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In Euripides’ Phoenician Women, produced around 410 BCE, actor’s lyric takes on a role of unprecedented importance in the shaping of plot and in the development of character, counterposed to and to some extent replacing choral lyric. Antigone, Jocasta, and Oedipus – all singing characters – are inextricably bound up in the ruin of their house. Three of the play’s four scenes of actor’s lyric feature Antigone; through song Euripides traces her progression from a sheltered maiden to a distraught mourner and finally to a mature woman who takes charge of her own and her father’s fate. Euripides here experiments with monody not only as a structural device to shape plot and create meaning but also as a means for the development of a complex female figure through the presentation of her evolving emotional state.
In Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians, produced around 414–412 BCE, the two monodies highlight two critical stages of the heroine’s emotional journey from stasis to purposeful action. In her first monody, Iphigenia mourns the unfulfilled potential of her young life, where each status was canceled, each promised doing undone. Iphigenia’s second monody, delivered after the reunion scene with Orestes, marks a shift in her mind and a crisis in the plot. Here monody becomes a site for thought and decisive action, acting as a deliberative rhesis wherein the heroine formulates a plan for the future. The two monodies in this play thus mark two points in the inflection of Iphigenia’s character as she leaves behind her status as a passive victim and finds her purpose as the functional head of her family.
Monody is an essential part of Euripides’ mature dramatic art. All the surviving examples of actor’s lyric by Aeschylus and Sophocles are songs of lamentation, where the use of solo song emphasizes the relationship between the isolated singer and the larger group. Reacting against this tradition, in his late plays Euripides reconfigures monody by blending it with the other traditional forms of Greek tragedy, such as the agon, rhesis, choral ode, and messenger speech. These reconfigurations, or “liberations,” are signaled so that attention is drawn in each case to the poet’s ingenuity. In addition to this formal innovation, Euripides uses monody as a vehicle to express emotion and develop character on the tragic stage.
In Euripides’ Ion, produced around 414 BCE, the central conflict of the play receives its most explicit expression through the diametrical opposition of passionately held views. These views are expressed at length, but in song and separately, in the monodies of Ion and Creusa. In his opening monody, Ion manifests his devotion to Apollo, his concern with purity and propriety, and his position as an orphan. At the pivotal moment of the play, the Athenian queen Creusa delivers a musical accusation against the god who once violated her and, as she believes, left their infant son to die. Is Apollo benevolent and bright, or violent and uncaring? In the two monodies, Euripides brings together the legalistic exposition typical of agonistic rhesis and the emotionality of lyric song.
The Introduction situates the monodies of Euripides’ late plays in the context of theatrical and musical innovation in Athens in the late fifth century. In plays produced after 415 BCE – in particular Ion, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Phoenician Women, and Orestes – Euripides departs from the model of actor’s lyric established by Aeschylus and Sophocles and followed in his own previous work. Solo song is no longer restricted to women, to royalty, or to situations that call for lamentation; nor is the soloist necessarily closely tied to the chorus. In his late plays, Euripides successively redefines monody: each song takes over a traditional Bauform of tragedy and builds upon it. Monody becomes a site of formal innovation and experimentation. At the same time, solo song facilitates the creation of an individual voice of broad emotional and expressive range.
Euripides’ Orestes, produced in 408 BCE, stands as the culmination of a decade of experimentation with monody as a versatile dramatic form. At the climax of the play, the disappearance of Helen is reported not by a messenger in an iambic rhesis, but by an anonymous Phrygian slave in a virtuosic monody that is twice as long as all the combined songs of the chorus. The tonal and rhetorical ambiguities in the Phrygian’s song underscore the increasing fragmentation and chaos of the plot. This monody overturns the expectations of the audience through its combination of the traditionally antithetical genres of monody and messenger speech. The Phrygian is an unprecedented type of narrator in tragedy, offering instead of an objective reporting of events a “polyphonic” account that draws on multiple genres and styles.
The solo singer takes center stage in Euripides' late tragedies. Solo song – what the Ancient Greeks called monody – is a true dramatic innovation, combining and transcending the traditional poetic forms of Greek tragedy. At the same time, Euripides uses solo song to explore the realm of the interior and the personal in an expanded expressive range. Contributing to the current scholarly debate on music, emotion, and characterization in Greek drama, this book presents a new vision for the role of monody in the musical design of Ion, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Phoenician Women, and Orestes. Drawing on her practical experience in the theater, Catenaccio establishes the central importance of monody in Euripides' art.
This article argues that the ante mortem dreams of Alcibiades and Demosthenes articulate key themes of moral doubt in Plutarch’s biography of each man. Alcibiades’ dream of being dressed as a courtesan alludes to his uneasy stance between masculine and feminine postures; Demosthenes’ dream of himself as a failed tragic actor draws upon his lifelong concern with performance and insincerity. In these two Lives, Plutarch deploys the ambiguity and uncertainty of dreams to pose an interpretive problem for the reader which can never fully be resolved, particularly appropriate to these unpredictable and untrustworthy men.