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Queen's University

Supporting Materials for Lectures

Lecture 5: People On Stage and Off


  1. Dramatis Personae
    1. Character
      Do tragedians bother to create consistent characters (ethe) for the figures in their plays? If so, by what means? Are the characters three-dimensional and does such three-dimensionality arise from consistency or inconsistency? What is the essential nature (or "spine") of certain characters in Greek tragedy? Is there a Greek word for "will" and the concept to match? Discuss the role of nature and nurture in producing character, esp. in Soph. Phil. Discuss the use of "foil" characters. Contrast the tragic idea of a distinct individual person with the comic idea of a stock, easily replicated type. Persons can change and grow, while types can only repeat their distinctive actions; in lieu of growth they can at best be expelled from society. Particularly interesting are the minor characters who are transformed by a few strokes from mere ciphers to living, breathing people (e.g. the watchman in Aesch. Ag., Cilissa in Cho. and the guard in Soph. Ant.).


      1. General
        • C. Garton, "Characterization in Greek Tragedy," Journal of Hellenic Studies 77 (1957) 247-54.
        • G. H. Gellie, "Character in Greek Tragedy," Journal of the Australasian Universities Languages and Literatures Association 20 (1963) 24-56.
        • R. Sauer, "Charakter und Tragische Schuld," Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 46 (1964) 50-59.
        • C. Lord, "Tragedy without Character," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 (1969) 55-62.
        • J. Gould, "Dramatic Character and 'Human Intelligibility' in Greek Tragedy," Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 24 (1978) 43-67.
        • J.-P. Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Greece (Brighton, UK 1981) 28-62.
        • C. Gill, "The Question of Character and Personality in Greek Tragedy," Poetics Today 7 (1986) 251-73.
        • G. Held, "The Meaning of Ethos in the Poetics," Hermes 113 (1986) 280-93.
        • E. Schutrumpf, "The Meaning of Ethos in the Poetics: A Reply," Hermes 115 (1987) 175-81.
        • P. E. Easterling, "Constructing Character in Greek Tragedy," 83-99 in C. Pelling ed., Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford 1990).


      2. Aeschylus
        • F. M. B. Anderson, "The Character of Clytaemnestra in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (1929) 136-54.
        • R. D. Dawe, "Inconsistency of Plot and Character in Aeschylus," Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 9 (1963) 21-62.
        • P. E. Easterling, "Presentation of Character in Aeschylus," Greece and Rome 20 (1973) 3-19.
        • M. Pope, "The Democratic Character of Aeschylus' Agamemnon," Greek Tragedy and Its Legacy = Festschrift D. J. Conacher (Calgary 1986) 13-26.


      3. Sophocles
        • A. N. W. Saunders, "Plot and Character in Sophocles," Greece and Rome 4 91934) 18-9.
        • H. Lloyd-Jones, "Tycho von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff on the Dramatic Technique of Sophocles," Classical Quarterly 22 (1972) 214-28 = Blood for the Ghosts (Baltimore 1982) 219-37 = Greek Epic, Lyric and Tragedy (Oxford 1990) 401-18.
        • P. E. Easterling, "Character in Sophocles,' Greece and Rome 24 (1977) 121-9.
        • M. W. Blundell, "The Moral Character of Odysseus in Philoctetes," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 28 (1987) 307-29.


      4. Euripides
        • S. Flygt, "Treatment of Character in Euripides and Seneca: The Hippolytus," Classical Journal 29 (1933-4) 507-16.
        • A. M. Dale, Euripides: Alcestis (Oxford 1954) xxv.
        • B. Frischer, "Concordia discors and Characterization in Euripides' Hippolytus," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 11 (1970) 85-100.
        • G. H. Gellie, "The Character of Medea," Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 35 (1988) 15-22.
        • J. Griffin, "Characterization in Euripides: Hippolytus and Iphigeneia in Aulis," 128-49 in C. Pelling ed., Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford 1990).


