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Lecture Tenth. The Religion of Greece.

The movement through Pantheism to Subjective Religion in the Upanishads — The Greek Phase of Objective Religion — How its Anthropomorphism mediates the Transition to Subjective Religion — That it (1) Humanises the Nature-Powers; and (2) Substitutes a Relation to Man for the Relation to Nature — Characteristics of Greek Art — Tendency to Unify Greek Polytheism: (1) by setting Fate above the Gods; and (2) by introducing the Monotheistic Idea — Herodotus and the Tragedians.

IN the last lecture I attempted to deal with the general characteristics of what I have called objective religion, i.e. the religion in which God, who is properly conceived as the unity beyond all differences, especially the difference of subject and object, is represented as one object among others. I pointed out that, while the object selected as divine need not be man, and in the earliest times is generally not man, yet that object, whatever it be, is commonly regarded as the ancestor of the family or tribe that worships it; because blood-relationship is as yet the only type under which the alliance of man with man, and therefore also the alliance of man with God, can be conceived. In this way, the god is viewed as an ancestor whose blood flows in all the members of a kinship, and whose office is to protect it against other kinships and their rival gods. Such a system is necessarily polytheistic, in the sense that it acknowledges a multiplicity of divine powers, who are opposed to each other as are the kinships they protect. Polytheism, in the sense of the worship of many gods, seems often to arise by the coalescence of many kinships into a wider society, or by the conquest of one kinship by another.

Now I pointed out that a culminating point in the development of such polytheism is that in which we have a heavenly god or gods raised to a position of superiority over the other gods. Such a worship has in many nations been the indication of the rise of a wider national consciousness. Of this process the sun-worship of Peru, the heaven-worship of China, the Egyptian worship of the celestial powers that produce the vicissitude of night and day, summer and winter, are different instances. But the highest example of it is found in the Vedic hymns, wherein the early Aryans expressed their consciousness of a divinity which manifested itself in the heavenly and elemental powers, and which also was the source of the nobler stream of life that ran in their own veins, as contrasted with the other races of India against whom they were fighting.

The Vedic, like the Egyptian religion, was a kind of polytheism; for the different heavenly forms deified were regarded as separate powers which in a manner supplemented one another. But, on the other hand, the worship of such powers itself carried with it a kind of physical suggestion of universality and unity which was never quite lost sight of. The result of this was the phenomenon which Professor Max Müller has called Henotheism. Each divinity at the moment of worship swells out into a universal power and absorbs all the others, or again the different divinities are easily melted together into one by a new effort of imaginative construction. Finally, as reflexion advances, this wavering and uncertain picture of ‘gods many and lords many,’ comes to be regarded as a mere show and appearance of diversity, in which the one infinite being masks himself. The Indian mind is never very far from an abstract pantheism, and before the Vedic collection of hymns was completed, it had reached and expressed it with no uncertain sound. Thus, even at this early date, objective religion was attempting to escape from the finitude which necessarily attaches to objects, as such, into the abyss of a negative infinite. And the outward change which raised a priestly contemplative caste above all the others, and especially above the proud Aryan warriors who still held the supremacy in the early Vedic age, was highly favourable to such a transition. India, in fact, never developed a higher social life than that of the warlike Aryan tribes of the Indus; and these, in the progress of their conquests of India, lost hold of that national consciousness which was just dawning among them before they were severed from each other. And the work of conquest itself, while it maintained their superiority as a caste or castes of nobler origin, produced no higher social organisation than that of an aggregation of subject tribes under a despotic ruler. For the same reason, their polytheism did not develop towards the comparative order of the Greek pantheon; and the increasing anthropomorphism of later times brought with it only an additional source of disorder. Hence also the growing consciousness of a unity beneath the multiplicity of the gods could only take an abstract form, the form of an undefined Being or Substance, out of which all was supposed to come and to which everything must return. The Brahmanic religion only rose to a pantheism, which was an acosmism, to a unity which was no principle of order in the manifold differences of things, but merely a gulf in which all difference was lost. And the ethics which could spring from such a faith was only the negative ethics of an asceticism which renounced the world and withdrew from it as an empty illusion. The Upanishads, which contain the last philosophic expression of the Vedic religion, celebrate in endless variety of phrase the triumph of the soul over the objective world, which it leaves behind in its nothingness, in order that it may lose itself in the Infinite Being.

