10 Plays Themes

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Nature and Convention

The distinction between nature and convention and the importance of this distinction are on display in almost all of Euripides' plays. We find this distinction in many Greek works of literature and philosophy, including in Plato and Aristotle, but most prominently in the work of the sophists. Nature includes any rule, practice, or fact that is the product of blind, inhuman forces. People can neither change nor ignore nature. Death is a fact of nature; there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent the natural fact that everyone will die. Conventions, however, are the product of human decisions or the remnants of human history. Laws are conventions in this sense, as are less important things like the dramatic rules that tragedians followed.

Part of the genius of Euripides is to constantly show, over and over again, that many of the things that we take to...

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