The Use of Anonymous Characters in Greek Tragedy

The Shaping of Heroes

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Anonymous characters appear in almost every extant Greek Tragedy, yet they have long been overlooked in critical scholarship. This book argues that the creation and use of anonymous figures is an important tool in the transformation of traditional mythological heroes into unique dramatic characters. Through close reading of the passages in which nameless characters appear, this study demonstrates the significant impact of their speech, actions, and identity on the characterization of the particular named heroes to whom they are attached. Exploring the boundaries between anonymity and naming in mythico-historical drama, the book draws attention to an important but neglected aspect of the genre, suggesting a new perspective from which to read, perform, and appreciate Greek Tragedy.

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Florence Yoon, D.Phil. (2008) in Classics, University of Oxford, is Assistant Professor in Greek Language and Literature at the University of British Columbia.
" This user-friendly book gains our confidence through its sensitive close readings of a range of Greek tragedies. [...] Yoon’s book will be of value to students of Greek tragedy. Those interested in narratological matters will benefit as well. [...] [the] book intersects with the study of minor characters and, therefore, the study of characters and characterization more broadly in fields beyond Classics. Yet, this intersection is accidental. The implied reader of this book is a classicist: Greek passages are not translated into English, and there is scarcely any engagement with scholarship on character or characterization that is not by classicists. I fear that this useful book will not receive the wide readership outside Classics that it deserves. We can resolve to spread the word." Jonathan L. Ready in BMCR, (7 May 2013)
REFERENCES AND ABBREVIATIONS................................................................................... 4
INTRODUCTION: “WHAT’S IN A NAME?” .......................................................................... 7
I. CLASSES .......................................................................................................................16
1. Personal servants .............................................................................................17
Nurses and Tutors ...................................................................................21
2. Other servants .................................................................................................32
Heralds ....................................................................................................32
3. Priests ..............................................................................................................37
4. Children ..........................................................................................................44
II. INDIVIDUALS ...............................................................................................................54
1. Characters who affect the portrayal of their hero by what they say ...............57
1.1 Prologizomenoi: ................................................................................57
a) The Watchman (Agamemnon) ................................................57
b) The Nurse and the Tutor (Medea) ..........................................59
1.2 Eteocles and his Scout (Septem) ........................................................64
1.3 Agamemnon and the Herald (Agamemnon) ......................................66
1.4 Admetus and the Servants (Alcestis) ................................................71
2. Characters who affect the portrayal of their hero by their dialogue ...............75
2.1 Creon and the Watchman (Antigone) ................................................75
2.2 Deianeira and the Messenger (Trachiniae) .......................................81
2.3 Orestes, Electra, and the Tutor (S. Electra) ......................................83
2.4 Iolaus, Alcmene and the Servant of Hyllus (Heracleidae) ...............89
2.5 Hippolytus and the Old Man (Hippolytus) .......................................93
2.6 Andromache and her suvndoulo~ (Andromache) ..............................96
2.7 Electra, Orestes, and the Old Tutor (E. Electra) ...............................99
2.8 Menelaus and the Doorkeeper (Helen) ...........................................104
2.9 Orestes and the Phrygian Slave (Orestes) .......................................108
3. Characters who affect the portrayal of their hero by what they do................113
3.1 Phaedra and her Nurse (Hippolytus) ...............................................115
3.2 Creousa and the Old Tutor (Ion) .....................................................122
3.3 Agamemnon and the Old Servant (IA) ............................................128
4. Characters who affect the portrayal of their hero by what they are ..............131
4.1 Electra and the Autourgos (E. Electra) ...........................................131
4.2 Eurystheus and his Herald (Heracleidae) .......................................143
4.3 The Egyptians and their Herald? (A. Supplices and Aegyptioi) .....151
III. SPECIAL CASES .........................................................................................................160
1. The Persian Queen: the anonymity of a historical figure .............................160
2. Cilissa: anonymously named ........................................................................171
3. The Slave of Loxias in Ion: naming an anonymous character ......................175
IV. CONTRASTS AND COMPARISONS ...............................................................................183
1. Epic: Homer and Hesiod ...............................................................................183
2. Aristophanic Comedy: the khdesthv~ in Thesmophoriazusae........................188
3. A brief note on later tragedy ..........................................................................196
CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................................199
WORKS CITED.................................................................................................................204
All those interested in Greek Tragedy, character and characterization in classical literature, the adaptation of mythological tradition, the dynamics of naming and anonymity, and dramatic techniques in general.