Suicidal Variations in Greek Tragedy
“There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide”
Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus)
Suicide is the ultimate existential decision, and this is precisely what Camus is referring to when he considers it the most important question in life. Suicide is the possibility to say “No” to fate and its arbitrary conditions. However, our own suffering is the only thing we are really the owners of. Furthermore, suffering awakens consciousness and increases awareness. In the Oresteia Aeschylus reminds us that humans “learn through suffering”. In an over-determined world the only meaningful decision is whether to live or not, whether to accept suffering or give up. Once we have accepted suffering, then the freedom of choice lies in how we face it. Paradoxically, the highest degree of freedom comes when we accept the absolute determination of our destiny.
Camus’ essay ends by accepting suffering as a necessary part of existence and integrating it in a Nietzschean fashion: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy”, he writes as a closing line. But what if the stone is too heavy and Sisyphus can’t lift it anymore?
Along with virginity and incest, suicide is one of the few perennial taboos in the Western civilization. As it does with incest (Oedipus/Electra complexes), Greek Tragedy takes up the issue of suicide head on and explores its limits, often using it as an instrument to weigh and determine the value of life.
Thirty five percent of suicides occur during the twenty-four hours right after a crisis. That is the case of Ajax, Antigone, Haemon, Jocasta, Deianira, etc. Of the thirty-two extant tragedies, suicide plays a substantial role in thirteen of them. Time is critical to suicide, as it is to tragedy. Pouring too much time on a tragedy can decaffeinate it. Without a pressing tempo and certain urgency there is no tragedy. When a person feels timely trapped and unable to escape from what he or she sees as an intolerable situation, suicide becomes the only exit. In the contemporary world we find people who have “a strong personal identity with the company, career or profession and cannot imagine living a different life or starting another profession”, and those are many times parallel cases to what we find in Greek tragedy.
I would like to introduce this paper by contrasting suicide in tragedy with the general attitude towards life/death that can be found in other classical literary works. I’m interested in comparing the tragic value of death with, for example Achilles’ testimony in Odysseus’ descent to Hades in the Odyssey. I would also like to put Ajax in contrast with Dante’s Inferno (Circle VII, Ring II, Canto XIII), where the suicidals have been turned into trees and share the circle with the tyrants. Neither the tyrants nor the suicidals are willing to accept life as it is.
I also intend to introduce an existential side to this essay; I will look at Schopenhauer and Nietzsche’s opposed approaches to Greek Tragedy as an instrument to ponder the value of life, and therefore the meaningful role that suicide plays in it.
Suicide hovers all over tragedy, and it would be an excessive task to try to analyze each of the cases. Moreover, the tragedies that survived don’t necessarily represent the general understanding of suicide in ancient Greece. In this paper I will mainly focus on one of the most well-known suicides among Greek tragedies: Ajax. I will also take into consideration some fragments in Helen where suicide is considered from different points of view, although never consummated. But before that I would like to look at the above-mentioned classical examples. These are the words that Achilles’ soul tells Odysseus in his descent to Hades:
“O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
than be a king over all the perished dead.”
The afterlife was definitely not a pleasant place to be, especially for great heroes with strong characters. In relation to Ajax “there is a famous scene in the Odyssey set in the underworld, where Odysseus sees the dead Ajax and attempts a conversation. Locked in permanent hatred even in Hades, the ghost of Ajax turns his back and stalks away in proud silence”. Such behavior reminds us of Capaneus in Dante’s Inferno (Circle III, Ring VII), who still doesn’t accept his fate and holds god in disdain. Even though Zeus blatantly punished his superb attitude by striking him with a thunderbolt, he still doesn’t acknowledge gods omnipotence. He has the same attitude towards the gods as Ajax.
But before Capaneus, in the first ring of the seventh circle of hell Virgil and Dante are led through the ring by the centaur Nessus who names some of the more notable souls punished there. Among them we can find Alexander (probably Alexander the Great), Dionysius, and Attila the Hun. Those who lived as tyrants, and thus perpetrated violence on whole populations, lie in the deepest parts of the river:
“I saw people immersed as far as the brow; and the
Great centaur said: ‘They are tyrants who put their
Hands to blood and to others’ goods.
