The Processes of Eavesdropping: Where Tragedy, Comedy and Philosophy Converge
Eavesdropping scenes, where one of the characters eavesdrops or spies on one or several of the other characters (usually with the knowledge of at least one of them) will serve as my point of departure for exploring the relations between tragedy, comedy and philosophy. The eavesdropper is a spectator inside the fictional world who because of what he (and most frequently it is a male) learns by eavesdropping or just by carrying out this act of transgression is transformed into a victim. I exemplify with Polonius (in Hamlet, III, 4) and Orgon (in Tartuffe, IV, 5), who are physically situated in a focal (liminal) point where the eavesdroppers become vulnerable and can quickly be transformed from tragic to comic figures and vice versa, transgressing the generic borderlines between tragedy, melodrama, comedy and farce. There are also many instances where philosophical discourses originate from an eavesdropping situation, the most obvious being the form of teaching practiced by Pythagoras, lecturing to his students from behind a curtain. My article also examines examples of eavesdropping in the writings of Plato and Walter Benjamin.
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