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The Captive Woman's Lament in Greek Tragedy

CASEY DUÉ
Copyright Date: 2006
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/709461
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    The Captive Woman's Lament in Greek Tragedy
    Book Description:

    The laments of captive women found in extant Athenian tragedy constitute a fundamentally subversive aspect of Greek drama. In performances supported by and intended for the male citizens of Athens, the songs of the captive women at the Dionysia gave a voice to classes who otherwise would have been marginalized and silenced in Athenian society: women, foreigners, and the enslaved.The Captive Woman's Lament in Greek Tragedyaddresses the possible meanings ancient audiences might have attached to these songs. Casey Dué challenges long-held assumptions about the opposition between Greeks and barbarians in Greek thought by suggesting that, in viewing the plight of the captive women, Athenian audiences extended pity to those least like themselves. Dué asserts that tragic playwrights often used the lament to create an empathetic link that blurred the line between Greek and barbarian.

    After a brief overview of the role of lamentation in both modern and classical traditions, Dué focuses on the dramatic portrayal of women captured in the Trojan War, tracing their portrayal through time from the Homeric epics to Euripides' Athenian stage. The author shows how these laments evolved in their significance with the growth of the Athenian Empire. She concludes that while the Athenian polis may have created a merciless empire outside the theater, inside the theater they found themselves confronted by the essential similarities between themselves and those they sought to conquer.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79611-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-29)

    Laments of captive women play a substantial role in the Greek literature that has come down to us. In the extract fromSeven Against Thebesthat I cite above, the chorus of Theban women lament in anticipation of disaster, envisioning with perfect clarity the simultaneous destruction of their city and the capture and rape of its women. That disaster is never in fact realized, since the Thebans are in the end victorious, but the laments of the chorus make clear what is at stake in the siege. The laments of the extant tragedies that deal with the Trojan War are...

  5. CHAPTER ONE MEN’S SONGS AND WOMEN’S SONGS
    (pp. 30-56)

    Are the voices of women in men’s poetry representative of women’s independent song traditions? What role, if any, did women’s song traditions play in the shaping of men’s epic traditions (and, later, tragedy)? In recent years scholars have begun to suggest that women’s lament traditions may have played a crucial role in the development of epic and tragedy, which were traditionally performed by men.¹ Sheila Murnaghan has noted, for example, that the majority of women’s speech in theIliadand theOdysseyis closely related to lament in both language and theme.² Epic poetry narrates the glory of heroes, the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO IDENTIFYING WITH THE ENEMY: love, loss, and longing in the Persians of aeschylus
    (pp. 57-90)

    In the first two decades of the fifth century b.c., the century in which Greek tragedy as we know it flourished, the Greeks were attacked twice by the vastly larger army and navy of the Persian Empire. Against all odds, both times they ultimately succeeded in fending them off. But the cost was high. In 480 b.c. the people of Athens abandoned their city to the Persians and retreated with their families and possessions to the nearby island of Salamis. Athens was thoroughly sacked and the acropolis largely destroyed, but the combined forces of the Greeks at Salamis managed to...

  7. CHAPTER THREE ATHENIANS AND TROJANS
    (pp. 91-116)

    Before we can examine the laments and plight of the captive Trojan women in Euripides’ Trojan War plays in a meaningful way, it is first necessary to establish an understanding of the Athenians’ particular relationship with the Trojan War. What associations does the Trojan War as a theme carry with it? How are Trojans and the fall of Troy represented in Athenian literature and art?

    As we will see, the Athenians are not categorically a part of the Achaean collective tradition and cannot necessarily be assimilated with the Greeks of theIliad.¹ Athenian participation in the Trojan War has only...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR THE CAPTIVE WOMAN’S LAMENT AND HER REVENGE IN EURIPIDES’ Hecuba
    (pp. 117-135)

    I would like to begin my discussion of the laments of captive Trojan women in Euripides by examining Euripides’Hecuba, which is thought to have been produced first during the mid-420s b.c., at the height of the first phase of the Peloponnesian War.³ Hecuba was famously all-suffering, and of all the victims at Troy she was portrayed as having lost the most. She was the queen of Troy, and gave birth to many, many children, only to witness the death of her husband and sons. Priam, Hecuba’s husband and the king of Troy, died in the sack of Troy, but...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE A RIVER SHOUTING WITH TEARS: euripides’ Trojan Women
    (pp. 136-150)

    TheTrojan Women, first produced in 416 b.c., is both the easiest and the most difficult to interpret of the plays under discussion, and indeed it is this deceptive ease that prompted the writing of this book.

    The play is an unrelenting portrait of suffering, and has had a great deal of success in modern productions as a play that protests war.¹ Hecuba is onstage lamenting her losses throughout, interrupted by the appearance and forced removal of her daughter Cassandra and her daughter-in-law Andromache. She learns of the sacrifice of Polyxena after the fact, hears of the resolution to kill...

  10. CHAPTER SIX THE CAPTIVE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE: euripides’ Andromache
    (pp. 151-162)

    Euripides’Andromachemay not have been originally produced in Athens, if we may trust the comment of a scholiast at line 445 of the play, nor can we be certain of the date of its production, which is generally assumed to be the mid 420s.¹ It is, moreover, a complicated drama that has not always been admired, though several recent studies have gone a long way toward better explicating its themes and structure.²

    I have nevertheless thought it useful to include it in my discussion, because the play contains several components that shed light on the captive woman’s lament. First,...

  11. CONCLUSION: THE TEARS OF PITY
    (pp. 163-168)

    Tragedy often forced Athens to confront itself. Athenian tragedy examines the policies, actions, belief structures, and values of its citizens. It does so, however, only for the duration of the performance. In the end, for all that examination and after all the suffering, these same policies, actions, belief structures, and values are often only reaffirmed for the spectators. In this way only then might Euripides be called a “pacifist,” in that he challenged the Athenians to witness and consider the suffering that they were not only in the process of inflicting on others but also might one day experience themselves....

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 169-184)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 185-190)