There they weep for their pitiless crimes: there is
Alexander and fierce Dionysius, who gave Sicily such
Grievous years …”
After arriving at a shallow stretch of the river, the travelers continue into the next ring without Nessus’ guidance. The second ring is home to the suicidals. Among them, the prominent figure is Pier della Vigna, who turned into a tree and has his body hanging from one of the branches. Black birds named ‘harpies’ bite his bark to perpetuate the suffering.
In Dante, where we can find Thomas Aquinas’ Christian cosmology and morality condensed, it is made clear that violence towards oneself is even worse that violence towards the others. Far from the classical paradigm in which suicide could be accepted (or even recommended under certain circumstances), in the Middle Ages it was considered one of the worst sins to be perpetrated, since it contradicted a commandment and meant an insult to god’s greatest creation: mankind.
In the Monarchia Dante defines the tyrants as “those who attempt to twist the laws not to the common good but their own (3.4.10)”. It is therefore not a coincidence that the tyrants share the seventh circle with the suicidals. Their attitude towards life is of dominance and contempt. They have the need of controlling and imposing their will to the world, and won’t accept anything else. They are highly demanding individuals that can’t take the world as it is, and that is the reason why many tyrants are assassinated or many suicidals end their days by their own hand. They can’t adapt to changes.
In reference to the young Nietzsche, Raymond Williams states that: “Tragedy is ‘an Apollonian embodiment of Dionysian insights and powers.’ It creates heroes, but in order to destroy them, as a way of asserting the primal unity and joy of life. ‘The hero, the highest manifestation of the will, is destroyed, and we assent, since he too is merely a phenomenon, and the eternal life of the will remains unaffected.’”. Through these words we can appreciate the influence of Schopenhauer on Nietzsche, especially at the beginning. However, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche comments on his Birth of Tragedy and considers that he obscured the Dionysian forces with formulas borrowed from Schopenhauer.
Regarding Greek tragedy, the difference between Nietzsche and Schopenhauer is almost diametrical. According to Schopenhauer the tragic hero is not paying for his individual sins, but rather for the original sin of having been born. The hero is paying the price of existence. Tragedy represents the ‘will’ (noumen) because it incarnates the raw state of endless dissatisfaction underlying reality. The only option we have left is either accept it, and resign ourselves, or try to sublimate it through art. Killing oneself would just entail a reaffirmation of the ‘will’, since the person would have such an urgency to fulfill life expectations that not doing so would invalidate the whole existence. The ‘will’ would paradoxically reinvigorate itself; therefore suicide is not a way out.
On the other hand, Nietzsche asserts that tragedy is anything but defeatist. By boosting the importance of Dionysos he gives an image of tragedy as a life-affirming ritual that embraces and accepts all possible scenarios in life. Like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche rejects suicide as an option, but for the opposite reasons. According to him, depriving oneself of life would mean negating the Dionysian forces that conform it. Nietzsche saw suicide as a missed opportunity for experiencing the suffering that gives meaning to human existence. In accordance to the Sophoclean ethos he so much admired, fate should be accepted under all circumstances. To him, tragedy was an immersion in life.
Suicide in Greek Tragedy
Emile Durkheim is an inescapable point of reference for the sociological study of suicide. He established ideal categories of suicide in order to develop his theory, based on the presupposition that the social environment surrounding an individual has a decisive influence on suicidal tendencies. According to Elise P. Garrison, Greek tragedy contrasts with Durkheim’s ideas if we understand that “Ajax, Antigone, Phaedra (the list goes on) are tragic figures in part because they are too purely committed to a form of existence that segregates them from the society to which they want to belong … The tragedians, also concerned with their social reality, developed ideal figures as the foci of social tensions”. Although tragedy had a strong social function, in most plays the dramatic approximation was from the individual to society, and not the other way around. In turn, the society that was experiencing the dramatic effects
“recognized a sharp distinction between honorable and cowardly suicides, and very often suicide was a response to such social pressures as the desire for honor, fear of shame, or simply society’s demand for one’s self-sacrifice for the good of the whole. Conversely, suicide might be condemned absolutely, as the Pythagoreans for example apparently did. Plato’s Socrates showed that the Pythagorean stance was too rigid, but clearly many different attitudes to suicide can coexist in any given society”
Reputation and honor are the main reasons for tragic characters to take their lives. Notwithstanding, many of those suicides were admired rather than condemned, because suicide was integrated as a dignifying possibility for keeping one’s honor and setting up an example for the rest: “Many suicides in ancient Greece take place because victims resolve to regain lost honor and to restore equilibrium to society”.