      5. Seneca
        • C. Garton, "Senecan Characterization," Personal Aspects of the Roman Theatre (Toronto 1972).


    2. Hubris (and Sophrosyne)
      Tragic characters are frequently led into error through the feeling of "hubris" (originally a Greek word), meaning one who has gotten too big for his britches and who, in consequence does not know himself.
      • M. Dirat, L'Hybris dans la tragédie grecque (Lille 1973).
      • J. T. Hooker, "The Original Meaning of Hybris," Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 19 (1975) 125-37.
      • D. M. MacDowell, "Hybris in Athens," Greece and Rome 23 (1976) 14-31.
      • M. Gagarin, "Socrates' Hybris and Alcibiades' Failure," Phoenix 31 (1977) 22-37.
      • A. N. Michelini, "Hybris and Plants," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 82 (1978) 35-44.
      • E. Cantarella, "Spuntidi reflessione critica su hybris e time in Omero," 85-96 in Dinakis ed., Symposion 1979 (Cologne and Vienna 1981).
      • R. Scodel, "Hybris in the Second Stasimon of the Oedipus Tyrannus," Classical Philology 77 (1982) 214-23.
      • M. W. Dickie, "Hesychia and Hybris in Pindar," 83-109 in Greek Poetry and Philosophy = Festschrift L. E. Woodbury (Chico, CA 1984).
      • O. Murray, "The Solonian Law of Hybris" 139-45 in Nomos: Essays in Athenian Law, ed. P. A. Cartledge et al. (Cambridge 1990).
      • D. Cohen, "Sexuality, Violence and the Athenian Law of Hubris," Greece and Rome 38 (1991) 171-88.
      • N. R. E. Fischer, Hybris: A Study of the Values of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greece (Warminster 1992).
      • G. O. Rowe, "The Many Facets of Hybris in Demosthenes' Against Meidias," American Journal of Philology 119 (1993) 397-406.


    3. Irony (and Alazoneia)
      Consider the question of dramatic irony as it is used by the Greek tragedians (particularly Soph., e.g. Oedipus the King) and the relation of this device to the sequence of error and recognition. Irony is sometimes involved in deception whereby one character misleads the other without actually uttering a falsehood (e.g. Ajax in the Trugrede). Often it involves ambiguity. Consider the role of the audience's foreknowledge of ready-made plots and/or plots divulged to the audience at the outset by a divine prologue-speech and of Freudian slips like Oedipus' "robber" for "robbers". Discuss the word eiron, both in its role in comedy (in contrast to alazon) and in connection with Socrates (who preferred truth over appearance and who was the inspiration for a whole genre of quasi-drama, the dialogue. The eiron operates by means of questioning and cross-examination (elenchos); this makes him similar to the persuader.

      F. Ahl, Sophocles' Oedipus (Ithaca, NY 1991) 63 speaks of "a kind of reverse dramatic irony, where something known to the character in a play or epic is withheld from the audience". Is there any scope for this in Greek drama?

      1. Irony
        • B. Thirwall, "On the Irony of Sophocles," The Philological Museum 2 (1833) 483-537.
        • J. A. K. Thomson, Irony: An Historical Introduction (Cambridge 1927).
        • S. K. Johnson, "Some Aspects of Dramatic Irony in Sophoclean Tragedy," Classical Review 42 (1928) 209-14.
        • G. G. Sedgewick, Of Irony: Especially in Drama 2nd ed. (Toronto 1948).
        • G. M. Kirkwood, A Study in Sophoclean Drama (New York 1958) 247-87.
        • G. Zuntz, "On Euripides' Helena: Theology and Irony," Euripide = Fondation Hardt: Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique 6 (Vandoeuvres 1960) 199-241.
        • W. D. Smith, "The Ironic Structure in Alcestis," Phoenix 14 (1960) 127-45.
        • R. Di Virgilio, "L'ironia tragica nell' 'Antigone' di Sofocle," Rivista di filologia e d'istruzione classica 94 (1966) 26-33.
        • R. C. Muecke, "Irony," The Critical Idiom 13 (London 1970) 64-6.
        • B. L. States, Irony and Drama: A Poetics (Ithaca 1971).
        • G. Markantonatos, "'Tragic Irony' in the Antigone of Sophocles," Emerita 41 (1973) 491-7.
        • G. Markantonatos, "'Tragic Irony' in the Trachiniae of Sophocles," Platon 26 (1974) 73-9.
        • P. Vellacott, Ironic Drama: A Study in Euripides' Method and Meaning (Cambridge 1975).
        • G. Markantonatos, "On the Main Types of Dramatic Irony as Used in Greek Tragedy," Platon 29 (1977) 79-84.
        • T. G. Rosenmeyer, "Irony and Tragic Choruses," in J. H. D'Arms and J. W. Eadie eds., Ancient and Modern = Festschrift G. F. Else (Ann Arbor 1977) 31-44.
        • D. C. Muecke, "Analyses de l'ironie," Poétique 36 (1978) 478-94.
        • T. A. Szlezák, "Sophokles' Elektra und das Problem des ironischen Dramas," Museum Helveticum 38 (1981) 1-21.
        • G. Paduano, "Sull'ironia tragica," Dioniso 54 (1983) 61-81.
        • A. L. Motto, "Irony in Senecan Tragedy," Philological Papers (Marganton West Virginia University) 32 (1987) 1-9.


