French scenes in greek tragedy, by mark damen


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French scenes in greek tragedy, by mark damen

  1. 1. French Scenes in Greek Tragedy: The Scenic Structure of Classical DramaAuthor(s): Mark DamenReviewed work(s):Source: Theatre Journal, Vol. 55, No. 1, Ancient Theatre (Mar., 2003), pp. 113-134Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 23/09/2012 12:18Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Theatre Journal.
  2. 2. French Scenes in Greek Tragedy: The Scenic Structure of Classical Drama Mark Damen In 19881 played Dionysus in a production of Euripides Bacchae. Though I had actedmany times before?even that very role?the director of the play did something that took me by surprise, not because I lacked prior experience with it but because I hadnever thought about it in terms of ancient drama. For practical purposes she broke theplay down into "French scenes," sequentially numbered sections of the script demarcated by the movement of characters on and off the stage, a system often used today infacilitating the organization of rehearsals and technical matters. Though well aware of this practice, it had never occurred tome to think about its application to Greek tragedy. As a basic tool in preparing a play for performance, this means of analyzing a playsscenic structure led me to wonder if the classical tragedians had not done somethingsimilar themselves since they surely oversaw the rehearsal process at least to someextent. Obviously, as playwrights they could construct and organize charactersentrances and exits, so it seems likely they could also have articulated the same to themselves and others. That inevitable self-consciousness in the disposition of scenesin tragedy led me to wonder whether ancient dramatists intentionally manipulated the frequency with which their characters moved on and off stage and, if so, how andwhy. The following article is the result of that inquiry. I. Introduction: The Question of Scenes Over the course of the fifth century there is a manifest evolution in Athenian tragedy toward a style of dramatic action featuring more complex character movement imbedded within more intricate plots.1 Even in spite of the paucity of tragediesMark Damen is an Associate at Utah State University where he teaches Classics, ancient Professor history, theatre and playxvriting. history He has published articles in Transactions of the AmericanPhilological Association, Phoenix, Antichthon, Classical World ana Theatre Recently Journal.his translation Hrotswithas Dulcitius and Callimachus was in The Journal of The of published Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association, with a in the forthcomingRocky reprintWomen Writing in Latin. An earlier version of this paper was at the American Association. Iwish to presented Philological thank those who commented there, Sherry Keller, David Rom?n, Sun Hee Teresa Lee, and theanonymous reviewers of this article for their help and insight. Their efforts have the piece improved immeasurably. 1 scene Inmodern scholarship, length as measured by entrances and exits has not been addressed as such, but the disposition of entrances and exits in Greek tragedy, and stagecraft in general, has received TheatreJournal55 (2003) 113-134 ? 2003 by The JohnsHopkins University Press
  3. 3. 114 / Mark Damenpreserved, this trend is evident. So, for instance, when compared to the relatively staidsequence of exits and entrances called for in Aeschylus Persians (472 BCE), EuripidesBacchae (406 BCE) evidences well the dynamism characteristic of classical tragedy in itsfinal stages, a quality achieved not only through radical treatment of characters andthe addition of plot elements but also by the disposition of the action into a greaternumber of what would be termed today "French scenes."2 Aristotle in The Poeticsseems to have been aware of this: "And further [there was in later classical tragedy] aplurality of episodes."3 Nor to imagine reasons why fifth-century is it hard tragedy evolved this way. Thedivision of tragic plots into a higher number of discrete units in the stage action leavesbehind an impression that the plays action ismoving faster, that more is happening.This effect is likely to have pleased audiences demanding ever more from theatre ingeneral and growing better accustomed to following increasingly complicated dramatic constructs, as surely the celebrants at the City Dionysia had become by the endof the classical age. And in the same way that late- and post-classical Greek theatrewitnessed advances in stage machinery (e.g. the mechane, the keraunoskopeion, the bronteion), Sophocles and Euripides exhibit a capacity to utilize more elaborate character movement in the unfolding of more complex stage action, while at the samemuch attention, back at least a century, cf. E. Bodensteiner, "Szenische ?ber den Ort des going FragenAuftretens und von und Chor im griechischen Drama," Jahrb. f?r cl. Phil., Abgehens Schauspielern 19 (Leipzig 1893): 637-808. among the works on which this study rests is OliverSuppl. Primary Taplin,The Stagecraft of Aeschylus: The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 1977). The significance of his book to this investigation is self-evident from the title,though Taplins exploration of "the handling of exits and entrances" (1) and "the relation of text toaction and of action to dramatic meaning" (3) does not coincide with my focus here. Likewise, DavidSeale, Vision and Stagecraft in Sophocles (London: Croom Helm, 1982) and Michael R. Halleran, Stagecraft in Euripides (Totowa: Barnes & Noble, 1985) have informed much of my assessment of stage movementin Sophocles and Euripides. My central aim, however, is different from Seales who seeks to explicate"the intricacy of [Sophocles] (12), and Hallerans intention of elucidating a "grammar of stagecraft"dramatic