What detonates suicide is usually when an individual’s values (or his circumstances) are at odds with the rules that persist in the society he belongs to, despite the fact that “suicide victims do not for the most part question the validity of social rules. On the contrary, many characters commit suicide precisely to maintain the society they know”. As in Socrates’ case, suicide is nothing more than the reaffirmation of the polis’ law, as well as in Schopenhauer where suicide is a reaffirmation of the a will that abides life so much that it can’t bear not having enough of it.
Mary Whitlock Blundell has extensively examined the moral principle of philia and reciprocity, showing that the individual in Ancient Greece was permanently bound benefit his friends (philoi) and harm his enemies. Ajax shows that such principle is dislocated when it is put into movement, and when the individual is unable to readapt quickly (like Odysseus), he is left alone in a situation not worth living for. Suicide then represents the failure of integration to a society that works at a different level of values than one’s own. The person is usually torn between bipolar tendencies within that he or she can’t conjoin. It is often depicted as a paradoxical phenomenon by the tragedians, an unsolvable problem that will have negative consequences regardless of any decision that is taken. Along with that, it is interesting to note that:
“One of its outstanding characteristics is the extent to which virtually all tragic suicides receive sympathy. (…) The motivations to suicide are external, social. The tragedians delve into and portray them vividly, compelling the audience to question, affirm or negate social standards. Suicide is a social phenomenon, steeped in ethical ramifications, for the dramatists of the fifth century and their audiences, then and now”.
The fact that Greek tragedy was highly popular allows us to extrapolate that the audience was facing similar issues as the tragic heroes, at least to a certain degree. However, according to Garrison “popular ethics by its very nature is more ambiguous than moral philosophy, and therefore characters often seem paradoxical. It is this very paradox and imbalance that prompts suicide, and consequently allows us to reflect on the proper equilibrium necessary for a balanced existence.” Tragedy was then, as Aristotle points out in the Poetics, an imitation of life, with all its contradictions. In order to achieve such equilibrium, tragedy had a therapeutic function that provided a mirror (mimesis) to the audience so that they would feel represented by the drama and would channel their emotions through it (catharsis). As contradictory as it may seem, watching Ajax commit suicide or Orestes kill his mother represented two faces of the same coin: it was curative both by the principle of Similia Similibus Curantur and of Contraria Contrariis Curantur.
In his monumental work Paideia. The Ideals of Greek Culture, Werner Jaeger tried to show how tragedy confronts the audience with the questions of life and how through them it contributes to the general education of the population. That is the aesthetic ideal that the German romantics, Goethe, Hölderlin and Schiller, among others, sought for: education through art in an aesthetic Estate. Many of the questions raised by the tragedians through their archetypal and conflicted characters have become immortal and still haunt us today. Suicide is definitely one of them.
Two case studies: Helen and Ajax
I will now focus on two tragedies that are very representative of suicide in Greek tragedy: Ajax and Helen. I believe that, despite the arbitrariness of the decision, they are two of the most thought-provoking tragedies concerning suicide.
