Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy
Publication Year: 2002
James Barrett gives close readings of several plays including Aeschylus's Persians, Sophocles' Electra and Oedipus Tyrannus, and Euripides' Bacchae and Rhesos. He traces the literary ancestry of the tragic messenger, showing that the messenger's narrative constitutes an unexplored site of engagement with Homeric epic, and that the role illuminates fifth-century b.c. experimentation with modes of speech. Breaking new ground in the study of Athenian tragedy, Barrett deepens our understanding of many central texts and of a form of theater that highlights the fragility and limits of human knowledge, a theme explored by its use of the messenger.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece
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This book has been a long time in the making, and many people havelent a helping hand, knowingly and unknowingly. The initial impetusthat set me on this path came from a graduate seminar at Cornell Uni-versity, taught by Patricia Easterling. I thank her for sharing her inspiredapproach to Greek tragedy and for pointing the way. The ideas origi-...
List of Abbreviations
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...1. Di Gregorio 1967 is an evolutionary and formal study; de Jong 1991The messenger of Greek tragedy is a curious figure. It is a messenger’snarrative (angelia) that informs us about the death of Jocasta and theblinding of Oedipus in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, for example. Suchnarratives likewise report the madness of Herakles, the slaughter of Ai-...
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...1. On the dramatic quality of this scene see Scully 1986, 137 and 146–Shortly after the Iliad begins it becomes virtual drama for more than 100lines: beginning with Kalkhas’s plea to Achilles for protection (74 –83),the narrator speaks only single lines introducing the characters as theyspeak in turn (with the exception of one 5-line passage, 101–5).1 Fol-...
1. Aeschylus’s Persians: The Messenger and Epic Narrative
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...1. I discuss this literary messenger more thoroughly in chapter 2 below.Although far from satisfactory, the view of the messenger as a functionaldevice is not entirely without merit. Even if we insist that every narra-tor is a focalizer and as such renders the narrative in question somethingboth more and less than a transparent representation, we can agree that...
2. The Literary Messenger, the Tragic Messenger
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...oujk ejmou` ajlla; tou` lovgou ajkouvsanta~ oJmologei`n sofovn ejstin Listening not to me but to the logos, it is wise to agree that all In the previous chapter I suggested that Aeschylus’s Persians makes ref-erence to an established literary figure who predates the tragic messen-ger. This literary messenger appears already in Homer and is charac-...
3. Euripides’ Bacchae: The Spectator in the Text
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I borrow the felicitous phrase “the spectator in the text” from Browne 1986.1. Emphasis in the original. Buxton’s focus is on the two messengers, buthe includes the “narratives” of Dionysos (23– 42), Pentheus (215–25), andthe servant (434 –50) in his discussion. See also Bierl 1991, 193. When Ispeak of “messengers” here I mean the herdsman who enters at 660 and the...
4. Homer and the Art of Fiction in Sophocles’ Electra
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If Aeschylus’s Persians reveals the Homeric underpinnings of the conven-tional tragic messenger and if Euripides’ Bacchae displays the ideal formof spectatorship that is the province of this messenger, Sophocles’ Elec-tra joins these two defining characteristics. The play does this as it putson stage the only fictitious angelia in the extant tragic corpus. Any study...
5. Rhesos and Poetic Tradition
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The narrative practices on exhibit in the angeliai discussed in the pre-ceding chapters are not, in fact, always adopted by tragic messengers. Ihave argued that the messenger makes competing, even contradictory,claims as eyewitness and narrator. The messenger’s bodily presence aseyewitness—and as dramatis persona—competes to some extent with his...
6. Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus: Epistemology and Tragic Practice
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If Rhesos shows how a play may distort the conventional form of an angelia in the service of its thematic interests, Sophocles’ Oedipus Ty-rannus offers a parallel example of how a play may profit from manip-ulating conventional form. The play’s second messenger, the exangelos,provides a lengthy account of Jocasta’s death and Oedipus’s self-blinding....
Appendix: Messengers in Greek Tragedy
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Page Count: 274
Publication Year: 2002