Eras Journal – Willis, C. Abstract
Abstract of Willis, C. “Conceptions of Language and Reality in Euripides’Helen”.
Euripides’ Helen is indeed a curious play. Its seemingly unconventional resolution has led some to describe it, rather paradoxically, as a ‘Greek tragedy with a happy ending’.
This paper suggests that the Helen is best understood as a poetic expression of certain philosophical ideas from the fifth century; in particular, the play seems to explore the relationship between language and reality. In the first section it is argued that Euripides challenges early,’naïve’, conceptions of this relationship, as other notable philosophers before him had.
The next section focuses on the influence Protagoras may have had over Euripides, and the ways in which Euripides makes use of particular Sophistic rhetorical devices in the Helen. Finally, it is suggested that the prominent themes of doubleness and contradiction in the Helen can be explained most appropriately in terms of Herakleitos’ ‘unity of opposites’ theory; in turn, it explores how this might help to illuminate Protagoras’ Man-Measure philosophy.