Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.7.3

Giuseppina Basta Donzelli, Euripides: Electra. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Teubner, 1995. Pp. xxxviii, 83. DM 42,--. ISBN 3-8154-1325-7.

Reviewed by Martin Cropp, University of Calgary.

Giuseppina Basta Donzelli has written extensively on Euripides' Electra for a number of years. Her lengthy Studio sull' Elettra di Euripide was published by the University of Catania in 1978. Eight articles on the text of the play have since appeared, plus one on median caesura in Euripidean trimeters, in Italian journals and elsewhere.1 We thus have access to much of the reasoning behind her editorial choices, which is always well informed and well balanced. This edition of the play is in a normal Teubner format, including a short Preface on the sources and editing of the text, a thorough Bibliography of editions and discussions (26 pages in a format combining small pages with large margins), Text with selective Apparatus (including a separate list of testimonia), and metrical analyses of the sung passages. It is an edition of high quality which with D.'s other publications will be a valuable asset to students of this text.

Electra is one of the 'alphabetic' plays of Euripides for whose text we rely mainly on a single ms. L (Laur. plut. 32.2) of the early 14th C. Supplementary information comes from ms. P (the part including Electra is Laur. conv. soppr. 172) in which these plays were copied from L; P preserves L's readings in many cases where they were later obliterated in L itself by the extensive conjectural alterations of the Byzantine scholar Demetrius Triclinius. There is a pitifully small store of papyrus fragments; D. lists three published in recent years, but the anthology P. Hibeh 7 of the 3rd C. B.C., published in 1906 and containing parts of verses 367-379, remains the only one of any consequence. The testimonia are also remarkably thin on the ground, and D. has found no new ones (p. viii); she cites about three dozen, all from predictable sources, more than half from Stobaeus and Hesychius, and only eleven for the second half of play.

The Teubner format allows D.'s edition to be a little more informative than Diggle's Oxford Classical Texts edition of 1981. Apart from the presence of bibliography, testimonia and metrical analyses, the main differences are found in the critical apparatus. References to modern scholarship are keyed to the Bibliography, so that conjectures and discussions can be traced easily. D. is usefully generous in citing, besides original conjectures, many discussions which defend or explain the text, or refute or confirm conjectures. These include references to the detailed discussions in her own articles. She is perhaps a little too generous in citing conjectures which might be thought negligible (e.g. 1 A)/XQOS Erbse, 131 TLA=MON <TLA=MON> (with 116 KAI/ M' E)/TEKEN) olim Hermann, 304 AU)AI/NOMAI Weil, 775 DIKRO/ON Lobeck, 789 PARH=N Kviçala). In three cases she credits others with conjectures now attributed to F. H. Bothe (cf. J. Diggle, Euripidea [Oxford, 1995], 518ff.; the first edition of Bothe's translation is extremely inaccessible); these are at 144 (Seidler), 294-6 (Wecklein), 701 (Dindorf). D. herself restores 380 A(NH\R from Seidler (1813) to Jacobs (1809, commenting on Athenaeus). At 413 she attributes D' W(S or D' OU)=N to Kviçala and TW=ND' A)FIGME/NWN to "Canter", presumably meaning Camper (previously A)FIGME/NWN Camper, D' OU)=N TW=ND' Vitelli, D' W(S Willink. D.'s list of Canter's notable conjectures on El. at Boll.Class. 10.99-101 does not mention 413).

