In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews Rush Rehm. Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Wedding and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. Pp. xviii + 246. $29.95. Greek tragedy focuses on episodes in the lives of royal families, and domestic conflict often has political significance. Death comes by way of murder that is simultaneously a moment of civil war and a violation of kinship ties. Marriage too may have dynastic implications in the form of alliances between ruling houses and struggles for power among near relatives. If, as Aristotle said, the tragedies tend to concentrate on a few well-known families, the reason is that these provided the juiciest stories. The house of Atreus, with its multitude of seductions , usurpations, and slaughters of kin, and the unappetizing clan of Oedipus account for just under half (fifteen) of the thirty-two surviving tragedies. Medea, Phaedra, Hercules, Admetus, Agave, and the abominable daughters of Danaus, all agents of scandalous deaths and abuses of wedlock, make up another quarter (Isocrates' Panathenaicus 122 nicely summarizes the kinds of themes tragedy enjoyed). No wonder that matrimony should invite thoughts of doom. This association was the more pregnant in classical Greece because many of the rituals attaching to marriages and funerals were similar— for example, baths (of bride or corpse), processions, biers vs. beds, gifts, and banquets—as Rush Rehm shows in his opening chapters, reviewing the evidence of literature and funerary art. What is more, fifthcentury Attic grave reliefs and related vase paintings play on the special poignancy of boys and girls who have died too young to wed, sometimes representing their entry into the underworld as a union with Hades in grim compensation for what they missed in their brief lives. Characters in tragedy—for example, Antigone and Cassandra—may expatiate on the ironies inherent in such situations. But there are numerous more subtle crossings of imagery that escape all but the most attentive eye. Rehm notes these exhaustively, expanding on the possibilities of paradox and dramatic tension latent in such conflations. The subject invites the hypersensitive acumen ofthe New Criticism where every word is a potential symbol, similarities are always echoes, and contrasts bristle with ironies. Thus, in the chapter on Aeschylus' Agamemnon: "The image of [Helen's] bridal homecoming anticipates the appearance of the bridelike Kassandra later in the play and her entrance into the palace through the 'gates of Hades' (' ??d?? tt??a? 1291). Kassandra arrives to meet her death, but Helen is a bride who brings death in her wake" (p. 43). It is easy to be overingenious in such exercises, and I am not sure that Rehm always resists the temptation —e.g.: "Kassandra prays for the impending blow to be sure, so that ? close my eyes at last' (1292-94). We recall the unveiling image with which she began—'No more like a newly wedded bride will my 382 Reviews383 prophecies peek out from under veils'" (p. 49). Seeing and not seeing is the correspondence that the audience, it is supposed, will thrill to. Arguments are sometimes a shade overwrought. Apollo's claim that only the father's seed contributes to the formation of the child is countered in the text, Rehm notes, by Clytemnestra's grief over the sacrifice of Iphegeneia (p. 55). True, but relevant only if Apollo means to deny that women love their offspring, whatever their biological connection with them may be, but this is not his evident intention—though Clytemnestra 's behavior would give him plenty ofammunition ifit were. Rehm wants to rescue Aeschylus from the charge ofmisogyny, and he pushes the integrative, nurturing role of women in the finale of die Oresteia as the tragedian's answer to Apollo's shallow rhetoric (pp. 56-58). Maybe so—other scholars have taken this line, as Rehm notes; but surely tough-minded queens like Clytemnestra have no place in Aeschylus' social scheme. The court that judges matricide innocent and me slaying of a husband a capital crime is composed entirely of men. Conflation ofmarriage and death do not alter tbe fact that the society that emerges in Aeschylus' trilogy is, if not misogynistic, indubitably patriarchal. Rehm follows recent critical opinion in locating the issue of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 382-384
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.