In the Upanishads we have also another change, the change from objective to subjective religion; but of that I do not wish as yet to speak. Here I wish rather to deal with another form of what we may still regard as objective religion, though, owing to the character of the object which it selects as divine, it is widely separated from most other religions of this type. In a sense, all the religions of which we have spoken are vaguely anthropomorphic, just because they want a consciousness of the distinction between man and other beings. Greek religion also is anthropomorphic, but it is as with a clear consciousness of that distinction. It is the first religion which definitely conceives man as the highest of natural beings, and, because he is the highest, regards his nature as that which is most like to the divine. It is the first which distinctly levels nature up to man, instead of levelling man down to nature. It, therefore, not only personifies the natural powers which it lifts to heaven but humanises them. Starting from the basis of something like the Vedic worship of the powers of nature, it proceeds to invest these powers with a complete human individuality, which sometimes altogether conceals that basis. In the Vedas the heavens, the fire, the winds, the storm are presented as deities in vivid individualised images, but such individualisation is only for the moment of poetic vision: it does not hinder the power so envisaged from returning in the next moment into the vagueness of a mere natural object, which itself is easily merged in the unity of nature. In Greece, on the other hand, each aspect or form of nature which is grasped by the fancy of mythology, once for all takes on an individuality, which is so definite and characteristic that it seems to detach itself altogether from its natural root. In gods like Apollo and Athene the traces of a naturalistic origin remain only, like the fawn ears of Donatello in Hawthorne's romance, as a faint indication of that out of which they have developed. In others, such as Poseidon or Pan, the traces may be more distinct; but all have been to a large extent humanised and liberated from the bonds of outward necessity. This depression of nature into a subordinate place, or, if you like, this rise of man above nature, was the essential change by which the Greek genius broke away from the original Aryan stock, and entered upon its separate course of development; and certain parts of the Greek mythology itself, such as the legends about the conquest of the earlier gods by the gods of Olympus, seem to indicate that the Greeks themselves were not without a consciousness of this change. Nor can we be content to regard such myths only as glimpses of truth resting upon some half-forgotten tradition of the past. Rather, we must recognise in them the expression of a contrast upon which the Greek mind is continually dwelling, and which furnishes the great theme of its mythology The idea of humanity—meaning by humanity the peculiar powers of intelligence and will by which man is distinguished from the animals—as victorious over nature, i.e. over brute force guided only by instinct and passion—is a central thought which reproduces itself in almost every Greek myth: in the war of the Olympians with the Titans, in the slaying of the Python by Apollo, in the hunting of Artemis, in the labours of Herakles. In many of these myths, indeed, we may detect an original naturalistic meaning, a solar or elemental significance; but this, even in the earliest poetry of Greece, has fallen altogether into the background or received a new interpretation. The progress of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac has been lost in the civilising labours of the hero who rids the earth of its monsters; and the wild animals that surrounded the Ephesian goddess of production have been changed into the conquered victims of the—queen and huntress, chaste and fair.—The gods of Greece are powers that make, perhaps we may not say strictly, ‘for righteousness,’ but certainly for civilisation. They are man's forerunners in the work of taming and subduing nature into his servant; and it is his glory that he can follow them in their labours. If the Greek regards himself as superior to the men of other races, it is just because he conceives himself to be specially gifted with this ordering intelligence, which does not rush blindly to its aims, but with wise self-restraint and subordination of impulse, considers deliberately the means whereby they are to be attained. Aristotle, when he tells us that the barbarians have only reason enough to obey a rational authority which is placed without them in another, but that the Greeks alone possess the reason that can originate and command, is only expressing in a less naïve manner a thought that is already present to Homer, when he makes the Greeks advance to battle in ordered and silent ranks under wise commanders inspired by Athene, while the Trojans stream out in a confused and shouting mob, driven forward by Ares, the god who is the embodiment of animal ferocity and reckless passion.