In Boll.Class. 10 (1989), 71-86 D. provided an exhaustive study of Triclinius's interventions in L's text of Electra and their reappearance (or not) in P. Her conclusions were that for this play at least (a) P systematically reproduces (with a few easily explainable exceptions) the alterations, sometimes erroneous, of L's text made by Triclinius in an initial round of correcting; (b) the dependence of P upon L (rather than on L's exemplar) is thus confirmed; (c) ink-colour is a relevant but not always reliable guide in distinguishing Triclinius's later corrections from his earlier ones; (d) Triclinius made his early corrections partly through checking L's exemplar but partly also through conjecture. D. accordingly (like Sansone in his Teubner edition of Iph. Taur.) records the agreement of TrP against L or of LP against Tr explicitly rather than using Zuntz's notation Tr1, Tr2, Tr3 (or Diggle's adaptation in which Tr2 = Zuntz's Tr2 or Tr3) which was devised primarily with a view to the ink-colours. The normal implication is that TrP:L indicates one of Tr's earlier corrections and LP:Tr a later one. D. differs from her predecessors occasionally (and inevitably) in distributing earlier corrections between Triclinius and the scribe of L.

D.'s treatment of the text tends to be conservative, but not undiscriminatingly so -- and her apparatus is always informative about options. She sometimes obelises where a convincing conjecture is available, or retains L's text where emendation or obelisation seems well justified (377, 414, 434, 659, 876-8, 959-966, 982-4, 1152, 1163-4). On the other hand, her adherence to L is justified at e.g. 757, 1015, 1045, 1292-1304, and to obelisations reasonable at 484, 504, 863, 1263 as well as a dozen or so places which more obviously require them. She deletes only 308, 360, 651, 688, 1097-9 ("cautissime versus seclusi. at aliorum de versibus secludendis in app. crit. diligenter memoravi": Preface, ix), and places lacunae after 538, 546, 582, 688, 1181, 1186. My discussion below includes many of the passages just mentioned, the four minor conjectures offered by D. herself (all in the App. Crit.) at 414, 445-6, 1110, 1301, and a few other problems of continuing interest.

56-59 D. prints the ms. order and Reiske's A)FI/HM' for A)FI/HN in 59, rightly rejecting Diggle's placing of 59 after 56 which disrupts the effect of 57-58 as an explanation of 56. But this entails putting 57-58 unconvincingly in parenthesis so that A)FI/HM' can be coordinated with 56 METE/RXOMAI. Bain's deletion of 59 is an attractive option because 60 follows so well after 58, but Electra's double explanation of her water-carrying is plausible in itself: this is an opportunity both to shame Aegisthus and to lament her father. So Schaefer's A)FW=MEN might be preferred (coordinated with DEI/CWMEN), or perhaps read A)FI/EIS' so as to coordinate 59 with 58 in an asymmetrical pairing ("but so that I may display Aegisthus' hybris to the gods, and releasing into the great heaven my laments for my father").

123 D. may be right to print Kamerbeek's <'K> SA=S A)LO/XOU SFAGEI/S (phrasing supported by Hec. 24, IT 552) rather than the usual SFAGAI=S (Porson) for SFAGEI/S.

131 D. retains LATREU/EIS rather than Hartung's A)LATEU/EIS, having provided good reasons for trusting the ms. reading in RFIC 121.275-7. I would add that LATREU/EIS makes a better rhetorical contrast, between Orestes' humiliation in the house(s) of his exile and Electra's grief and humiliation in her own home (132 E)N QALA/MOIS).

164-5 D. accepts L's *AI)GI/SQOU but in RFIC 121 (1993) has argued for making this depend on LW/BAN ("con la spada a doppio taglio facendo di te il miserando oltraggio di Egisto") rather than on CI/FESI ("avendo fatto strazio di te con la spada di Egisto"). But Pho. 319 and IT 211 which she cites do not support this since both concern "the cruel behaviour of x" rather than "the object of x's cruel behaviour"; and she seems to have misunderstood Denniston who as I read him took CI/FESI (with *AI)GI/SQOU dependent on it) to be not instrumental but an indirect object: "presenting him as an object of foul outrage to the two-edged sword of Aegisthus". This is apt enough if Aegisthus mutilated Agamemnon's body after Clytemnestra had killed him.

