Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.01.16

Susanne Gödde, Theodor Heinze (ed.), Skenika: Beiträge zum antiken Theater und seiner Rezeption. Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Horst-Dieter Blume.   Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2000.  Pp. xiii, 462; viii plates.  ISBN 3-534-15038-4.  DM 78.00.  



Reviewed by Regine May, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (regine.may@ccc.ox.ac.uk)
Word count: 2722 words

Horst-Dieter Blume has worked widely in the field of ancient theatre (mainly comedy) and its reception; hence Skenika as a title for his Festschrift. The result covers many aspects, some central, some marginal and challenging, of ancient theatre and its reception. Of the thirty-three contributions, twenty-six deal with antiquity from the earliest tragedians up to Eusebius, while seven deal with the reception of antiquity from Humanism to contemporary writers. The methodological range moves from close readings of particular passages, archaeology, papyrology and textual criticism to literary theory and history of ideas; some discussions are closely, some only loosely related to ancient theatre. Old Comedy is only marginally represented. As often with Festschriften, the quality of the contributions varies greatly. Since the majority of the articles are in German (contributions by Brown, Arnott, Green & Handley, Hunter and Stehlíková are however in English), it is perhaps best to summarise the content of each contribution briefly.

I. Greek Drama

Greek Tragedy

Peter G. McC. Brown gives a survey of scenes in tragedy featuring door-knocking, actually far more frequent in comedy. Since it is present, though rare, in tragedy (Aesch. Choe. 653ff.; Eur. Hel. 430ff), door-knocking "should not be seen as an intrinsically comic device" (p. 2). In both genres its main function is to build up the audience's expectations for the next scene.

Martin Hose's paper deals with eikos in Attic tragedy, or rather with the problem of how and if different actions and phenomena are seen in a causal relation to each other. Hose concentrates more specifically on the interpretation of the past and the planning of the future within the drama. Some justifications in early tragedy (until the 420s) follow the rhetorical outlines for the different staseis, based on quasi-rhetorical eikos-argumentations. Later tragedies concentrate rather on planning intrigues, and the later the tragedy, the more intricate and prone to failure the intrigue. This later stage of failed plans, he argues, develops naturally into the strong position that tyche has in the late tragedies and comedies.

Susanne Gödde impressively concentrates on the portrayal of ritual in Aischylos' Persians. She offers a structuralistic-semiotic approach to the portrayal of the metaphor of "tearing", which runs through the play as a leitmotif, from the literal tearing of clothes as a gesture of lament to very subtle but all-encompassing metaphorical uses. She concludes that the imagery of tearing has an iconic function as an image of the overall action: the living Persians ritually assimilate themselves to their dead by tearing their clothes in the ritualistic kommos. This imagery, she argues, does not imply any judgment of the Persians or Greeks on Aischylos' part but gains its own hermeneutic and aesthetic meaning as a mimetic portrayal of the war between the two peoples.

Stephan Heilen deals with the influence of divine and human action on the outcome of Sophocles' Trachiniae. Aphrodite and Eros are personified passions, and the humans are driven by them to actions which irreversibly change their lives in a way they did not foresee. Sophocles' stress is on the tragic mismatch of human short-sightedness and the complicated circumstances. Thus, although all persons in the tragedy try to pin the arche kakon on one of the other persons in the drama, no-one manages to find the ultimate cause. Their particular tragedies lie in the fact that in their freedom of decision they take the wrong step towards the wrong action because of their own particular human condition. Thus Sophocles manages to portray the existential insecurity of human nature, the drama of which is not caused by a deity but by the humans' own passions but where gods do not interfere as saviours, either.

Theodor Heinze, one of the editors, analyses the intertextuality between Euripides' Alcestis and two passages of Aischylos' Eumenides (179ff.; 711ff.), concentrating on thematic references underlined by verbal repetitions. The two tragedies contrast effectively the character of Apollo's relationships with his protegés through thematic parallels and contrasts.

Satyr Drama

Wolfgang Luppe solves a crux in Sophocles' Ichneutai vv. 369f. with admirable papyrological genius.

