By Normand Berlin
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Extra info for The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy
The phrase comes from James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Presenting his theory of tragedy to Lynch, Stephen Dedalus haughtily indicates that Aristotle did not define pity and terror, but that he has: "Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer. " Pity and terror have been the objects of much critical examination. The secret cause, however, although touched by almost every critic in one way or another, in one guise or another (the phrase itself being rarely used, with the notable exceptions of Richard Sewall and Louis Martz), has not received the concentrated attention it demands.
But most important, at this high point in the drama, he makes us acknowledge the emotional life, the irrational and instinctive love that informs Antigone's entire being. He allows us to understand the limitations of narrow reason and cold calculation, associated with Creon. Dionysus is the god whom Oedipus discovered within himself and who must intrude into the story of Oedipus' daughtera heroine who acted madly and instinctively out of love, and who, at the very moment the chorus is singing its song to the potent voice of the night, is herself rushing to the night of the dead.
38). " (p. 42). ] But as mortal man he cannot look too long into that dark reality of self, so, in despair, he blinds himself physically. And he cannot lift the last veil hiding the secret cause of the gods' actions, a cause not accessible or approachable by any efforts of mortal man's reason. Man by reason can destroy a Sphinx, but he cannot know the mysterious workings of an Apollo or Dionysus. And what little he does learn causes pain and suffering, and produces ever-darker questions about the forces within himself and outside himself.