Although restoring or keeping honor is the main justification for suicide in tragedy, there are other motivations such as an unbearable loss, the incapacity to endure grief, the sacrifice for a greater good, or simply the avoidance of future suffering. In Helen we find “a microcosm of the range of possibilities for the suicide motif in Greek tragedy, and the ironic tone of the entire play permits us to step back from the heart wrenching phenomenon for final reflections on the theatricality and the ethics of self-destruction”. Such multiplicity of reasons allows us to explore the limits of suicide in various dimensions, but at the same time it is all presented in an elusive and almost untragic tone. In that sense, Nietzsche’s claim that Euripides is already viced by the rationality of Socrates and the sophists’ rhetoric takes full credit, since we are not ‘experiencing’ the suicide, but merely the speculation of it. It becomes relativistic and pragmatic, rather than existential and compelling. Somehow it lacks purity:
(Helen) “Why go on living then? For what fate am I reserved? Shall I choose marriage in exchange for my woes and lead my life with a barbarian, sitting at his lavish table? But when a woman dwells with a husband she hates, she hates herself too. The best course is to die. How then could I die nobly? … Into such an abyss of disaster I have fallen. Other women find a blessing in their beauty – yet it is this very beauty that has ruined me.” (294-305)
In Helen the conflict between reality and appearance enhances the moral conflict that suicide poses. In fact, by the end, “though the Helen ends ‘happily’, the message seems to be that life is serious business, where things are not what they seem, and any act, even suicide, can be manipulated to complicate further and blur the distinctions between real and apparent”. As an extreme experience in life, suicide in Greek tragedy allows us to explore the limits of human experience and give value to an existence that can easily lose it. The hero either keeps on living with a higher sense of the value of life, or tries to put a redeeming end to it:
“Helen: How then shall we die and still win glory by our deaths?
Menelaus: I shall kill you on top of the tomb and then kill myself” (841-842)
The case of Ajax is probably the most widely known example of suicide in Greek tragedy. His exemplary gesture figures prominently in his name play and its consequences are examined in the discussion between his brother Teucer, Menelaos and Odysseus following it. Sophocles was the most Homeric of the tragic poets, and as an old fashioned hero, Ajax takes the heroic values almost beyond Homer. As Bernard Knox pointed out in The heroic temper: studies in Sophoclean tragedy, the pure Homeric hero doesn’t fit in the polis, and the world of argumentation and trickery in which Odysseus wins Achilles’ arms is not a world where Ajax can live in.
“The hero is an outsider in his greatness and it is this greatness which highlights the limitations of human norms. It is perhaps the sense of the impossibility of containing this sort of greatness within the norm of human life, indeed the sense of (self-) destructiveness of such greatness, that gives rise to the feelings of loss that so many readers have expressed at the end of this Sophoclean drama”
When Athena lifts the veil from Ajax’s eyes he sees a world that he no longer wants to live in. “Rather, he sees in the world something alien and contrary to his nature, in which he could participate only if he were no longer Ajax”. Adaptability is not part of his nature. He won’t accept a world where there is no definitive Yes or No, and the only way to attest that is by saying one single and final No. “He has to perish, not only because he has detached himself from his heroic environment – that was already his fate in the epic – but because the world can no longer contain him”. When Ajax is deprived of his honor he is automatically deprived of his world, “and because he was too firmly rooted in his private world, he is punished. For the gods remain the guardians of this cosmos. The tragedy of Ajax does not take place in a world which is out of joint”.
Ajax doesn’t think according to human measure. In the play he is described as aphron and anous, megalomaniac. Although some scholars have seen measure and sophrosyne in Ajax too, according to Simon Goldhill “it is the anti-social ‘raw laws’ of his total self-reliance that Ajax wishes to propagate through his son”. It is not a rational principle, as Goldhill points out; it has nothing to do with wisdom (sophronein). It is a world associated with the beasts, with attitudes that clash with any civilized behavior. The phallic element of Hector’s sword planted on the floor on which Ajax throws himself could also be interpreted from a psychoanalytic symbolic standpoint as Ajax being killed by his own rampant and extreme virility. His almost irrational obsession for preserving the masculine principles of the Homeric hero is what eventually destroys him.