Greek Comedy

Federica Casolari analyses Plato's Phaon (performed 391 BC) for elements of both Old and Middle Comedy. The former is mainly found in the play's obscenity, mythological parodies and criticism of contemporary religious customs. Middle Comedy is found in the portrayal of Aphrodite as Phaon's procuress (lena), thus integrating Old Comedy political and fairy-tale-like mythological parody into the more humanised form of mythology in Middle Comedy.

André Hurst analyses Menander, Aspis 455-464, and gives some textual restorations of the fragmentary papyrus as well as an interpretation based on them.

W. Geoffrey Arnott discusses six passages of Samia with respect to their staging, eliminating several textual problems or misunderstandings on his way towards understanding how this fragmentary play must have worked on stage.

Jean-Marie Jacques reconstructs the plot of another fragmentary play, Menander's Sikyonios, stressing the important role and large stage presence of the soldier's parasite Theron, who might even be part of a double wedding (Malthake and Theron, Stratophanes and Philumene). Cf. also now the third vol. of Arnott's Loeb Menander (Harvard 2000) p. 288ff. for a reconstruction of the play's ending with this wedding.

II. Roman Drama

Roman Tragedy

Claudia Schindler considers the central description of a seastorm in Seneca's Agamemnon (vv. 421-578). She concentrates on the changes to the originally epic topos when transferred to the dramatic genre. The disaffected narration of the messenger, she argues, is intended as a contrast to the emotional other characters of the drama, and another novelty in Seneca is the sequence of the long narration of peaceful preparation for setting sail and the long narration of the sea storm. Furthermore, there are no helpful deities assuaging the storm in Seneca, and its cause is not announced by gods but only guessed at by its human victims (shipwreck as atonement for Troy). She argues that in epic the description of a sea journey and that of a sea storm are two different topoi, which Seneca uniquely combines.

Roman Comedy

Gregor Maurach proposes an emendation of Naevius fr. 36 Ribbeck (Corollaria): one should read amari instead of amare, in order to align the fragment with usual comedy customs. This suggestion is, however, already made by Bernd Bader: "Three Notes on Naevian Comedies." In: BICS18 (1971), 110-113 (cf. p.111).

Jürgen Blänsdorf takes the two leading German schools of Plautine scholarship to task, namely Otto Zwierlein (Bonn), who radically cuts 10-40% of the transmitted Plautine text to reconstruct the "pure" Plautus, on one side, and Eckard Lefeèvre (Freiburg) on the other, who stresses the Roman farcical and improvisatory elements in Plautus as a sign of the Roman dramatist's genius and originality. Blänsdorf argues that both approaches depend on the image the individual philologist has of the concept of how Plautine comedy should be. Taking the Bacchides as his example, he argues that Zwierlein's cutting of 464 of 1181 verses (as interpolations from the second century) has thus not reconstructed the "pure" Plautus--or the "pure" Menander for that matter--but results in the loss of any comprehensibility of the plot as well as the fun.

Lore Benz argues for Plautine originality in introducing elements of mime into the Plautine portrait of the parasite Gelasimus as a praeco (Stich. 218-233). Her argument is based on Gelasimus' statement that he will learn mores barbaros (Stich. 193). This might mean "Roman" but does not necessarily refer to Roman indigenous popular mime. Nonetheless the influence of mime is perfectly possible in this particular scene, even if it cannot be proved.

III. Theatre and the Pictorial Arts

Klaus Stähler describes a statue of Procne and Itys on the Athenian Acropolis and its supposed relevance for the political self-conception of the Athenian polis. Besides the disturbing fact that he continually writes Philomene instead of Philomele, he also has to admit that the statue cannot be linked to Sophocles' fragmentary tragedy Tereus (581-595b Radt), except perhaps that both sculpture and drama represent a family tragedy as a symbol of conflicts in larger communities.

Werner Fuchs and Thorsten Opper bring the archaeological discovery of a metrical tomb inscription from Vergina (Macedonia) from shortly after 400 BC to wider attention. They claim that it must be the tombstone of the famous architect Kallimachos because a quotation from Euripides, IT 128f. recurs in the inscription. They claim that IT 128f. might be a hidden homage by Euripides to Kallimachos and dare some far-reaching conclusions for Kallimachos' biography.

