A Foretold Tragic Fate. Plutarch’s Literary Resources in the Presentation of the scene about the Death of Cleitus by Alexander (Plu., Alex. 50.1-6)





Alexander, Cleitus, Plutarch, Religion, Rhetoric


Despite his Platonic distrust of the didactic value of poetry, including the theater, Plutarch, as an accomplished biographer of characters whose life was full of dramatic situations, applies to their stories a deep-rooted knowledge of the literary strategies of Greek drama. No exception is the anecdote about the death of Cleitus by Alexander. Its plot begins with the king’s friendship with his general, a moment plagued with the ingredients that ancient Greek tragedy reserves for its heroes: Fortune and the fulfillment of destiny, inescapable for them, despite their knowledge of the future, as well as the pride of the hero, confident in the strength of his ideals; and, finally, the tragic irony with which the playwright seems to offer a happy ending, which makes the outcome harder. Plutarch always intervenes with great creative capacity in the presentation of these situations, sometimes transmitted by other sources. And he does it also when he introduces the episode that now concerns me, putting into play all the resources of his style. He thus designs a perfect scenario for the facts, now the discussion between Cleitus and Alejander and the death of the first by the second, adorned with religious references (omens, fortune tellers, unconsummated sacrifices, dreams, etc.) and whose main power is the destiny that, as in a tragedy, will be inescapable for the protagonist (Alexander) and for his antagonist and friend (Cleitus).


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