technique" (1). Joe Park Poe, "The Determination of Episodes in Greek Tragedy," AJP 114 a solid foundation (1993): 343-96, has provided for assessing stage movement in classical theatre, as with the others, his work does not bear directly on the central premise of this study. Iwillthough, to these works name alone. Other works have also contributed to thishenceforth refer by the authors study, in particular, T. B. L. Webster, Greek Theatre Production (London: Methuen, 1956), Walter Jens,ed., Die Bauformen der griechischen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1971), David Bain, Actors and Trag?dieAudiences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), and Arthur Pickard-Cambridge, The DramaticFestivals 2nd ed., ed. John P. Gould and D. M. Lewis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). of Athens, 2 in the The term "French scene" derives from classical French theatre where the ostensible divisions structure of plays rests on the entrances and exits of speaking characters. In employing the term "scene" I do not mean to invoke any of the critical terminology discussed or introduced by Poe in "TheDetermination," e.g. "unit of action" (349), nor even to tie my argument to his, since his and others on issues such as the investigations of the "formal structure" (348) of classical tragedy have centered internal structure and organizing principles of scenes in tragedy, aspects of dramatic construction I donot address in this study; cf. Walther Kranz, Stasimon (Berlin: Weidmann, 1933). In this study, "scene" or exit of any major orconnotes "a dramatic unit defined by the entrance speaking charactercharacters." 3 on the same, D. W. Lucas, in Aristotle Poetics eti de epeisodion plethe (1449a28). Remarking (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1968), 86, notes that "a longer play would use more incidents." There he citesalso the "general sense of augmentation" in plethe. Elsewhere in The Poetics (1459b30), Aristotle the tragedians need to avoid monotony in the way can "with countless recognizes epic readily episodes."
  4. 4. THE SCENIC OF DRAMA STRUCTURE CLASSICAL / 115time keeping their plots unified and focused. The heightened dramatic tension thatcomes as larger and larger ensembles of characters move across the stage andcumulative complications are introduced into the plot contributes to a more compel ling theatre experience for viewers interested in pyrotechnics of that sort. are not hard to suppose either. Besides The mechanisms enabling this evolutionaudiences who provided the tragedians after Aeschylus with an environment conducive to a less static mode of drama, it is clear that later classical playwrights had thebenefit of building on their predecessors work. So, for instance, with AeschylusOresteia as guide, Euripides was able to telescope many of the plot elements spreadover an entire trilogy composed fifty years earlier into only one play, Orestes, bymoving the stage action along much more rapidly.4 Surely, however, this capacity foraccelerating the plot was not the product of the poets genius alone. They would haveneeded players who could feasibly enact dramas of such a sort and whose performances were of interest to audiences. This was, no doubt, the case, at least to judge from the awarding of prizes to actors at the Dionysia for the first time in the early 440sand the later domination of theatre in the fourth century by star performers likeNeoptolemos and Polos.5 It seems likely, then, that the theatregoing public by the laterclassical period had already begun showing a heightened interest in performance artsas such, engendering a fertile climate for versatile players capable of carrying out successfully the rigors entailed in a more action-oriented mode of drama, one highlydemanding of both physical and vocal stamina. Thus, it is possible to posit within the larger evolution of fifth-century Athenian tragedy a sophistication on the part of playwright, player, and playgoer growing more and more character movement within a drama and resultembracing vigorous ing in more dynamic stage activity. None of this is in question. The question is how this evolution took place. Was it, for instance, as we are accustomed to expect, agradual sort of development toward increasing complexity, or did it follow a lessdirect route? In other words, how much convolution was there to this evolution?Likewise, do the individual authors works adhere to the same general scheme,gravitating slowly over the course of their careers toward plays with swifter turnoverof scenes as they learn from practice and observing others work how tomanage evermore intricate stage action? If so, when and how did they acquire this skill? To answer these questions, it is necessary first to find a consistent means by whichtomeasure the degree of character movement in Greek tragedy (i.e. how long "scenes"are or how quickly they change), for only then can the reasons underlying this beexplored. Thus, it is the purpose of this paper, first, to devise an equitable anduniversal method of determining scene length in Greek tragedy; second, to ascertain inas much detail as the data permit the nature of the evolution of scene structure overthe course of the classical age; third, to examine the possible reasons underlying anydetectible patterns of change; and, finally, to investigate the larger ramifications of thedata collected here in our general appreciation of classical Greek theatre. 4 Euripides Orestes includes several plot elements reminiscent of Aeschylus trilogy: horn. Agamemnon,a from The Libation-Bearers, Electras lamentation, Orestes lyrical Trojan (Cassandra/Phrygian);murderous assault on an older female relative effected with assistance; from Eumenides, PyladesOrestes vision of Clytemnestras Furies, his last-second rescue and his trial. by Apollo 5 Pickard-Cambridge, Dramatic Festivals, 72,126.
