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Eight Great Plays — As Literature and As Philosophy

This course is designed to give you the ability to understand, judge and savor the values offered by great drama. (The Cyrano lecture was not part of the original lecture series.) Recommended translations are included.

Basic Principles

Antigone by Sophocles
Introduction to the principles of analyzing drama. Esthetic enjoyment as the primary. Plot-theme as the essence of the action and the key to a play. Antigone as a great heroine — the only Greek protagonist with free will.

Othello by William Shakespeare
Iago as the blackest villain in literature. The brilliance of the climax and resolution.

Le Cid by Pierre Corneille
The “Corneilian hero.” Understanding the ambiguous ending by grasping Corneille’s unique concept of honor.

Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller
The difficulty in naming the plot-theme and the protagonist. The Grand Inquisitor scene as the most dramatic and philosophic in all of theater.

An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
The play’s hero as a rare character in literature: a this-worldly idealist. Why the happy ending is logical. How Ibsen’s theme is undercut by his view of truth as non-absolute.

Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw
The essential conflict between Joan and the nobility and Church. The ingenuity of the plot. The genius against society.

Monna Vanna by Maurice Maeterlinck
The artistry of the plot-theme. How Guido’s metaphysical view of man keeps him from seeing the truth about Vanna.

This session integrates the previous seven classes and answers such questions as: Which play has the most ingenious plot-theme? The most admirable hero? Which play is objectively the best?

Cyrano de Bergeracby Edmond Rostand
Rostand’s brilliant portrayal of Cyrano’s courage, intellect, poetic soul — and proper attitude toward his nose. Why the line “A man can have too much happiness” is the key to the play’s deeper meaning.

Order Information

All of Leonard Peikoff’s lectures may be ordered from the Ayn Rand Bookstore via their website, or by calling them at 1-800-729-6149 (U.S. or Canada), or 1-949-222-6557 (International).