BMCR 2018.06.35

Theatre World: Critical Perspectives on Greek Tragedy and Comedy. Studies in Honour of Georgia Xanthakis-Karamanos. Trends in Classics, Supplementary Volumes 45

, , , Theatre World: Critical Perspectives on Greek Tragedy and Comedy. Studies in Honour of Georgia Xanthakis-Karamanos. Trends in Classics, Supplementary Volumes 45. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. xii, 375. ISBN 9783110514919, 9783110519785. ebook.

Table of Contents

Τhis volume celebrates the life and the work of an eminent classical scholar, Professor Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou. Professor Xanthaki’s work deals mainly with the post-classical drama, to which her doctoral dissertation, Studies in Fourth-Century Tragedy, was devoted. As F. R. Adrados points out, Xanthaki is “a person who is constant in the study of Greek theatre”. She has also published several important contributions to the study of Attic rhetoric. Of particular importance for anyone interested in Demosthenes’ work is her annotated edition of his speech Against Meidias. The volume in question here contains several articles dealing with various aspects of Greek tragedy and comedy. Some of them are written by her students, who occupy distinguished academic positions in Greece and abroad.

It is not possible to give a full picture of the variety of subjects covered by this volume. I shall focus on a few articles, which have a special interest because of the new perspectives under which various aspects of Greek drama are examined. In the first part, general studies concerning Greek drama are to be found. F. R. Adrados looks into the origins of Greek drama once more, arguing against those who still believe in the model proposed by Aristotle, who suggested that tragedy came out of the dialogue of the exarchon of the dithyramb and the Chorus. Adrados, rejecting this pan-Dionysism, held most notably by U.von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, points out that such a theory neglects various religious and ritual aspects, which played their role in the creation of the literary genre in question.

A. H. Sommerstein (“Philanthropic Gods in Comedy and Tragedy”) examines the presentation of philanthropic gods by the main fifth-century tragic and comic poets, making a sharp distinction between the philanthropic gods of the Odyssey and the gods of the Iliad, who show little or no concern for the welfare of human beings, and highlighting the role of Aeschylus and Aristophanes, who introduced human-friendly gods into tragedy and comedy respectively. S. Saïd (“The People in Aeschylus’ Tragedies”) focuses on the presentation of people and their relation to their rulers by Aeschylus in his surviving tragedies, and maintains that while the people of barbarian nations are totally subordinated to the ruler, people in Greece play a significant role as a unity: the importance of public opinion and the power of the assembly are acknowledged. C. Carey (“Staging Allegory”) deals with personification as a vehicle for theatrical metaphor in Greek comedy, arguing that personification is used to articulate thematic elements present in plot, script and character, while visual representation reinforces those thematic elements. B. Zimmermann (“Trygodia — Remarks on the Poetics of Aristophanic Comedy”) investigates the way Aristophanes competes with his rivals, mainly Cratinus, in order to exhibit his own skills. While Cratinus is rather traditional, Aristophanes was striving to achieve the concept of an ideal comedy in all aspects and did not hesitate to take advantage of the possibilities offered by Greek tragedy in order to put his personal stamp on the continuously developing genre of comedy. That is the meaning of the verb εὐριπιδαριστοφανίζων created by Cratinus himself. A. Fountoulakis (“When Dionysus Goes to the East: On the Dissemination of Greek Drama beyond Athens”) examines the dissemination of Greek drama in the Hellenistic East, devoting a special section on the activity of various authors of Alexandria (Callimachus, Alexander Aetolus, etc.), whose work culminates in the production of a new cultural identity, based on the legacy of Greek drama. Another interesting example of the same tendency is the Exagoge of the Jewish poet Ezekiel, which is an attempt of an author to create a new cultural language through the manipulation of various aspects of the dramatic tradition of the past.

The second part of the volume contains articles dealing with various individual plays. F. Montanari (“Klytaimnestra in the Odyssey and Aeschylus’ Agamemnon) illuminates various aspects of the transition from the Homeric version of the famous queen of Mycenae to that of Aeschylus. Like Pindar, Aeschylus emphasizes the personal motives leading Klytaimnestra to the murder of her husband with her own hands, thus developing a line first suggested by the author of the Odyssey. J. Gregory (“Sophocles’ Ajax and his Homeric Prototypes”) examines the divergences of the Sophoclean Ajax from his Homeric namesake: the Sophoclean hero no longer depends on the divinity but has an immense confidence in himself, reminding us of the Homeric Achilles. F. Dunn (“The Prosopon Fallacy or, Apollo in Sophocles’ Electra ”) illuminates various aspects of Apollo’s influence on the plot of the Sophoclean tragedy, although that influence is not so visible to a careless reader. M. Quijada Sagredo (“Narrative and Rhetorical Experimentation in Euripides’ Late Iphigenia at Aulis ”) examines the way Euripides turns the traditional conflicts around Iphigenia’s sacrifice into a family drama, full of intrigue, breaking some of the traditional conventions governing the plot of that myth, and giving to the characters a new dynamic.

The third part of the book is devoted to the reception of Greek drama both in antiquity and in modern times. P. Demont (“A Note on Demosthenes’ (19.246–250) and the Reception of Sophocles’ Antigone ”) examines the way Aeschines, according to Demosthenes, has actually done exactly the reverse of what Creon’s first rhesis recommended by choosing Philip as his friend and points both to the influence of Sophoclean ideas in the fourth century and Demosthenes’ sharp irony aimed at the “tritagonist” Aeschines. M. Edwards (“Tragedy in Antiphon 1, Against the Stepmother ”) explores the tragic elements in vocabulary, style (metaphors) and dramatic technique, such as messenger speeches, which characterize Antiphon’s speech. E. Volonaki (“Euripides’ Erechtheus in Lykourgos’ Against Leokrates ”) examines the rhetorical strategy of Lykourgos in his use of Euripides’ lost tragedy Erechtheus, which was so successful that he almost won his trial against Leokrates. A. Hurst (“Upon the king!”) highlights the paradox of tragedy’s appeal to kings from the Hellenistic to the Roman period, despite its democratic origin. Tragedies were written especially because of their religious connections and the prestige implied in the role of a tragic poet. G. Vasilaros (“The Lemnian Deeds: A Tragic Episode in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius) looks into the dramatic elements of the Lemnian episode in the Argonautica of Apollonius, which is an eloquent example of Apollonius’ exploitation of the dramatic tradition, while J. Davidson (“Tristan and Isolde and Classical Myth”) deals with the reception of Greek tragedy in the music drama of Richard Wagner, examining how Wagner adapted a medieval German myth to Greek sources. E. Moutsopoulos’ contribution (“The Role of Music in Plato’s Symposium ”) deals with an important but rather neglected part of Plato’s legacy.

There is no doubt that this volume, offering a variety of approaches both to the Greek theatre as a whole and to individual dramas, and containing so many thought-provoking studies, is a most useful and important contribution to the study of Greek drama.