he completely exhausts the human essence and his own life. It is an error that subsequently becomes a fraud.

Because it is not a question of eliminating the particularism in front of universalism, but of uniting them: the life of Master which excludes the Particularity is impossible. What does the Tragedy finally reveal? That, in his action of universalist intention, the Master actually acts under Particular Boundaries. Obviously, the nature of Master (his “character”) is a particular nature (since different from that of the Slave, of the Woman) and therefore limited. The Master who claims to the Universal puts forward as much of the Individual as the one who openly stands in solidarity with the Individual (with the Family).

The Master who acts as a Master cannot avoid Tragedy, nor the imposture of Tragedy. The ideal of the Master is not viable: one can only die as a Master. The Master who claims to live qua Master is nothing more than an Impostor. He plays a tragic role; it is a “hypocrisy”. Tragedy cannot stand as such; it must disappear as a literary genre (giving way to the Comedy – * Roman).

The solution proposed by Aeschylus: peace, the inactivity of the State (or foreign war: which would be the return to the Epic).

So: the transformation of a warrior state of Masters into a bourgeois “democracy”: Comedy.

See the analogy between the end of the Orestia of Aeschylus and the end of the Peace of Aristophanes. We will see that Aristophanes is an already-Bourgeois who yearns for the past Mastery and that Aeschylus is a still-Master who yearns for the coming Bourgeoisie.

Another result of the Tragedy: the depopulation of the sky. Only Zeus remains, but he is already the god of the Family, of the home. In fact, the Erinnyes triumphed over Apollo and Athena; the peace treaty between them actually suppresses the Poliad divinities. But also it’s a victory for Athena because the Erinnyes become citizens, – which is already funny.

The Tragic Hero is a Bourgeois who has taken the mask (“hypocrite”) and puts it down after the Tragedy. Because there is no real life of Master, but only a “role” of Master, a play. This game becomes conscious and avowed in comedy.

Hegel – Intellectual Tragedy.

With Hegel, the only modern plays to be considered as tragedies are intellectual tragedies: Hamlet and Faust. Stated otherwise, this type of Tragedy (bourgeois or Christian) is a tragedy of inaction. The Tragedy of the Pagan Master, on the other hand, is a tragedy of action. The Intellectual can be tragic because, by not working, he resembles the Master. But the hero so-called does not fight either, thus resembling the Slave (he is Bourgeois »a Slave without a Master). So: the modern play is either a Tragedy of inaction or Comedy of “peaceful”, even pacifist idleness. Clearly, Shakespeare takes the pen and writes himself into the Hegelian category of the modern.

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