A Study of Sophoclean Drama

A Study of Sophoclean Drama

Volume: 31
Copyright Date: 1958
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    A Study of Sophoclean Drama
    Book Description:

    Although many commentators have dealt with various aspects of structure in Sophoclean drama, G. M. Kirkwood contends that "Sophocles' mastery of dramatic form is accepted with casual and superficial deference rather than fully and clearly understood." This book shows how Sophocles' method of presenting character, his unique handling of myth, his predilection for presenting ideas by comparison and contrast, and his principles of structure are so closely related that they serve to clarify each other.

    In an analysis of the form of Sophocles' seven extant plays, Kirkwood demonstrates the existence of several deliberate and distinct types of dramatic construction. Sophocles' use of the chorus, his irony, and certain aspects of diction are considered as a part of his dramatic art and as elements of structure. Kirkwood discusses a number of traditional problems, among them questions of consistency and meaning in passages from Ajax, Antigone, and Electra. He also considers the problem of "diptych" structure, and shows that it is a definite dramatic shape, of primary importance in understanding the three plays in which it appears.

    Distinctive Sophoclean concepts in which the words eugenes and daimon are conspicuous, the meaning of tragedy in relation to Sophocles' plays, and Sophocles' outlook on deity and on man and his fate are also subjects of illuminating discussions. This book offers ample evidence to support Kirkwood's contention that, "Only when we inquire into the means by which Sophocles invests his plays with their constant air not only of relevance but of immediacy do we begin to understand Sophoclean form."

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6671-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    G. M. Kirkwood
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. CHAPTER I Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    THIS book is primarily an examination of Sophocles’ methods of procedure in dramatic composition, written with a view to determining as accurately as possible how his plays are constructed and why they are constructed as they are. The point is not so much to present a new or a complete interpretation of Sophoclean tragedy or of the individual plays as to observe and, if possible, to explain such matters as the portrayal of character, the place of the chorus, and the different kinds of organization that are found in the several plays.

    Structure and technique in Sophocles’ plays have, of...

  5. CHAPTER II Construction
    (pp. 30-98)

    WHEN we turn to consider the σύvθεσιѕ πραγáтων in Sophocles, the choice and organization of incidents in the dramas, we must restrict our attention to the seven extant plays. In not one of the many lost plays whose titles and, sometimes, general subject matter we know can we say with any degree of certainty exactly what parts of the story Sophocles used or how he put his play together. We come closer to such knowledge of Eurypylus than of any other fragmentary tragedy; but even in it, except for scattered places, we can only guess about the precise material and...

  6. CHAPTER III Character Portrayal
    (pp. 99-180)

    IN a preliminary definition of Sophoclean drama in Chapter I it was suggested that the special mark of Sophocles’ procedure is the delineation not of character in and for itself, but of noble character faced with, and in its special way responding to, a situation that serves as a complete and ultimate revelation of its nature. In discussing the form of his plays, we noticed that in Sophocles to a degree greater than in Aeschylus or Euripides the development of a tragic action depends on the interplay of characters. It is time now to examine in some detail Sophocles’ methods...

  7. CHAPTER IV The Role of the Chorus
    (pp. 181-214)

    WHAT part does the chorus play in Sophoclean drama? Most conspicuously, it sings lyrical songs. Many of the songs are of remarkable poetic grace, and some express deeply felt religious and moral ideas with great power and beauty. The lyrics of tragedy are, along with Pindar, our main possession of Greek choral poetry.

    Some of these songs can be read satisfactorily when detached from their context. The famous ode on man which is the first stasimon of Antigone, the second stasimon of Oedipus Tyrannus with its prayer that the singers may live in piety under the law of heaven, the...

  8. CHAPTER V Some Notes on Diction
    (pp. 215-246)

    SOPHOCLEAN language is everywhere dramatic. There is a quality of urgency and compression about it: in terse, interlocked passages of stichomythic argument between Antigone and Ismene in the second episode of Antigone, between Electra and her mother deadlocked in controversy over “justice” and “shame,” and between the straining insistence of Oedipus and the helpless resistance of the old herdsman; in such linked speeches as those of Ajax and Tecmessa in the first episode of Ajax, and of Oedipus, Theseus, and Creon in their scene together in Oedipus at Colonus; even in monologues or set speeches like those of Ajax to...

  9. CHAPTER VI The Irony of Sophocles
    (pp. 247-288)

    “DRAMATIC IRONY” is a concept that is dangerous to define too closely. In two of the best studies of irony in literature the authors have overcome this hazard by the prudent expedient of not defining the term¹ or by defining it with a protean flexibility: “The whole attitude of the interested spectator.” ² But assuming, as I think we properly can, that tragedy and irony are not conterminous, we shall in the present chapter try to see to what extent Sophoclean tragedy is ironic and what bearing irony has on the structure and meaning of Sophoclean drama.

    “Sophoclean irony” is...

  10. APPENDIX On the Approximate Date of The Trachinian Women
    (pp. 289-294)
  11. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 295-296)
  12. Index
    (pp. 297-304)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)