Euripides' Herakles: PTSD and Tragedy in Fifth Century Athens
Athens in the latter half of the fifth century BCE was a city constantly at war. The audience of Greek tragedy was the audience of Athenian male citizens, all of them veterans of many conflicts. Dr. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist with the US Veteran's Administration who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, says that one function of tragedy for the audience may have been as group therapy, to assist them to cope with the emotional damage of battle and help them function again in a civilian context. In this session we will examine that hypothesis through a reading of Euripides' play, Herakles, which is itself a classic depiction of the causes and consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder.
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