However, Ajax’s suicide is not only motivated by shame and loss of honor, but it is also an exemplary gesture towards his son as well as a punishment towards his former philoi. Phaedra in Hippolitus and Heracles would-be suicide in Heracles Furens are also examples of saving honor and exacting vengeance at the same time. Because Ajax “clings to traditional values that no longer obtain, he commits suicide, which he supposes will satisfy his need for revenge. Ajax believes his suicide will allow him to avoid mockery, to reconcile himself with the gods and to prove to his father that he was not a coward”. In relation to that, it is appropriate to make reference to E.R. Dodds famous division between “shame cultures” and “guilt cultures”. It is obvious that the heroic mindset in which Ajax operates belongs to the shame culture of the Homeric epic, in which there is practically no inner moral conflict. In the following fragment Ajax presents his situation as unsolvable precisely because of the shame he will experience if he went back home and had to face his father:
“How could I show my face before my father,
Telamon? How could he endure the sight
Of me, appearing naked, without the prize
For which he won his own great crown of glory?
I need to find a venture,
To prove to my old father that his son
Has not inherited a coward’s heart.
It shames a man to wish his life prolongued
When life is dogged by unrelenting pain (465-475).
In his essay On Missundertanding Oedipus Rex, E.R. Dodds says that we are all Oedipus, since we are all subject to fate and there is no possibility of controlling our destiny, regardless of our cleverness or strength. That very same judgment could be applied to the following lines:
You see, Odysseus, the gods can be so strong!
Where could you find a man more circumspect
Than Ajax, better in meeting time’s demands?
No one I know. But, enemy though he be,
I’m bound to pity him nonetheless, poor man!
He’s crushed beneath the yoke of ruinous madness.
I’m less concerned for him than for myself.
All of us living on this earth I see
Are nothing more than ghosts or flimsy shadows.
Such be your thoughts, then. Never utter
An arrogant word yourself against the gods,
Nor be puffed up if you surpass another
In strength of arm or piles of hoarded wealth.
One day can humble and exalt again
The whole of human life. The gods love those
Who know their place and hate ignoble men. (118-134)
Athena’s prescriptive words to Odysseus don’t take him away from his profound awe. In front of a crazed Ajax who has just killed all the Greeks’ sheep Odysseus can’t believe the levels of wickedness the gods can reach. He is actually more concerned about himself than about Ajax. In a case like that the question between free will and suicide comes up. Is there any way of having control over one’s destiny? Is there a way of avoiding the circumstances that lead up to suicide? The answer may be on the negative side. Ajax seems to have learned the lesson and wishes his son Eurysakes to be like him but just more lucky:
“… My son, I pray
That you’ll be luckier than your father was,
But still take after him in everything else.
If so, you’ll be a fine man. There’s one thing, even
Now, I envy you for: you have no inkling
Of all this chaos. Life’s at its sweetest when you
Feel nothing, when you don’t know about joy or pain” (549-555)
In this fragment we find the conflict between character and destiny, that is: does character determine our fate or is it the other way around? In ancient Greece both seemed to be intertwined. Freedom of choice was relative, and the ultimate final decision, the only one that one couldn’t be deprived of, was suicide. Even though the Greeks recognized their limitations and understood the hyper-determination of our actions, they paradoxically lived in a much more unlimited world than the contemporary, which has been filled with scientific and technical knowledge. Their limits were actually an instrument of freedom.
According to George Steiner, what makes tragedy ‘pure’ is a closed world full of meaning and laws that no man can understand (but not necessarily a relativistic one). Regardless if it was hyper- or under-determined, the Ancient Greeks lived in a world where there was a ‘higher power’ to blame when things went astray. Tragedy needs that kind of origin of evil in order to create characters with enough magnitude to endure or react to the whimsical and arbitrary nature of the gods. In that context suicide is not a nihilistic/relativistic gesture, but rather a meaningful rebellious protest against the laws of the cosmos. Such conflict is especially present in a society that is transitioning from mythos to logos, as was Athens 5th century B.C., as well as in a number of Homeric heroes that suddenly clash against the constraints of the polis.
