Classicists, philosophers, literary critics and various other scholars have long been interested in the origin and nature of tragedy. Among English speaking scholars A.W. Pickard-Cambridge, Sir William Ridgeway, Gilbert Murray, T.B.L. Webster and G.F. Else come to mind. Else has pointed out that what all these theorists, with the exception of himself, have in common is the assumption that tragedy evolved from "some pre-existing source" such as "dithyramb, satyrikon, vegetation rituals, initiation rites, hero-cult, lamentations for the dead" and so forth. Following Else we can sort these speculators into three camps: (I) those who, following Aristotle, believe tragedy evolved from the dithyramb, a choral recitation in honor of Dionysus, (2) those who derive tragedy from "other orgiastic or mystery rituals" similar to the cult of Dionysus, and (3) those who see "the cult of the dead" i.e. hero-cults as the source of tragedy. Else himself is unique in thinking that tragedy did not evolve from any pre-tragic
literary form or ritual. Rather, he contends, it was invented in two creative acts by Thespis and Aeschylus. The purpose of this paper is to place Nielzsche's first book The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music (Hereafter BT) in the
context of these speculations about the origin of tragedy and to assess its value.