307-13 D. deletes 308 with Camper and others, allowing 309 to be closely paired with 307; this is preferable to retaining it and positing a lost verse before 309 (Page, Diggle). D. like Diggle accepts a stop after 309 so that the problematic 310-3 are a self-contained sentence, and prints GUNAI=KAS (which originates with Triclinius) in 311, AI)SXU/NOMAI (Denniston, Page) in 312, and O(\S E)/M' E)MNH/STEUEN (Nauck) in 312-3. This is perhaps the best that can be done, and stronger on the whole than the reading proposed by D. Kovacs in CQ 35 (1985), 306-10.

360 D. deletes the verse with Barrett, Reeve and Diggle while citing Mastronarde's defence; cf. her well-balanced discussion in Eikasmos 2.110-1. I still look for a convincing reason for this interpolation, if that is what it is.

373-9 and 386-90 D. retains both of these suspected gnomic passages, thus leaving the whole of Orestes' speech intact, and has discussed them usefully in Eikasmos 2.113-7.

377 D. prints E)/LQW with L and the Hibeh papyrus, but Heath's E)LQW/N is a convincing improvement.

414 L has CE/NWN T' E)S DAI=TA PORSU=NAI TINA/. D. obelises TINA/ and conjectures (in App.) CE/NOIS TE DAI=TA KTL, comparing Pind. Isthm. 4.61 DAI=TA PORSU/NONTES. But DAI=TA TINA/ does not convince ("some kind of meal"?); Weil's CE/NIA/ for CE/NWN is an adequate solution.

434 D. prefers L's XOROU\S META\ *NHRH|DWN to XOREU/MATA *NHRH/|DWN (Diggle, West), but while her excellent discussion in Eikasmos 3.111-4 shows how the leaping of the dolphins (435-7) as they guide the ships to Troy (438-441) must be identified with the dancing of 434, she has not accounted satisfactorily for META\ *NHRH/|DWN. D. wants to translate, "O navi che accompagnava le danze in cui il delfino tra le Nereidi ..." (ibid. n. 21), but the phrasing is entirely against this; and the alternative, "escorting with the Nereids the dances in which the aulos-loving dolphin ...", puts the Nereids on the wrong team. XOREU/MATA allows the right partnership of dancing dolphins with dancing Nereids: "escorting the Nereids' dances in which the aulos-loving dolphin ..."

445-6 D. offers an attractive possibility: if NA/PAS can mean 'wooded slopes' rather than 'glens', read E)RUMNA\S I(ERA=S rather than -A=S A\S, i.e. "sacred Ossa's sheer wooded slopes" rather than "sheer Ossa's sacred wooded slopes".

456-7~468-9 D. retains L's text, defending the metre (3da, ia penth) with some reservation at Eikasmos 3.116-9.

483-4 D. prints SE/ PE/MYOUSI +QANA/TOISI KA)/N+, rejecting Diggle's (derived from Murray) SOI/ PE/MYOUSIN QANA/TOU DI/KAN because phrases such as QANA/TOU DI/KH meaning "death-penalty" are not attested before Plato, and because PE/MPEIN DI/KHN 'send a penalty' seems strange (Eikasmos 3.120-1). The latter point at least has some force.

650-2 D. makes the right choice, I think, in assigning 650 to the Old Man (with L: cf. Boll.Class. 12.7-8) and deleting 651 as a 'clarifying' interpolation. The recipient of the message hardly needs to be named after MHTRI\ in 650. Interpolation may have been prompted by the misattribution of 650 to Orestes at some stage in the tradition, as D. Kovacs notes in his discussion, TAPA 117 (1987), 261-3.

659 D. surprisingly prints L's A)/GW, not Jortin's A)/GE which I think is needed with or without Diggle's MOI. Denniston saw "no great objection to A)/GW 'I bring the conversation back to the point'", but surely the MU=QOS is Electra's account of her plan and the Old Man should be expecting her to complete it.