Dieter Metzler deals with depictions of ancient audiences and comes to the amazing conclusion that there are no (extant) portraits of watching audiences in ancient theatre. Portraits of listeners, however, are numerous, especially linked with Orpheus. Audiences in general consist of judges in musical agones or witnesses to an important occasion (e.g. gods or bystanders at the ringside).

Reinhard Stupperich completes the archaeological section with a piece on short "comics" in Roman imperial theatres, namely reliefs with mythological topics and political meaning. The development ran from single unconnected scenes to a continuous narrative of Dionysos' life, which influenced the portrayal of other divine lives in other theatres often with a local interpretation of the myth as a self-portrayal of the polis in the East but with less local colour in the West or panhellenic themes in Corinth and Delphi. IV. Interpretation and Reception

From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Markus Mülke argues that the phrase ἐπέταξαν μηκέτι μηδένα χρᾶσθαι τούτωι τῶι δράματι Hdt. 6.21 about Phrynichos' Miletou Halosis cannot mean that reperformances either in Athens or in the surrounding countryside or the reuse of the same subject were prohibited but rather means that the literary use of the drama, e.g. through other dramatists was not allowed (as e.g. Phrynichos' Phoenissae was imitated in Aischylos' Persae).

J. Richard Green and Eric W. Handley describe a Lucanian gnathia-oinochoe (ca.320-310 BC) with an inscription in iambic trimeters translatable as "A father begets children, and a woman takes lovers." This is perhaps inspired by quotations from tragedy and comedy that passed into public usage and changed according to people's needs.

Wolfgang Hübner considers Manilius' horoscopes of Augustus (Capricorn) and Menander (Aquarius).

Richard Hunter discusses Ps.-Plutarch's epitomic Comparison of Aristophanes and Menander (Plut.Mor. 853a-854d), which attacks Aristophanes heavily and lauds Menander. Menander is well known for being ethical; his language is well mixed and educational his poetry is also politically closer to Plutarch's concept of paideia than Aristophanes' boisterous comedy and thus appealed to the Platonist Plutarch (who also saw dramatic history as an analogy to political history) more than the exuberant Aristophanes.

Marie-Luise Lakmann concentrates on the dramatic performance of Platonic dialogues during symposia of the Second Sophistic. Our only two sources, Plut. Symp. 7.7ff. and Athenaios 381f-382a, consider this to be bad behaviour by upstarts who misuse the great philosopher as a cheap dinner entertainment. These entertainers used Plato's reputation to show off their own urbanity and education instead of honouring the philosophers, an attitude easily criticised by these two intellectuals.

Burkhard Reis in an excellent article analyses Plotinus' use of the theatrum mundi metaphor (Enn. III 2 [47]) as a literary text. He shows Plotinus' originality in the employment of the metaphor and then points out that Plotinus, despite seeming knowledgeable on tragedy, will not have seen contemporary tragedy in performance. Finally, he reconstructs Neoplatonic poetics by contrasting Plotinus' implicit statements with Aristotle's Poetics and points out its strengths and deficiencies.

Rainer Henke deals with Ambrose's quotation and metrical translation of Euripides' Andromache 987f. in his exegetic De Abraham. Ambrose, who seems to know both the quotation and its context very well (perhaps from reading Euripides), uses the quotation in various ways to etablish the preference of patria potestas over both virgins' and widows' choice of husbands.

Klaus Ostheeren discusses the rhetorical technique of evidentia. Texts using this technique have a "dramatic" quality and aim at turning the reader into a quasi-spectator in order to rouse his feelings. Ekphrasis is part of evidentia, and Aeneas' emotional reaction to Dido's pictures (Verg.Aen. 1.453ff.) is the source of a long tradition of ekphraseis in English literature. Ostheeren discusses the well-known ekphraseis in Chaucer, who several times uses the Virgilian cernas- (Aen. 4.401; Chaucer's maystow se in Knight's Tale) and vidi-topoi. Then he shows that also Shakespeare (e.g. Lucrece, Julius Caesar, Hamlet) is indebted to the evidentia tradition. V. From Humanism to the Twentieth Century

Hans-Peter Schönbeck discusses the largely unknown ludicrum drama by the German Humanist Jakob Locher (1471-1528), which is based on and a continuation of Plautus' Asinaria. He argues that, instead of being a poor and unwitty piece, it expresses the Humanist's conscious use of a lively classical exemplum for his ideal of moral education.

