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image of Mnemosyne

Taking its departure from the generally-accepted opinion that (almost) all important movements and gestures of the actors in Greek tragedy are indicated in the text itself, this essay asks how the generic, and aesthetic, character of tragedy is affected by the verbal communication of so much visual detail. Do the passages that refer to movement advance the dialogue— that is, the dramatic action? If many of them seem to convey much the same information as the movement itself, this raises a question about just how dramatic Greek tragedy is. Undertaking a detailed, albeit not exhaustive, survey of utterances indicating actors' movements, the study shows that a majority of such utterances are followed by a specific response, either verbal or visual, and a number of others may be said to contribute otherwise to the progress of the dialogue. A relatively small but not insignificant number, however, clearly are external to the mimesis of communication among the dramatis personae. The final section of the essay argues that verbal indications of movement have an aesthetic value that is independent of the mimesis of actor/actor dialogue. For a number of utterances take notice of movements which—either because they are ancillary to what is said or because they are 'entailed' movements—do not of themselves contribute to the dramatic action.


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