Life as Play, Life as a Play: Montaigne and the Epicureans

Phillip Mitsis

in Classical Constructions

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199218035
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191711534 | DOI:
Life as Play, Life as a Play: Montaigne and the Epicureans

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This chapter begins with a passage from Montaigne’s Essays and the use that it makes of Lucretius, and concentrates on is its image of life as a play. It is interested in the way that the passage gives voice to a deeper set of conceptual tensions that can be found in our thinking about death generally — tensions, for instance, between our expectations for complete lives and the suspicion that any such plans are likely to prove illusory, or tensions between the idea that we can self-consciously pattern our lives and experience into satisfying wholes and the contrary worry that such patterning is little more than wilful self-delusion. At the same time, laying aside this conceptual dimension, one can hardly fail to notice how utterly literary our deaths become in Montaigne’s hands. Even if we come to agree with Lucretius that death may unmask us at any time as we are play-acting, such an agreement still remains couched in terms that are relentlessly literary: for example, taking on a role, unmasking, and playing a final scene.

Keywords: plays; life; Montaigne; Epicureans; death

Chapter.  9091 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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