We can detect two steps in the process of humanising, which the Greek gods undergo. Of the first of these we have already spoken, and it was in great part completed even at the time of Homer. The gods of Greece, even while they were still conceived as nature-powers, become more and more distinctly humanised and individualised; whereas in most Asiatic religions and particularly in the Vedic system, they are only personified; and their fictitious personality easily melts away into the natural power or principle from which for a moment it has been detached by the poetic effort after realisation. The reason is that the eye of the Asiatic poet was really upon nature and not upon man. He might indeed, attribute human faculties and relationships to the gods, but he did not seek in any further way to bring them near to himself. But the Greek was not satisfied with this; he sought to realise every trait of character and outward appearance, till the god became as definitely individualised for the imagination as any earthly hero. Indeed, in the clear atmosphere of the Homeric muse, where the heroes are exalted by reverence above the ordinary level of humanity, and the gods are drawn down towards it by the need for imaginative realisation, the only distinction left seems to be the freedom of the gods from decay and death, from the limit of mortality to which the heroes are still subjected; and even that limit could be crossed, and was supposed to have been crossed in one transcendent instance. As Aristotle says: men become gods, δἰ ἀρϵτη̑ϛ ὑπϵρβόλην, by transcendent merit. “The gods are immortal men and men are mortal gods.” if, therefore, we still regard the Greek divinities as nature-powers, yet this means only that every natural agency is explained, and, we might even say, explained away, by an idealised human figure, through whom its obscure meaning is raised into the articulate language of human passion and human will.

And this necessarily goes along with another change. Not only are the gods humanised, but in the case at least of many of the most prominent figures of Greek mythology, the connexion of the god with nature becomes loosened, and a new connexion with human life is substituted in its place. The change by which the life of the country, the pastoral and agricultural life, dependent on incalculable natural powers for its success, becomes subordinated to the life of cities, with its artificial wants and resources and its relative freedom from the bondage of nature, hastened this new development. Hence Zeus, the god of heaven, who in earlier times was almost identified with the heaven itself, came to be looked upon mainly as the god of justice, the source of all rightful order and authority in the state. Apollo's connexion with the outward light of the sun fell into the background, and he was thought of mainly as the god of poetry and prophecy, whose inspiration must guide the minds of men when their own wisdom fails. Athene, even in Homer, has already ceased to be the heavenly fire, the lightning which bursts from the head of Zeus, and has become the source of that practical wisdom, that valour mixed with prudence and self-command, which was to find its real embodiment in the civic life of Athens. The interests of art and science, as well as of a political and social life which, for the first time, was based not mainly on kinship, but rather on law and constitution had become the absorbing interests of existence, and they were therefore those with which the idea of the divine was most closely associated.

Now, in this humanising of the gods there is a certain ambiguity which deserves to be carefully considered. In selecting the human form as that which is peculiarly divine, the Greek might seem to be doing little more than had been done by those who worshipped phytomorphic and zoomorphic gods, or by those who deified the heavens or the sun. For the god is still identified with an object which is externally related to other objects; and so long as this is the case, it seems of comparatively little importance what object is selected. Thought is still in that lowest form, in which the consciousness of God and the consciousness of self are forced to hide their real characteristics under a sensuous disguise. The spiritual is still presented in the shape of the natural. But, though this is true, the selection of this particular object is a great step toward the discovery of the defect of the whole objective way of representing the things of the spirit. For man is a self, whether he is aware of the full significance of being a self or not. The being who knows may not as yet be clearly distinguished from a thing that is known; but still the fact that he is a subject as well as an object cannot but affect the conception of him as an object. Hence a religion that conceives the principle of unity in all things under the form of man, is on the way towards the conception of that principle as a subject, which is above all objects, and which therefore can find its true manifestation only in the inner life of those who are subjects like itself. The Greek religion is thus placed between the outward and the inward, between objective and subjective religion. It is unable to attain the latter, because it looks at man mainly as an object; it is unable to be content with the former, because the object it has selected owes its distinctive character to its being also a subject.

