Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance. Yet 'the art of dying' has been a defining notion throughout history. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, explains how the Romans and Greeks approached death and asks whether scenes of showmanship, famous last words, and stoical endings really can help us when we come to face our own inevitable demise.
In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death. They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home surrounded by those we love, they will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying. With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.