Sophocles’ masterpiece is the cycle, named by the specialists The Theban Plays, or the Oedipus cycle. They tell the story of the mythical king Oedipus of Thebes and his descendants. The plays were written across thirty-six years and were not composed in chronological order. Towering over the rest of Greek tragedy, the three plays that tell the story of the fated Theban royal family—Antigone, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus—are among the most enduring and timeless dramas about the quest for power, war and violence ever written.

In the Oresteia Aeschylus addressed the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos. As they move from darkness to light, from rage to self-governance, from primitive ritual to civilized institution, their spirit of struggle and regeneration becomes an everlasting song of celebration. Forming an elegant and subtle discourse on the emergence of Athenian democracy out of a period of chaos and destruction, The Oresteia is a compelling tragedy of the tensions between our obligations to our families and the laws that bind us together as a society. 

Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad mentions or alludes to many of the Greek legends about the siege; the earlier events, such as the gathering of warriors for the siege, the cause of the war, and related concerns tend to appear near the beginning. Then the epic narrative takes up events prophesied for the future, such as Achilles' looming death and the sack of Troy.

In Paradise Lost Milton produced poem of epic scale, conjuring up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos and ranging across huge tracts of space and time, populated by a memorable gallery of grotesques. And yet, in putting a charismatic Satan and naked, innocent Adam and Eve at the centre of this story, he also created an intensely human tragedy on the Fall of Man. Written when Milton was in his fifties - blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration and in danger of execution - Paradise Lost's apparent ambivalence towards authority has led to intense debate about whether it manages to 'justify the ways of God to men', or exposes the cruelty of Christianity.

The Divine Comedy is Dante's record of his visionary journey through the triple realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. This, the first 'epic' of which its author is the protagonist and his individual imaginings the content, weaves together the three threads of Classical and Christian history; contemporary Medieval politics and religion; and Dante's own inner life including his love for Beatrice, to create the most complex and highly structured long poem extant. Through the depths of Hell in the Inferno, and upwards along the mountain of Purgatory in the Purgatorio, Dante is guided by Virgil, the great poet of the Classical Roman Empire, exploring, as he does so, the political, ethical and religious issues of his time.

When Prince Hamlet returns home to Elsinore Castle for his father’s funeral, he discovers that his uncle Claudius has already crowned himself king. Hamlet begins to suspect something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark, and a visit from his father’s ghost confirms it. Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder, but his consuming obsession yields only crushing grief, overwhelming rage, and a descent into madness.

Resonating with every generation over the centuries, Shakespeare’s profoundly chilling family drama is among the most quoted works from the Shakespearean canon.

Written during the turmoil of the English Civil War, Leviathan is an ambitious and highly original work of political philosophy. Claiming that man's essential nature is competitive and selfish, Hobbes formulates the case for a powerful sovereign—or "Leviathan"—to enforce peace and the law, substituting security for the anarchic freedom he believed human beings would otherwise experience. This worldview shocked many of Hobbes's contemporaries, and his work was publicly burnt for sedition and blasphemy when it was first published. But in his rejection of Aristotle's view of man as a naturally social being, and in his painstaking analysis of the ways in which society can and should function, Hobbes opened up a whole new world of political science.

As a young Florentine envoy to the courts of France and the Italian principalities, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was able to observe firsthand the lives of people strongly united under one powerful ruler. His fascination with that political rarity and his intense desire to see the Medici family assume a similar role in Italy provided the foundation for his "primer for princes." In this classic guide to acquiring and maintaining political power, Machiavelli used a rational approach to advise prospective rulers, developing logical arguments and alternatives for a number of potential problems, among them governing hereditary monarchies, dealing with colonies and the treatment of conquered peoples.

In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple’s strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago’s false insinuations about Desdemona’s infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello’s horrifying verbal and physical assaults

"Brad Evans" "Histories of Violence" "University of Bristol"

Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future is a book by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886. It draws on and expands the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but with a more critical and polemical approach. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche accuses past philosophers of lacking critical sense and blindly accepting dogmatic premises in their consideration of morality. Specifically, he accuses them of founding grand metaphysical systems upon the faith that the good man is the opposite of the evil man, rather than just a different expression of the same basic impulses that find more direct expression in the evil man. 

"Brad Evans" "Histories of Violence" "University of Bristol"

Fiction