The effect of this ambiguous position of the Greek religion is to favour the development of art and poetry, and indeed to make art and poetry the highest expression of the religious idea. For art and poetry are the necessary expression of the spiritual, so long as it has to be expressed in the form of the natural, or so long as a consciousness of the spiritual, as separated from and opposed to the natural, has not yet arisen. In nations which have not reached this stage, as among the Indians, the Egyptians, and the Phœnicians, we do, indeed, find a kind of art; but generally this art takes the form of a symbolism, which is sometimes grotesque and extravagant, or of a mere magnificence of size and colour. The builders of the pyramids, like those of the tower of Babel, seemed to be trying to reach the infinite by adding finite to finite. And the Indians often sought, by distortions or inconsistent combinations of all kinds of natural shapes, to suggest a meaning for which they had as yet no distinct word of utterance. The sphynxes of Egypt and Assyria were efforts to find expression for a secret which seemed everywhere to be hinted at, but nowhere fully manifested. But the Greek had at least discovered that the solution of the riddle of the sphynx lies in man and in man only; that it, the human form divine the secret is clearly revealed which nature elsewhere utters only in dark and mysterious language. The last word of the Egyptian religion was the inscription on the veil of the goddess Isis, ‘I am that which is, that which hath been, and that which will be; no man hath lifted my veil’: in other words, the religion of Egypt ends with the idea of a pantheistic unity, in which all finite forms are lost, and which is symbolised by all but expressed by none of them. The Greek, on the other hand, has discovered that finite objects are not to be set side by side as symbols of a truth which cannot be revealed, but rather that man is, as we might express it in modern language, the last term of an evolutionary series, in which the meaning of all other existences is summed up and for the first time brought to clear expression. Man is thus, to use a word of later Greek philosophy, ‘the measure of all things,’ because he is the culmination of all things. Yet, as the subjective consciousness, the consciousness of the self in its full opposition to the not-self, has not yet made its appearance, man, though the ultimate term of nature, is not yet conceived as in any way separated from nature. In him nature is made vocal and self-conscious, but the consciousness of self is not yet regarded as giving him an inner life of his own, which in any way cuts him off from the natural basis of his existence. He is the youngest child of nature upon whom her highest favours have been bestowed, but he has not yet rebelled against his parent, still less does he claim to have a higher origin.

Now it is this consciousness that lifts the Greek above the Asiatic, frees him from a superstitious reverence for powers alien to himself, and gives him courage as an artist to break away from the traditions of his Egyptian and Phoenician teachers. The Greek artist frees himself at a very early period from the bonds of the conventional and the grotesque, from the stiffness, the lifelessness, and the bizarre distortion of natural form, which we so often meet with in the art of the East; and he soon learns to give to his figures that plastic individuality and moving grace which makes the human form the living expression of human thought and passion. Yet, as he is still in the golden mean of art,—as he has only discovered that which lifts man above nature, but not yet that which lifts him above himself—there is no straining after the utterance of that which can never be fully expressed in the form of sensuous perception or imagination. The spirit has not yet outgrown its fleshly vesture, or begun to regard it as a prison house. In Asiatic and Egyptian art the soul is not yet sufficiently awake completely to inform the body: in modern art it often

“frets the puny body to decay,

And o’er-informs the tenement of clay.”