Kjeld Matthiessen traces the reception of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris in the eighteenth century. The pietists, he argues, appreciated the stress on the divine directing of fate; the followers of the enlightenment delighted in the ending of the murderous cult which was strange to Artemis; in the age of the friendship-cult, Orestes and Pylades were taken as ancient examples; the rescue of a European princess from an oriental despot may also be reminiscent of the "Türkenopern" (Turk operas) then popular in Vienna. Matthiessen then analyses (amongst others) Goethe's Iphigenie auf Tauris (1779) as a drama of transition between the late Sturm-und-Drang and the early Classic period. Goethe changes e.g. the portrait of Thoas from a bloodthirsty barbarian into the loving admirer of Iphigenie, whose influence is about to make him more humane; when Iphigenie, stung by her conscience, reveals Pylades' plan of escape to him, Thoas is indeed humane enough to let them go despite his love for her. Instead of a deus-ex-machina, it is Iphigenie's pure character that leads to the happy ending.

Alfons Weische discusses the sources of Erichtho's monologue of the "Klassische Walpurgisnacht" in Goethe's Faust (II, 7005ff.) and finds parallels with Lucan and Corneille's Pompée, with the former definitely, the latter very likely, being used by Goethe.

Jürgen Werner offers a survey of Aristophanes translations in Germany and discusses the different possibilities for rendering the metre. Furthermore he distinguishes between translations and adaptations and the preferences of each epoch for different techniques. Other (rather well known!) Aristophanic problems are the strong language and paratragedy, or hapax legomena, puns, diminutives and dialect, and Werner gives different examples for each problem, ending with the topos of the untranslatability of Aristophanes and an expression of gratitude to those who attempted it nevertheless.

Eva Stehlíková, too, offers a survey, namely about the reflection of Czech history in the performances of Sophocles' Antigone on the Czech stage. During World War II, the list of "inappropriate plays" limited performable plays considerably, and amongst others Antigone was performed and understood in the Prague of 1941 as a "way of expressing resistance" (p.404). Under Communism, Greek tragedies disappeared from the stage altogether at first, and only in times of relative political "easing-up" were Sophocles' Antigone or modern adaptations performed. Shortly after the brutal ending of the Prague Spring (1968) two memorable performances took place, only to be silenced again by the regime in the following years. Before the fall of Communism, a third wave of Antigone-performances showed the changing political climate.

Frank Bretschneider offers a reading of Nikos Kazantzakis' (1883-1957) early poem "Oidipodas" and its relation to Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. In Kazantzakis' poem, the aged Oedipus, unlike the Sophoclean hero, blames the gods' arbitrariness exclusively for his condition. Unlike Sophocles, Kazantzakis puts justice at the centre of the poem, and his Oedipus becomes the symbol of modern man who fights fearlessly for what he considers justice.

Eckard Lefeèvre deals with a modern adaptation of Philoctetes (written 1958-1964) by the East German poet Heiner Müller (1929-1995), who wrote the gods out of the tragedy and turned the three protagonists into men of hate, without any morals, symbols of the Stalinist regime.

The volume is generally well-presented and nicely edited with well-balanced contributions over an impressive range of topics. Occasionally a word or phrase seems to be missing, e.g. p.149, in "es steigert vor allem die quälende Ungewissheit und das Gefühl des [add perhaps "Ausgeliefertseins?"] an irrationale Kräfte," which however hardly distracts from the overall excellent impression. I found many articles very useful, some others highly interesting or entertaining, and, as is often the case with this particular genre, one finds rewarding articles on topics one would not necessarily otherwise look at.

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