Turning Sound into Sight in the Chorus’ Entrance Song of Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes

in The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual
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In the parodos of Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes the chorus of Theban girls pictures the Argive enemies who are approaching their city. By making comparisons with the scout’s words in the prologue as well as with non-dramatic choral lyric, I show that this song stimulates vision in a remarkable way and induces feelings of fear. The picture that the chorus sketches of the enemy results from what the chorus says it is hearing rather than seeing. This ‘ear-based’ image contrasts sharply with the scout’s eyewitness report. At the same time, the chorus in its movements and behavior visualizes the enemy approaching the city. The chorus’ emotion is more vehement than the emotive expressiveness of non-dramatic choruses, which also provide the audience with a ‘model’ of how to overcome these emotions. The differences between the descriptions of the chorus and the scout can be related to other differences between them, e.g. their emotional register. The opposition between hearing and seeing in the play represents a hierarchical relation and belongs to a broader set of dichotomies in the play which thematize two irreconcilable views on war. This sensory play between eyes and ears seems unique to the Seven.

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The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual

Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song, vol. 1


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