In Greece it is, as in the crowning moment of youth, in which soul and body are in perfect balance with each other and with the world; when pain and disease have not yet disturbed the harmony of man with himself and with things, and when the demands of desire do not yet seem to have outgrown the possibilities of earthly satisfaction. In such a time all that is needful for the artist is to omit a few disturbing features, to clear away a few stains of imperfection and finitude, to erase a few traces of weakness and dependence, in order to exalt man into an image of the mighty gods; just as, on the other hand, it is only the fate of mortality that appears to separate him from them. The universal, the infinite, the spiritual, the divine, are as yet known only as that, the whole import of which may be gathered up in a single human form; or, at least as that which requires for its expression only that such a form should be generalised, idealised, and freed from the blemishes that cling to the individualised existence of particular men. It was of this that Goethe was thinking when he said that the characteristic of Greek art is Bedeutsamkeit, or significance; in other words, that its products are characteristic forms from which everything has been removed that is amorphous, inorganic or accidental, everything that does not go to the expression of the spirit of life within. In like manner Greek religion may be said to dwell in a middle region of imagination, lifted above the accidents of individual existence, yet not quite attaining to the universal. Or, to put it in another way, its gods are still represented as objects, yet as objects of a peculiarly ideal character which do not take rank among ordinary objects. But such a golden mean is difficult, nay impossible, to maintain; it is like the perfect blossom of youth, which is no sooner reached than it has begun to pass away. If we speak of Greek religion in its actuality, we must admit that it existed only in process to attain to this point, and that it had no sooner attained it, than it was fatally carried beyond it. The Greek religious idea was thus of an essentially transitionary character—involving a kind of unstable equilibrium between the objective and the subjective, the natural and the spiritual, the particular and the universal. For, as man may be regarded in two aspects, as an object or as a subject; and as he cannot be considered in his distinction from other natural objects without the subjective aspect of his being coming to some extent into view, so the selection of him as the objective embodiment of the divine might be said to be equivalent to placing the religious consciousness upon an inclined plane, on which it could not but be gradually driven forward from objective to subjective religion. A few remarks will be sufficient to show the nature of this movement.

Greek religion springs, as we have seen, from a worship of the powers of nature, similar to that which we find among the Aryans of northern India in the Vedic period. But such a worship is, as we have also seen, a Henotheism, i.e. it wavers between the one and the many, between a polytheism and a pantheism, the latter of which gradually gains ground upon the former, as the nation becomes more reflective. Now, something similar to this Happens also in Greece; but it is greatly modified by the anthropomorphic character of the Greek religion, which hides the abstract unity under a multiplicity, not of powers of nature which easily pass into each other, but of humanised divinities, each of which has all the fulness of a distinct individuality, all the riches of a definite character. Gods like Zeus, or Athene, or Hermes resist the process of fusion which would melt them into one divine power, in a much more stubborn way than forms like Varuna or Mitra, Agni or lndra. The humanising of the gods gives to each of them an independent substantiality, makes each of them a whole in himself, a microcosm which will not readily sink back to be lost in the macrocosm. Hence, when the desire for unity awakes, Greek religion at first seeks to satisfy it by the conception of monarchically arranged pantheon, in which the highest god is not supreme or absolute, but has many powers subordinate to him, to whom he is obliged to make partial concessions. This is the general picture of the Olympian heaven which is presented to its in Homer. The primitive desire of the Greek mind for order and system was sufficiently satisfied by an organisation of the heavenly powers similar to that which existed on earth, in which a king supported and limited by a council of nobles, ruled, rather by prestige than force, over a generally submissive though sometimes recalcitrant multitude.

At the same time, the genius of religion is necessarily at war with this simple application of the finite relations of men to the divine. The marked outlines of character and individuality in the Homeric gods were partly due to the poet's effort to realise and picture his dramatis persona; and we cannot suppose that the popular religion was ever so distinct and definite in its conceptions. In fact, even in Homer, we can see that the gods, in what has well been called their ex cathedra functions, as givers of good and executors of justice, are not thought of quite in the same way as when they are taken as the subjects of particular legends. Furthermore, there are already at work two different tendencies, both of which make for unity, though their effects cannot as yet be clearly distinguished from each other. One of these tendencies gives rise to the notion of an abstract power of fate, to which even the gods are subjected; while the other favours an exaltation of Zeus which would make him absorb all the other divine powers. The former may be regarded as pointing to the abstract unity of pantheism, in which all the Vedic divinities lose themselves; while the latter rather foreshadows a monotheistic solution of the difficulty, as it points to the idea of one great self-conscious power in which all the separate deities are merged, with the loss of their independent individuality but not of their spiritual nature.