671-93 D. has discussed this vexed passage in Boll.Class. 12.9-18, and I simply note the salient results. With Kovacs, TAPA 117 (1987), 263-4 she rejects the stichomythic arrangement of 671-83 inaugurated by Kirchhoff and Kvicala; but she does re-identify the speakers in 673-6 (thus 671-2 Or. with Dobree's OI)/KTEIRON, 673 Old Man, 674-5 El., 676 Old Man, 677ff. Or.) and places 683 before 682. With L she assigns all of 684-92 to Electra, deleting only 688 and accepting Jackson's lacuna before 689, and leaves 693 in situ with Victorius's then necessary assignment of its first two words to Orestes.

727~737 D. retains L's text while noting a number of attempts at metrical improvement and remarking, "numeri obscuri, sed textus et strophae et antistrophae sanus videtur".

757 D. prefers L's TH/NDE (recently defended by Kamerbeek and Cropp), to F. W. Schmidt's TH|=DE.

876-8 D. prints what is essentially L's text, except that L has TOU/SD' and no punctuation: NU=N OI( PA/ROS A(ME/TEROI | GAI/AS TURANNEU/SOUSI FI/LOI BASILH=S, | DIKAI/WS TOU\S A)DI/KOUS KAQELO/NTES. In 876 Wecklein's A(METE/RAS is preferable: not "Now the dear kings who were previously ours shall rule the land", rather "Now those who were previously our land's dear kings shall rule it". The passages invoked by D. (El. 1153-4, HF 1281-2) are not compelling. In 877-8 a comma after DIKAI/WS is better than one before it: not "... shall rule it, having justly cast down the unjust", rather "... shall rule it justly, having cast down the unjust". Still better, accept L's original A)DI/KWS (even if this was a happy accident): "... shall rule it justly, having cast down those who have ruled it unjustly". Again, D.'s comparison with 584 does not give her much support. Denniston declared that "It is absolutely necessary to read A)DI/KOUS", but his argument only rules out TOU/SD' / TOU\S A)DI/KWS = "(having cast down) these/them wrongly", along with TOU/SD' A)DI/KOUS = "these wicked men" (referring to Aegisthus alone). He does not seem to have considered TOU\S A)DI/KWS = "those (ruling) unjustly".

894-5 D. rejects the deletion of W(S ... PROSQW=MEN proposed by Diggle; cf. Eikasmos 2.112 where incidentally she accepts that Orestes is bringing Aegisthus's whole body, not just his head.

900-2 D. prints L's text but notes in her App. (inter alia) Kovacs's proposal of a lacuna after 901 in which which Electra's desire to insult Aegisthus's corpse verbally would have been spelled out. In Eikasmos 2.112-3 n. 37 she is inclined to be satisified with making U(BRI/ZEIN (902) depend on AI)SXU/NOMAI (900) and understanding it in the light of EI)PEI=N (900), which I think is reasonable:

El. I feel shame (at speaking), but want to speak nevertheless.
Or. What (do you feel shame at saying)? Speak out; you are no longer in danger.
El. At insulting corpses -- lest someone should strike me with resentment.
Or might one possibly print 901 without a comma and make U(BRI/ZEIN depend on FQO/NW| BA/LH|, "(I feel shame) lest someone should strike me with resentment at (my) insulting corpses"? FQO/NW| BA/LLW is virtually a periphrasis for FQONE/W, which could mean "resent that x should be doing y" (LSJ II.1 includes a few examples with Acc. or Dat. and Infin.). Cf. also Hec. 288, A)POKTEI/NEIN FQO/NOS GUNAI=KAS ..., " (There is/will be) resentment at (your) killing women ..."

959-966 D. retains L's allocation of these verses (959-61 Or., then El. and Or. alternately) while noticing in her App. the reversal of this assignment by Camper and many editors and several consequent proposals for dealing with 965-6. I continue to think the reversal is required by the following considerations (not noticed by D. in her discussion, Boll.Class. 12.18-20): (1) Electra has been preoccupied with her speech against Aegisthus, so Orestes should be the one free to observe Clytemnestra's approach (962, 964); (2) 963-4 are implausible as they stand in L: "Surely I am not seeing reinforcements from Mycenae?" -- "No, you are seeing my mother ..." The speaker of 962 and 964 has seen the approaching entourage; it should surely be the case that the speaker of 963 has not seen it and cannot explain it, so that Bothe's O(RA=IS must replace O(RW=. (3) Electra's comment in 968, "What, has pity seized you now that you have seen your mother in person", proves that it was Orestes who was seeing the entourage at 964. The best solution for 966 is Kirchhoff's, which Diggle follows: assign it to Electra and suppose a verse of Orestes lost before it.