In his work Radical Theater, Rush Rehm points out that“Generally in tragedy, human characters wielding immoderate force contribute to their own demise … The Greeks knew (at least in principle) that hubris is punished, that power corrupts, and that the powerful tend to forget how tenuous their mastery is until they bring destruction on themselves and others”. The question then is whether there is any sort of free will or if it is our very same character what has already condemned us beforehand. Rehm continues:“Greek tragedy shows tuchê affecting the powerful, who help bring disaster on themselves. By showing past choices affecting present disaster, tragedy demonstrates how hubris paradoxically serves the inexorable ends of moira”. Therefore, the tragic characters basically create their own inescapable luck, although it is all within the illusion that there is freedom of choice in the first place.
The question of suicide is relevant to agency because it is the ultimate decision in human life, the biggest ‘No’ a person can utter. If there is no freedom of choice there, there is no freedom at all. Paradoxically, killing oneself is deciding to abandon the chain of interconnected events, regardless of the fact that such decision might have been motivated by that chain; it is the loudest cry of freedom in a world devised and controlled by the gods. “Almost by definition, Greek tragedy relies on causalities beyond human agency. To put it differently, fate is the enabling circumstance that allows tragic events to take place”. The greatness of tragedy is then examining the reaction of the different characters to such blows of destiny; how they accept or reject them. As with Polyxena in Hecuba, the question is whether to endure or to try to avoid fate with as much dignity as possible.
Counter-intuitive as it may sound, the realization of the truth of over-determination can be the most freeing of all. As Borges showed in The Garden of Forking Paths and The Zahir, the moment we give up on the possibility of taking a truly free decision is extremely liberating. Suicide is the most useful instrument we have to explore the limits of free will, since there is nothing more liberating than the contemplation of the abyss.
Finally, in reference to the modern world’s tendency to justify social injustice by appealing to science and positivism, Rehm argues that even if reality was so, even if we could never escape the inherent injustice of the world, even if the laws of causality were always working on us, that shouldn’t stop us from trying to do good. It may be almost imperceptible, but there might still be a loose hinge that gives us some freedom of choice, and that little glimmer is what makes all the difference: “when facing the tragic question ti drasô, we can do anything we like but refuse to answer it. Human limits are the basis of what freedom we have, and Greek tragedy allows us to engage that paradox without closing our eyes or running the other way”. Even though suicide doesn’t effectively contribute to the social equilibrium, it not only can be an act of protest, but it actually can fundament the freedom of choice that allows us to fight the pre-established order.
If the condition sine qua non for tragedy is the existence of an external agent on which we can blame the injustice of our ‘insignificant’ human problems, then it is impossible to measure justice in any non-human terms. However, there is an ‘irrational categorical imperative’ that tragedy appeals to:
“Disbelief in divine justice as measured by human yardsticks can perfectly well be associated with deep religious feeling. ‘Men’ said Heraclitus, ‘find some things unjust, other things just; but in the eyes of God all things are beautiful and good and just’ (Fragment 102). I think that Sophocles would have agreed. For him, as for Heraclitus, there is an objective world-order which man must respect, but which he cannot fully to understand”.
Such ‘irrational categorical imperative’ shared by Heraclitus and Sophocles can’t have a divine connection, and thus can only be accepted as a human exception that gives a moral meaning to a world that doesn’t have it. Such is the nature of tragedy, and that is what, according to Nietzsche, Euripides starts to deteriorate, giving way to the Christian morality. Mankind has to accept fate at any cost, endure, and through that process, achieve a higher dignity.
Exploring suicide means exploring the limits of existence, the abysm of death by self-imposition. An existentially stimulated society such as Athens 5th century B.C. was certainly keen on facing such a thought-provoking matter and on determining up to what degree life was worth living, as well as when it was acceptable to give up. As Elise P. Garrison points out, “the tragedians use the suicide motif in almost every conceivable way to portray the complicated and painful nature of human existence”. Following Nietzsche, and the principle of Contraria Contrarii Curantur, such explicit dramatic exploration contributes to the value of life and its enrichment, both in Ancient Greece and the contemporary world.
