If Wilde’s play takes aim at the society that persuades itself that it is virtuous and right-thinking while in reality being cold, harsh, and self-serving, it also celebrates the human ingenuity that allows people to make of themselves what they will and to enter imaginatively into another frame of reference or reality, a world in which wit and artifice are paramount. These, after all, are the qualities of which an audience is most aware, having been alternately amused, provoked, and delighted, when it leaves the theater at the end of the evening.
Seneca's tragedies rework those of all three of the Athenian tragic playwrights whose work has survived. Probably meant to be recited at elite gatherings, they differ from the Greek versions in their long declamatory, narrative accounts of action, their obtrusive moralising, and their bombastic rhetoric. They dwell on detailed accounts of horrible deeds and contain long reflective soliloquies . Though the gods rarely appear in these plays, ghosts and witches abound. Senecan tragedies explore ideas of revenge , the occult, the supernatural, suicide, blood and gore. The Renaissance scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484–1558), who knew both Latin and Greek, preferred Seneca to Euripides.