982-4 D. retains L's stichomythic presentation of these three verses (El., Or., El.), reading H)= for EI)S in 983 and retaining U(POSTH/SW in 983, KAQEI=LEN in 984. Weil's assignment of all three verses to Electra, with EI)= U(POSTH/SWN and Triclinius's KAQEI=LES, is decidedly superior; the connections of OU) MH\ (982) with A)LL' (983) and of TO\N AU)TO\N (983) with W(=| KAI\ (984) are convincing. If 983 has Orestes saying "But am I really to set up the same deception against her (sc. as against Aegisthus)", we must ask why he is objecting to deception rather than to matricide by any means. I am not convinced by D.'s elaborate answer, Boll.Class. 12.22-24.

1015 D. restores L's KALW=S against Diggle's KAKW=S.

1045 D. declines Diggle's placing of a lacuna after this verse.

1059 D. prints Lloyd-Jones's OU)/K, EI)/ TI TH=| SH=| G' (itself based on a conjecture of Jackson).

1060 The App. could have mentioned M. Lloyd's elucidation of this verse and its relationship with what follows in The Agon in Euripides (Oxford, 1992), 66. I accept Lloyd's view.

1100-01 D. retains this often deleted choral couplet, though not the still oftener deleted three verses which precede it (cf. Eikasmos 2.119-121). The comparison often made between El. 1097-1101 and Or. 602-6 (where 602-4 are to be deleted but 605-6 retained) is telling, but 1100-1 still seem to me less apt in this place than Or. 605-6 in theirs, for the reasons given in my commentary.

1107-8 D. accepts Weil's transposition of these verses to follow 1131 "dubitanter". I remain convinced that they cannot precede the introduction of the topic of Electra's childbearing at 1124-5. The only question is whether to transpose or delete, and the latter option is uninviting.

1110 D. prints PO/SEI (Gomperz) for PO/SIN but offers a weak conjecture of her own, POTE.

1152 D. seems too cautious in printing +SXETLI/A+ rather than Diggle's SXE/TLIE. (Her reservation in Eikasmos 3.115 n. 31 is that there is no other example in the Vocative case of an adjective given Masc. rather than its usual Fem. form metri gratia.)

1163-4 These dochmiacs ending (or following) the antistrophe of the Fourth Stasimon have no equivalent in the strophe (i.e., after 1154). Kirchhoff and several recent editors have joined Triclinius in positing the loss of such an equivalent, and this is surely right. Wecklein's notion that the lost lines were identical with 1163-4, i.e., a refrain, can safely be rejected. Alternative suggestions are that 1163-4 are the beginning of a new strophe which is "interrupted" by Clytemnestra's cry (Parmentier), or that 1163-4 constitute an epode in themselves (Muenscher, Hermes 62 (1927), 166 n. 3). D. adopts a hardly more plausible alternative, taking all of the mixed dochmiacs and iambics 1163-71 as an epode (so Schroeder and, it would seem, Dale). To support this D. cites examples of amoibaic mixtures of iambic trimeters with lyrics, but the content of these is various and none meets the essence of the problem presented by our case, which is that the content of 1163-4 so clearly belongs with 1155-62 and not with 1165ff.