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Aeschylus. The Oresteian Trilogy. Trans. Rush Rehm. Melbourne: Hawthorn, 1979. p. 15
 Source: 2002 pilot from the CDC National Violent Death Reporting System
 Berman Al, Maris, R. W., et al. “ Executive Suicide: Case Studies of Men of Influence”, Proceedings from the Annual Meeting fo the American Association of Suicidiology (30th 1997, Memphis, Tennessee) and Hendind, H. Fall from Power, Suicide of an Executive, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, v. 24, no 3 (Fall 1994)
Homer. The Odyssey. London: Penguin Classics, 2003. p. 147. (Book11.488-491)
 Goldhill, Simon. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. p. 193
 Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Edited and translated by Robert Durling. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. p. 191
 Alighieri, Dante. p. 196
 Williams, Raymond. Modern Tragedy. Stanford: Stanford Universtity Press, 1966. p. 39
Durkheim, Emile. Suicide. A study in Sociology. Trans. J.A. Spaulding and G. Simpson. New York: Free Press, 1996
 Garrison, Elise P. Groaning Tears. Ethical and Dramatic Aspects of Suicide in Greek Tragedy. Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. E. J. Brill. Leiden. 1995. p. 44.
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 32.
 Ibid. p. 13.
 Ibid. p. 32.
 Blundell, Mary W. Helping Friends and Harming Enemies. Cambridge, 1989.
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 33.
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 5
 “Tragedy is not an imitation of persons, but of actions and of life” Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. into English by Malcolm Heath. London: Penguin, 1996. p. 11
Jaeger, Werner. Paideia. The Ideals of Greek Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.
 Garrison, Elise P. p.168.
 Euripides. Medea and other plays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 128-129
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 176.
 Euripides. p.144
 Knox, Bernard. The heroic temper: studies in Sophoclean tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964
 Goldhill, Simon. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 160
Reinhardt, Karl. “Ajax” in Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy. Edited by Erich Segal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. p. 158
 Ibid. p.159
 Ibid. p. 163
 Goldhill, Simon. p. 187
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 46.
Dodds, E. R. The Greeks and the Irrational. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1951
As Bruno Snell pointed out, in Homer there is no dialogue of the soul within itself. Tragedy is the turning point between Homer and philosophy’s later ideas of the self. Snell, B. The Discovery of Mind in Greek Philosophy and Literature. Trans. into English by T. G. Rosenmeyer. New York, 1960.
 Sophocles. Electra and other plays. London: Penguin Classics, 2008. p. 91
Dodds. E. R. “On Misunderstanding Oedipus Rex” in in Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy. Edited by Erich Segal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. p. 189.
 Sophocles. p. 79
 Ibid. p. 93
Steiner, George. The Death of Tragedy. London: Faber and Faber, 1961
 Rehm, Rush. Radical Theatre: Greek Tragedy and the Modern World. London: Duckworth, 2003. p. 76
 Ibid. p. 77
 Suicide is a uniquely human problem, since neither animals nor gods can face it
 Rehm, Rush. p. 79
 Borges, Jorge Luís. Labyrinths. New York: New Directions publishing, 2007
 Rehm, Rush. p. 86
 Dodds. E. R. p. 187.
 Garrison, Elise P. p. 179.
Dodds, E. R. The Greeks and the Irrational. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1951
 Sophocles. Electra and other plays. London: Penguin Classics, 2008. p. 100
 Sophocles. Electra and other plays. London: Penguin Classics, 2008. p. 80
 Garrison, Elise P. Groaning Tears. Ethical and Dramatic Aspects of Suicide in Greek Tragedy. Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. E. J. Brill. Leiden. 1995. p. 48.
 Garrison, Elise P. Groaning Tears. Ethical and Dramatic Aspects of Suicide in Greek Tragedy. Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. E. J. Brill. Leiden. 1995. p. 51.
 Rehm, Rush. Radical Theatre: Greek Tragedy and the Modern World. London: Duckworth, 2003. p. 85
 Rehm, Rush. Radical Theatre: Greek Tragedy and the Modern World. London: Duckworth, 2003. p. 75
 Goldhill, Simon. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. p. 198