      2. Ambiguity
        • W. B. Stanford, Ambiguity in Greek Literature (Oxford 1939) 66.
        • L. C. Rees, "Structural Ambiguity: A Note on Meaning and the Linguistic Analysis of Literature," Language Learning 6 (1955) 62-7.
        • K. Quinn, "Syntactical Ambiguity in Greek and Latin," Journal of the Australasian Universities' Modern Language Association (1960) 36-46.
        • G. Devereux, "The Exploitation of Ambiguity in Pindaros Ol. 3.27," Rheinisches Museum 109 (1966) 289-98.
        • R. F. Renehan, "Conscious Ambiguities in Pindar and Bacchylides," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 10 (1969) 219-21.
        • N. E. Collinge, "Ambiguity in Literature: Some Guidelines," Arethusa 2 (1969) 13-29.
        • G. Lozza, "L'ambiguitá di linguaggion nelle Olimpiche di Pindaro," Acme 29 (1976) 163-77.
        • R. C. W. Oudemans and A. P. M. H. Lardinois, Tragic Ambiguity: Anthropology, Philosophy and Sophocles'Antigone (Leiden 1987).
        • D. Hester, "Ironic Interaction in Aeschylus and Sophocles," Prudentia 27 (1995) 14-43.


  2. The Audience
    1. Imitation
      In the tenth book of Plato's Republic Socrates enunciates his theory that poetry is an imitation (mimesis) of reality, and on this basis he develops his rule about which artists should be allowed into the idea state (namely, only those who imitate noble actions). This idea of imitation is taken up by Aristotle in his Poetics, who holds that the ideal work of art should be the entelechical expression of what it seeks to represent or imitate, yet Plato's idea of imitation (that seeing bad actions inspires people to act badly) is opposed to Aristotle's notion of catharsis (that seeing bad actions frees one from the desire to act badly). How does this view of art accord with its true nature? Why do we enjoy a representation of something that in real life disgusts us?