Now the subsequent progress of the religious thought of Greece lay just in the development of these two tendencies: first, in the growth of the consciousness of a divine unity, which was conceived in a very abstract way as a fate or law of necessity; and, secondly, in the advance from this abstract or pantheistic unity to that idea of spiritual principle which is implied in monotheism.

In the earlier period of Greek history, the pantheistic unity tends, in literature at least, to prevail over the manifold polytheism of the Homeric age. Herodotus often prefers to speak of the divine power in an impersonal way, and to treat it as practically identical with a Nemesis, or fate, which manifests itself mainly in keeping finite beings within the limits of their finitude, and in bringing back their transitory existence in a few years to the nothingness from which it has emerged. And, though it may be true that in Herodotus there are occasional hints at the moral lesson that pride goes before a fall, yet it cannot be said that in his general conception of the limits set to humanity there is any distinct idea of a moral necessity. When he expresses it personally, what he speaks of is the “envy of the gods” that “will not permit anyone to be wanton, but themselves”; and we can only escape attributing to him all the superstitious consequences of this conception by regarding it simply as a poetic expression for the limitation that necessarily clings to finitude. Taken in this sense, we might perhaps treat it as a popular equivalent for the language of the philosopher Heraclitus, who declares that the one permanent thing in the world is the law of change under which no finite thing remains for two moments the same. On this view the passing away of the finite is no external destiny forced upon it by unpropitious powers. The finite exists only as it passes away, and the more desperately and proudly it tries to assert itself against the law of mortality, the quicker is the recoil of its doom upon it. “If the sun transgressed its paths, the Erinyes would drag him back.”

Now, it is this thought that supplies the basis from which Greek tragedy starts. If we compare Homer with the Tragedians, we see that in the interval a chilling sense of the limits of mortality has fallen upon the Greek mind. The dark shadow, which in the former is hidden by the force and variety of the life that occupies the foreground of the picture, has begun to reveal itself more clearly. The bright play of mythology is now seen to have an iron heart. The varied picture of the action and reaction, of the victories and defeats of free individualities, human and divine, is but a mask on the stern face of necessity. What must be, must be, is the end of all. There is no pleading with fate and no final reconciliation that reaches beyond it. Necessity is hidden even in the acts that seek to overcome or evade it; and often, as in the story of Oedipus, by a hind of irony of destiny, the struggles of the victim are turned into the means of bringing about the very doom they would avert. The only deliverance for the soul is in the hopeless fearless heroism which simply accepts its fate, and by a final effort of resignation detaches itself from all the interests that fate has assailed. In such a view there is no consolation nor hope; but the heroic spirit can do without either. The hero can accepts his doom, not, like the monotheist, as the decree of a righteous and irresistible will; nor, like the Christian, as the manifestation of an absolute spiritual power which has in itself the cure for every wound which it inflicts; but simply as necessity, with which it is useless, and therefore degrading, to strive.1

