Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dee Clayman

Committee Members

Jennifer Roberts

Lawrence Kowerski


Greek tragedy, hubris, ate, nemesis, tisis


In this dissertation, I discuss the revolutionary ways in which the three great Attic tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides are breaking and reforming the tragic cycle of hybris-ate-nemesis-tisis, known to us from Homer and found as a common plot element in Greek literature. I examine cases where the process of vengeance and retribution of ate-nemesis-tisis in Attic tragedy is not initiated due to the hybris of the tragic hero. I further theorize that wherever we observe an abnormality or redefinition of the so-called tragic cycle, this is not a random event but a rather significant poetic moment worth further attention. In the cases where the sequence is redefined by the three great Attic tragedians, it is usually an inescapable external force, such as fate, necessity, or the human passions of the gods (e.g. jealousy, punishment for self-entertainment, etc.), that substitutes for an element of the sequence and brings a tragic hero to destruction.

I put the above statement to test by examining all extant tragedies and fragments of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides by using the tragic cycle as a theoretical tool for my analysis. In this research, additional attention is paid to the meaning of hybris-ate-nemesis-tisis, and I occasionally suggest a different English translation for certain passages, where the terms operate as parts of the sequence. Figures which schematically represent how the tragic cycle operates in each examined case are provided, showing the transition of the hero from happiness to misfortune. Finally, I examine more equivocal cases where, despite the fact that the tragic cycle seems to be following its expected route, there is still strong evidence of a deliberate deviation from a sequence otherwise expected to result in the restoration of justice or the religious order.