  5. 5. 116 / Mark Damen II. A Methodology for Assessing Average Scene Length in Greek Tragedy from the outset to establish some method It is essential of analyzing the evidencequantitatively and uniformly across the corpus of ancient Greek tragedy. This canhappen only by establishing firm criteria that can be applied to all the tragediansworks and used to measure the speed at which the stage action of any such dramamoves. Therefore, if we construe a "scene" in the simplest possible terms as theinterval between the entrance and the exit of any speaking character (includingchoruses), it is possible to determine the number of scenes in a play by enumeratingthe entrances and exits which distinguish them, thus creating in modern terms asuccession of "French scenes."6 From that may be calculated a scene plays averagelength ifwe divide the number of lines in the play by the number of scenes.7 This clearcut, albeit arbitrary, determiner makes the collecting and processing of data relativelyeasy to execute and will produce a rough indication of the frequency at which thescenes of a play turned over in the ancient Greek theatre. What difficulties may arise in the course of assessing the average scene length of specific plays can be surmounted when strict rules are applied.8 So, for instance, if a character enters unannounced, itmay not be immediately evident at what line number to assign the entrance, thus when the scene begins.9 It is necessary, then, to devisemethods for measuring scene length uniformly; they are as follows:10 6 a vital role in all classical an essential Because choruses play tragedies, their movements constitute component of this study; see Appendix 1 at the end of the article. 7 a random While admittedly and often variable criterion, the conventional disposition of tragedies over other means into "lines" brings with it several important advantages possible of calculating the a or the meters used in classical drama are far"length" of play (e.g., counting words syllables). Thoughfrom equal in syllable their variety across and within Greek level their length, tragedies helps tetrameter were moredifferences. Also, the longer meters like trochaic likely to have been spokenquickly, whereas the shorter ones such as choral lyrics were sung, thus extenuating the words in actual All in all, poetic "meter" is inmany ways a "measurement" of sorts, and as suchperformance. just that,constitutes some indication of the passage of time on stage. So, if not a perfect criterion, it looks to be the best indicator at hand, certainly adequate enough for giving a general impression of a plays run a succession of scenes on the ancienttime and how long it took to perform stage. 8 To succeed, this study must build primarily from an equitable measurement of average scene as attested for particular This requires that strict and clear rules govern the collection length tragedies. of the necessary information in order to ensure a balanced assessment of all plays under consideration. In that case, matters the changes effected in a drama by the entrance or exit of a character or involving a new on (see M. Pfister,what entails "configuration" stage The Theory and Analysis of Drama can follow [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988], 171-76 and 291-94) only after the orderly of data. Even if that means what are and complex "scenes" such as The gathering equating clearly long Libation-Bearers 22-585 with much less weighty dramatic passages such as Trachinian Women 813-21, the rules must be to achieve credible results. Moreover, tend to have a applied uniformly plays of shorter and scenes, thus out the statistics, as The Libation-Bearers complement longer balancing demonstrates well; it has the single longest scene in Aeschylus?indeed in all of Greek it tragedy?but is also his drama in terms of scene change. As for those dramas that have no such fastest-moving such as the static Prometheus or the that is the very information we seek.balance, briskly paced Rhesus, 9 For the most part, slight variations in line assignments do not affect the calculation of the average scene a Entrances in Greek HSCP 82 (1978): length in play. Richard Hamilton, "Announced Tragedy," 63-82 and Joe Park Poe, "Entrance-Announcements and Entrance-Speeches in Greek Tragedy," HSCP 94 (1992): 121-56, review the nature of announced entrances. It is, however, unannounced movement that poses, in general, more problems for this study. 10 scenes character movement and the A fuller discussion of the enumeration of specific through used in the article for measuring scene is contained in Appendix 2 at the end ofmethodologies length the article.