      • J. Tate, "'Imitation' in Plato's Republic," Classical Quarterly 22 (1928) 16-23.
      • J. Tate, "Plato and Imitation," Classical Quarterly 26 (1932) 161-9.
      • W. J. Verdenius, Mimesis: Plato's Doctrine of Artistic Imitation (Leiden 1949).
      • R. McKeon, "Literary Criticism and the Concept of Imitation in Antiquity," in R. S. Crane ed., Critics and Criticism: Ancient and Modern (Chicago 1952) 147-75.
      • K. Burke, "A 'Dramatistic' View of Imitation," Accent 12 (1952) 229-41.
      • H. Koller, Die Mimesis in der Antike (Bern 1953).
      • G. F. Else, "Imitation in the Fifth Century," Classical Philology 53 (1958) 73-90.
      • L. Golden, "Is Tragedy the 'Imitation of a Serious Action'?," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 6 (1965) 283-9.
      • H. D. Goldstein, "Mimesis and Catharsis Reexamined," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 24 (1966) 567-77.
      • G. Sörbom, Mimesis and Art (Uppsala 1966).
      • D. W. Lucas, Aristotle:Poetics (Oxford 1968) 258-72.
      • O. B. Hardison, "Epilogue: On Aristotelian Imitation," in L. Golden and O. B. Hardison Jr., Aristotle's Poetics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1968) 281-96.
      • L. Golden, "Mimesis and Catharsis," Classical Philology 64 (1969) 145-53.
      • L. Golden, "Plato's Concept of Mimesis," British Journal of Aesthetics 15 (1975-6) 118-31.
      • A. Nehamas, "Plato on Imitation and Poetry in Republic 10," 47-78 in J. Moravscik and P. Tempo edd., Plato on Beauty, Wisdom and the Arts (Totowa, NJ 1982).
      • E. Belfiore, "A Theory of Imitation in Plato's Republic," Transactions of the American Philological Association 114 (1984) 121-46.
      • L. Golden, Aristotle on Tragic and Comic Mimesis (Atlanta 1992).


    2. Catharsis
      Aristotle says in the Poetics 1449b 28 that the function of tragedy is to provide a katharsis of the emotions of the spectators. Modern scholars have claimed that the term katharsis refers to (i) PSYCHOLOGICAL PURGATION whereby tragedy acts as a homeopathic cure for the "disease" of fear and pity, using the make-believe terror and pity vicariously experienced of the stage to drive out the real terror and pity from the minds of the audience viewed as consisting of four humours that must be balanced in order to produce a good temperament, an interpretation which recalls the etymological connection of "drama" to "drastic" [but do we feel this way about violence on television?] (Bernays); (ii) MORAL PURIFICATION whereby a proper discipline is placed on the audience's reaction to pity and fear (Aristotle Nic. Eth. 1106b); (iii) EXONERATION OF THE TRAGIC HERO (Else pages 224-32, 423-47); and (iv) INTELLECTUAL CLARIFICATION whereby tragedy imitates by mimesis pity and fear and so allows the audience to understand them better (Golden 1976). Explain this idea and consider its merits. Discuss also the comic catharsis of (antisocial) wishes and hopes (Reckford).