1174 D. accepts Reiske's TROPAI=A for TRO/PAIA but not a preceding lacuna (Paley) nor Musgrave's PROSFAGMA/TWN for PROSFQEGMA/TWN. She cites Denniston's explanation of the result, according to which the verse means "proclaiming the rout of her piteous address" -- i.e. more literally, '(Here come Orestes and Electra ..., who are) rout-exhibitions of [Clytemnestra's] piteous addresses'. This is hardly likely. Whatever the truth, it seems reasonable to suppose (a) that TRO/PAIA / TROPAI=A refers either to the bodies being a trophy or to the matricides being repulsive, and (b) that PROSFQEGMA/TWN, if correct, refers to verbal communication with/from the bloodstained matricides.

1185-6 D. settles for I)W\ TU/XAS +SA=S TU/XAS+ MA=TER TEKOU=S' <u - -> while noting Hutchinson's DUSTUXOU=S and Grotefend's A)/LASTA (supported by Diggle's comparison with Stesichorus S 13.2-3) which together make an attractive solution.

1226, 1232 One must either give 1232 to the Chorus or delete L's indication Xo. at 1226 so that Electra sings all of 1124-6 and 1230-2. In the latter case Seidler's change of E)/RECAS to E)/RECA is possible but not essential. D. chooses the first option; but the single lines given to the Chorus are rather abrupt, and 1232 reads better as a continuation (in apposition) of 1231 than as a separate sentence. If the second option is taken, we might read in 1226 DEINO/TATON PAQE/WN S' E)/RECA, "I inflicted on you the most terrible of sufferings." This fits very well with 1224-5 ("I urged you on ..."), and it makes better sense than "You/I performed the most terrible of sufferings", which is awkward even if understood as an intentional oxymoron. R(E/ZW with two Accusatives is Homeric (LSJ I.3); the nearest approximation in Tragedy is Med. 1292 with indirect object, O(/SA BROTOI=S E)/RECAS H)/DH KAKA/.

1292-1304 D. rightly assigns the questions in this passage to Orestes and Electra alternately, rejecting Victorius's assignment of 1292-3 and 1298-1300 to the Chorus (with Orelli's MUSARAI=S for -OI=S in 1294) and Arnoldt's transposition of 1295-7 to follow 1302: cf. Boll.Class. 12.29-34.

1301 For L's impossible MOI/RAS A)NA/GKHS D. prints MOI=RA T' (Bothe) A)NA/GKH T' (Diggle): "moira (her moira?) and ananke and Phoebus's unwise utterances led towards what had to be." Her own suggestion to combine MOI=RAN (Seidler) with A)NA/GKH T' seems better: "ananke and Phoebus's unwise utterances led (her) moira towards what had to be." For the divine direction of a personal moira she compares Andr. 1007 and F 491.3. A reference to Clytemnestra's moira (rather than Orestes' or everyone's) responds well to Orestes' reference to her in his question (1298-1300).

The volume is accurately printed though not very attractively (footnotes and apparatus printed rather large occupy up to half of some pages). Apart from "Canter" (413 App.: see above) I have noticed only one error: 251 (App.) TELORO\S and TELOURO\S (for THL- and THL-).


  • [1] "Euripide, Elettra 1", RFIC 108 (1980), 385-403; "Euripides, Electra 22-23", SIFC 53 (1981), 262-9; "Note sulla monodia di Elettra ..., 112-166", RFIC 121 (1993), 272-284; "Osservazioni sul primo stasimo ...", Eikasmos 3 (1993), 111-122; "Euripide, Elettra 518-44", BICS 27 (1980), 109-119; "Osservazioni sul II stasimo ...", in Studia Iohanni Tarditi oblata, ed. L. Belloni et al. (Milan, 1995), II (I have not seen this); "Sulla distribuzione delle battute nell' Elettra di Euripide", Boll.Class. 12 (1991), 5-35; "Sulle interpolazioni nell' Elettra di Euripide", Eikasmos 2 (1991), 107-122; "Euripide, Elettra: dai codici alle prime edizione a stampa", Boll.Class. 10 (1989), 70-105; "Cesura mediana e trimetro euripideo", Hermes 115 (1987), 137-146.