Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of Mocked with Death
Cover image of Mocked with Death
Share this Title:

Mocked with Death

Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton

Emily R. Wilson

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

In Paradise Lost, Adam asks, "Why do I overlive?" Adam's anguished question is the basis for a critical analysis of living too long as a neglected but central theme in Western tragic literature. Emily Wilson examines this experience in works by Milton and by four of his literary predecessors: Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, and Shakespeare. Each of these writers composed works in which the central character undergoes unbearable suffering or loss, hopes for death, but goes on living.

Mocked with Death makes clear that tragic works need not find their moral and aesthetic conclusion in death and…

In Paradise Lost, Adam asks, "Why do I overlive?" Adam's anguished question is the basis for a critical analysis of living too long as a neglected but central theme in Western tragic literature. Emily Wilson examines this experience in works by Milton and by four of his literary predecessors: Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, and Shakespeare. Each of these writers composed works in which the central character undergoes unbearable suffering or loss, hopes for death, but goes on living.

Mocked with Death makes clear that tragic works need not find their moral and aesthetic conclusion in death and that, in some instances, tragedy consists of living on rather than dying. Oedipus's survival at the end of Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus Coloneus is clearly one such instance; another Euripides' Heracles. In Seneca's Hercules Furens, overliving becomes an expression of anxieties about both political and literary belatedness. In King Lear and Macbeth, the sense of overliving produces a divided sense of self. For Milton, in both Samson Agonistes and Paradise Lost, overliving is a theological problem arising from the tension between mortal conceptions of time and divine providence.

Each writer in this tradition, Wilson concludes, attempts to diminish the anxieties arising from living past one's time but cannot entirely minimize them. Tragedies of overliving remain disturbing because they remind us that life is rarely as neat as we expect and hope it be and that endings often come too late.

Jump to
Quick Add
Mocked with Death

Emily R. Wilson

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Preorder
Cover image of A Centaur in London
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

$60.00
Quick Add
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

Publication Date: April 25, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture

edited by David A. Brewer and Crystal B. Lake

Volume
Volume 52
$50.00
Quick Add
Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture

edited by David A. Brewer and Crystal B. Lake

Volume
Volume 52
Publication Date: April 11, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Dorian Unbound

Sean O'Toole

$34.95
Quick Add
Dorian Unbound

Sean O'Toole

Publication Date: April 4, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of Imago
Imago

poems by Brian Swann

$21.95
Quick Add
Imago

poems by Brian Swann

Publication Date: March 28, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of Sacred Engagements
Sacred Engagements

Alison Conway

$34.95
Quick Add
Sacred Engagements

Alison Conway

Publication Date: February 14, 2023
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

This book is partly, then, an exploration of figures whose continued lives (Oedipus, Heracles, Lear, Macbeth, Samson and Adam) seem offensive to the presiding powers and narrative decorum of their respective plays, but which may also offer energetic forms of interest and even consolation. As such it is wonderfully persuasive, clear and accessible. It also links the notion of overliving into wider currents of thought about tragedy.

Refreshing because it stimulates the reader to rethink familiar works and to question received concepts.

An unexpectedly original contribution to a topic that would not seem any longer to admit of original contributions: the nature of the tragic as manifested in major canonical literary works from classical Antiquity and the English Renaissance.

About

Book Details

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Emily R. Wilson

Emily R. Wilson is an assistant professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.