Word of the Day : November 1, 2012


noun AH-gahn


: conflict; especially : the dramatic conflict between the chief characters in a literary work

Did You Know?

"Agon" comes from the Greek word "agōn," which is translated with a number of meanings, among them "contest," "competition at games," and "gathering." In ancient Greece, agons (also spelled "agones") were contests held during public festivals. The contests-among them the ancient Olympics that our modern Olympics is modeled on-involved everything from athletics to chariot and horse racing to music and literature. "Agon" in the realm of literature refers to the dramatic conflict between the main characters in a Greek play, or more broadly, between the chief characters in any literary work. The word is also occasionally used to refer to conflict generally, as in our first example sentence.


As the U.S. presidential elections approach, anyone with an interest in politics is focused on the agon about to reach its quadrennial climax.

"From the beginning of the agon, the play [The Merchant of Venice] provides an explanation for Shylock's behavior, well beyond the sheer antagonistic function that the skeletal plot would require and the sources provide." - From G. Beiner's 1993 book Shakepeare's Agonistic Comedy: Poetics, Analysis, Criticism

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