      • J. Bernays, Zwei Abhandlungen über die aristotelische Theorie des Drama (Berlin 1857); see K. Grunder, "Jacob Bernays und der Streit um die Katharsis," in H. Barion et al. edd., Epirrhosis = Festschrift C. Schmitt (Berlin 1968) vol 2 pp. 495-528.
      • J. Tate, "Tragedy and Black Bile," Hermathena 50 (1937) 1-25.
      • W. F. Trench, "The Place of Katharsis in Aristotle's Aesthetics," Hermathena 26 (1938) 110-34.
      • F. Dirlmeier, "Katharsis Pathematon," Hermes 75 (1940) 81-92.
      • E. P. Papnoutsos, "La catharsis aristotélienne," Eranos 46 (1948) 77-93.
      • W. J. Verdenius, Katharsis ton Pathematon: autour d'Aristote (Louvain 1958) 367-73.
      • G. van Boekel, Katharsis (Utrecht 1957).
      • G. F. Else, Aristotle's Poetics: The Argument (Cambridge, Mass. 1957).
      • K. Burke, "On Catharsis, or Resolution, with a Postscript," The Kenyon Review 21 (1959) 337-75.
      • V. Kostic, "Aristotle's Catharsis in Renaissance Poetics," Ziva Antika 10 (1960) 61-74.
      • K. Burke, "Catharsis-Second View," Centennial Review of Arts and Sciences 5 (1961) 107-32.
      • C. Diano, "Euripide auteur de la catharsis tragique," Numen 8 (1961) 117-41.
      • L. Golden, "Catharsis," Transactions of the American Philological Association 93 (1962) 51-60.
      • T. Brunius, Inspiration and Katharsis (Uppsala 1966).
      • H. D. Goldstein, "Mimesis and Catharsis Reexamined," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 24 (1966) 567-77.
      • H. D. F. Kitto, "Catharsis," in The Classical Tradition = Festschrift Caplan, ed. L. Wallach (Ithaca, NY 1966) 133-47.
      • E. Schaper, Prelude to Aesthetics (London 1968) 101-118.
      • D. W. Lucas, Aristotle: Poetics (Oxford 1968) 273-90.
      • L. Golden, "Mimesis and Catharsis," Classical Philology 64 (1969) 145-53.
      • A. Freire, "A catarse tragica em Aristoteles," Euphrosyne 3 (1969) 31-45.
      • A. Nicev, L'enigme de la catharsis tragic dans Aristote (Sofia 1970).
      • P. Lain-Entralgo, The Therapy of the Word in Classical Antiquity (New Haven 1970).
      • K. G. Srivastava, "A New Look at the 'Katharsis' Clause of Aristotle's Poetics," British Journal of Aesthetics 12 (1972) 258-75.
      • L. Golden, "The Purification Theory of Catharsis," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 31 (1973) 473-9.
      • K. J. Reckford, "Desire with Hope; Aristophanes and Comic Catharsis," Ramus 3 (1974) 41-69.
      • L. Golden, "The Clarification Theory of Katharsis," Hermes 104 (1976) 437-52.
      • K. J. Reckford, "Catharsis and Dream-Interpretation in Aristophanes' Wasps," Transactions of the American Philological Association 107 (1977) 283-312.
      • D. Keesey, "On Some Recent Interpretations of Catharsis," Classical World 72 (1978-9) 193-205.
      • A. Nicev, La catharsis tragique d'Aristote (Sofia 1982).
      • F. Sparshott, "The Riddle of Katharsis," 14-37 in E. Cook et al. edd., Centre and Labyrinth = Festschrift N. Frye (Toronto 1983).
      • C. Wagner, "Katharsis in der aristotelischen Tragödiendefinition," Grazer Beiträge 11 (1984) 67-87.
      • J. Lear, "Katharsis,' 315-40 in A. O. Rorty ed., Essays on Aristotle'sPoetics (Princeton 1992).


    3. Terror and Pity
      According to Aristotle, the function of tragedy is to arouse in the spectators feelings of terror (phobos) and pity (eleos), yet Phynicus was fined for his Sack of Miletus because it reminded the Athenians of their own suffering, and all the pregnant women in the audience of Aesch. Eum. miscarried. Consider the emotional response of the audience to tragedy. Compare the appeal for pity in forensic oratory, on which see Carey on Lysias 7.41. A handbook on this subject was written by Thrasymachus (Plato Phaedr. 267c, Aristotle Rhet. 1404a 14).


      • D. C. Stuart, "The Function and the Dramatic Value of the Recognition Scene," American Journal of Philology 39 (1918) 268-90.
      • F. L. Shisler, "The Technique of the Portrayal of Joy in Greek Tragedy," Transactions of the American Philological Association 13 (1942) 277-92.
      • F. L. Shisler, "The Use of Stage Business to Portray Emotion in Greek Tragedy," American Journal of Philology 66 (1945) 377-97.
      • W. Schadewaldt, "Furcht und Mitleid?," Hermes 83 (1955) 129-71 = Hellas und Hesperia 2nd ed (Zurich 1970) vol. 1 pp. 194-236.
      • M. Pohlenz, "Furcht und Mitleid?: Ein Nachwort," Hermes 84 (1956) 49-74.
      • D. W. Lucas, "Pity, Terror and Peripeteia," Classical Quarterly 12 (1962) 52-60.
      • B. R. Rees, "Pathos in the Poetics of Aristotle," Greece and Rome 19 (1972) 1-11.
      • P. Pucci, The Violence of Pity in Euripides' Medea (Ithaca and New York 1980) 169-74.
      • W. B. Stanford, Greek Tragedy and the Emotions (London 1983).
      • M. M. Kokolakis, "Greek Drama: The Stirring of Pity," 170-8 in J. H. Betts et al. edd., Studies in Honour of T. B. L. Webster (Bristol 1986).
      • M. Heath, The Poetics of Greek Tragedy (London 1987) 5-36.

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