Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Greek Tragedy and a trip to the Court of Appeal

No, not the tragedy of a once proud and mighty nation being suffocated with ignominy as a result of its ongoing membership of the Eurozone. I’m thinking of the ancient works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the three common stages of most (if not all) of their works. Let’s use the Sophoclean masterpiece Oedipus Tyrannus to illustrate them.

Hubris: unwittingly, Oedipus kills his father King Laius of Thebes and marries his mother Jocasta, fulfilling an ancient prophecy in the process. Years later, with Thebes stricken by plague, which the Delphic oracle attributes to the stigma of King Laius’ murderer having never been caught, he embarks on an investigation.

Nemesis: Oedipus is confronted by the inescapable truth, having questioned an eyewitness to the murder, a shepherd who once gave away an unwanted child of Laius and Jocasta rather than leaving it to die of exposure on a mountainside, the child then being raised by King Polybus of Corinth and Queen Merope as if it was their own.

Catharsis: Oedipus blinds himself and goes into exile.

We could sum these stages up as a wrongful act of brazen arrogance, retribution for that act, and transformation through cleaning or purging. In Greek tragedy, the last of these could apply to the audience as much as the main character.

Back to the present day and the Court of Appeal, for a winning decision on 5th March in a case involving allegations of wrongful post-termination solicitation of customers, and breach of directors’ fiduciary duties. Sparing chapter and verse on the parties for now, but with a promise to put up a link to the judgment once it’s published, the case may have been a modern day Greek tragedy. The hubris of soliciting the customers and breaching the duties. The nemesis of the appeal judgment, following on from the initial nemesis of the trial judgment, defied via the appeal. Leaving the catharsis, the precise nature of which is perhaps best left unaddressed for the moment.

Hubris, Nemesis and Catharsis. Now, there’s a possible book title. Let’s get to work.

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