At the same time, while this is the general basis or presupposition of Greek tragedy, we can trace in it the growth of other ideas which were ultimately to triumph over it, if not in the religion, at least in the philosophy of Greece. What Aeschylus and Sophocles put upon the stage is not simply the vain attempt of mortal man to escape the fate of mortality, the effort of finite wills to claim more than is allowed to finitude, and the consequent recoil of their destiny upon them. Nor is it even the simple moral lesson that excess and insolence bring retribution upon themselves. It is rather the tragic collision of interests, each of which has a real moral basis and a claim to its own place in life; but which is driven to assert that claim in opposition to other interests, which also have their own legitimate place, their own ethical basis. The tragic conflict is not between right and wrong, but between right and right.2 When Prometheus rebels against Zeus, when the Eumenides claim as their victim the divinely missioned servant of Apollo, this, as Aeschylus saw, is no contest in which all the pleas of justice are on one side; it is a struggle of mighty spiritual powers, the absolute destruction of either of which would bring ruin to the ethical life of man. And the work of fate is, therefore, after many sacrifices of the individuals who have wronged either interest, to bring about a healing compromise, in which the lower right shall take its place beside, but subordinate to, the higher. Prometheus has to reveal his secret, and to save the monarchy of a Zeus who has become just and reconciled to men. The Eumenides, the old gods that watch over the sanctity of the family bond, must yield to the higher claims of the gods of the state; but, at the same time, they must find a temple near the Areopagus, the seat of the court which has freed their victim from his guilt. In Sophocles this equipoise is less definitely kept up. He, perhaps owing to a deeper ethical consciousness, rejects the Aeschylean compromises in moral conflicts, and lets the opposite rights fight it out to the bitter end; but he still more definitely emphasises the lesson that the conflict is a moral one. And his last word, in Oedipus Coloneus, is to distinguish between the outward act of him who, in following out one legitimate interest has been led unconsciously into the violation of another, from his inward character Such an one the gods at last save as by fire in a divine deliverance, though only after he has suffered the consequences of his unlawful act. Destiny thus becomes a moral law, which permits the individual who has, however unwittingly, violated a moral interest, to suffer for his wrong; but which at the last allows a deeper voice of divine justice to be heard, a voice which regards not his act but his will. The subjective claim of right is thus beginning to interfere, even in Sophocles, with the purely objective demands of the law.

Finally, in Euripides this subjective element becomes so prominent that the idea of an external law of destiny seems to be all but lost. The outward world is left to a capricious power sometimes called fate, but often and more appropriately, chance; it is regarded as a medley in which it is difficult to discern either a law of necessity or a divine purpose; as the outward play of romantic accident which has its main interest in the fact that it somehow stirs into activity the inward play of thought and feeling.3 The divine voice is now heard, if at all only in the inner oracle of the heart, and the real tragedy, the real victories and defeats, are those that are won or lost by the soul in its struggles with itself. Euripides is a rationalist and a sceptic, not only as regards the deities of mythology, but in the sense that he has learnt to doubt the existence of any divine power manifested in the outward world. But, in place of belief in a God without, he substitutes for it a faith in the God within, which contains the promise of a new religion. Hence if Euripides is the least perfect of the Greek dramatic artists, it is partly at least because he is inspired with a new idea, which is inconsistent with the principle upon which the Greek drama rested. The grand outward balance of destiny, which Aeschylus and Sophocles tried to represent, loses its interest for a poet whose eye is turned almost exclusively upon the inner struggle that rends the heart of a Medea or a Phaedra; and the only solution for which he really cares is, not the outward Aeschylean judgment that places the temple of the Eumenides beside the, temple of Athene, but the victory over self achieved by an Alcestis or a Makaria. In Euripides we see already the dawn of the new modern tragedy, in which the inner predominates over the outer life and each one's fate is simply the evolution of his own soul,—the tragedy of which we find the types in Shakespeare.

  • 1. Cf. Hegel, xii.132; vi.295.
  • 2. Cf. Hegel, ii. 321 seq.
  • 3. Cf. e.g. Hecuba, 957:

    Οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν πιστὸν οὔτ᾽ ϵὐδοξία Οὔτ᾽ αὐ̑ καλω̑ς πράσσοντα μὴ πράξϵιν κακω̑ς. Φύρουσω δ᾽ αὐτὰ θεοὶ πάλιν τϵ καὶ πρόσω, Ταραγμὸν ἐντιθέντϵς, ὡς ἀγνωσίᾳ Σέβωμϵν αὐτούς.