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The “Packed-Full” Drama In Late Euripides: Phoenissae

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Chapter Summary

A basic characteristic of Euripidean drama is multiplicity or variegation, a characteristic that in fact is also basic to the original form of tragedy, an art-form that in combining lyric and spoken verse genres, creates an accompanying contrast between choral and individual performance. In moving toward an increasingly variegated dramatic style, however, Euripides was to an extent working against tendencies toward a more naturalistic mimesis of human interaction. Phoenissae is a profoundly derivative and profoundly innovative drama that evokes a mythic saga well known to us from other tragedies by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and even Euripides himself. This chapter argues that, in this play, as in two other late plays, Orestes and Iphigeneia at Aulis, Euripidean versatility moves in a new direction. In Phoenissae all the protagonists have familiar parts to play in well-known saga of Thebes; but it is surprising to find all three generations active in the same play.

Keywords: Euripides; Iphigeneia at Aulis; mythic saga; Orestes; Phoenissae; saga of Thebes; Sophocles



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