  6. 6. THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL OF DRAMA / 117 1. All announced and unannounced movements that are necessitated by the plot, are to be counted, and if it matters in the enumeration of scenes, characters are assumed to enter at or about the time they first speak or are announced, addressed, or said to be on stage. 2. Simultaneous movements of characters on or off count as one entrance stage or exit, and those movements that are discrete as two. only clearly 3. No movement that is not strictly necessitated by the action or the plot is to be counted. 4. In accordance with the three-actor restriction, when there is a clear need for a performer to make an offstage change of mask and costume, we must suppose that one of the characters on stage has exited earlier, whether or not there was an announcement of that characters movement, so that the explicit actor who is to play the new role is provided suitable time to effect the change and re-enter as that character.11 5. In the same vein, an voice counts as an "entrance" since all such offstage intrusions into the stage action are significant and involve speaking actors whose disposition must be carefully managed and designed by playwrights the three-actor restriction.12 following 6. Characters mute actors, however central in the action, do portrayed by stage not serve to demarcate a of scene.13 change 7. Finally, if a character is silent at first but speaks later in the play without having left the stage, the entrance is counted from when the character first - . . . appears.14 11 The swift of mask and costume and the role-sharing required of the actors performing changesRhesus?e.g., Odysseus/Alexander (626/642), Diomedes/Odysseus (633/668)?are further evidencethat it is a post-classical tragedy, not Euripides; see below, note 27. 12 This is justifiable insofar as offstage voices nearly always represent a sharp disruption and new in the stage action, much as entrances do. In any case, they do not often enoughdevelopment happen to affect conclusions and, by being applied across the board, introduce no undue general substantiallybias into the overall analysis of scene length in different authors. It is necessary, then, to treat all voices as discrete entrances, even in those instances when the same character as theoffstage offstagevoice enters e.g. Ajax (Aj. 333/348), Nurse (Trach. 862/871), Medea (Med. 96/214), subsequently,Polymestor (Hec. 1035/1056), Dionysus (Ba. 576/604), Old Man (IA 855/864). Adopting this criterionactually facilitates the compilation of the data at certain junctures, such as the movements of theServant at LB 657: whether taken as an onstage presence or an offstage voice, this characters"entrance" into the play demarcates a new scene to the parameters of this study; see Taplin, accordingThe Stagecraft, 341. For an overview of offstage voices and their general use in Greek tragedy, seeRichard Hamilton, "Cries Within and the Tragic Skene," AIP 108 (1987): 585-99. 13 For example, "Citizens" (Seven 35), Antigone/Ismene (OT 1470), Children (Med. 1081), AthenianHerald (exits at Eur. Supp. 394). The movements of mute characters frequently coincide with those of speaking characters, which greatly decreases their impact on this study. When they do not, the exact timing of their exits and entrances is often difficult to determine precisely; e.g. Hermes (Eum. 64-93),Handmaid (Hec. 484-628), Athenian Herald (Eur. Supp. 381-94). Moreover, rarely does their passageon or off stage betoken a scenic as to the drama as when a character change consequential speakingenters or exits. All in all, omitting the movements of mute characters from the enumeration of scenes simplifies matters without distorting the data significantly. 14 For example, Cassandra (Ag. 783/1072), Child (Ale. 244/393), (Heraclid. 928/983), EurystheusAdrastus (Eur. Supp. 1/113), Chorus (Eur. Supp. 1/42), Menoeceus (Phoen. 834/977).
  7. 7. 118 / Mark Damen By applying these criteria to the assessment of scenes in tragedy and comparingplays across time, it will be possible to detect patterns, if any exist, in the overalldisposition of scenes in Greek tragedy as it unfolds across the fifth century. All in all,what is really being enumerated here are not episodes or "scenes by any conventionaldefinition, but the movements of actors on and off stage through their various roles.15 III. Overview of the Data First, the evidence validates the general impression that Greek tragedy evolved toward plays comprised of shorter scenes (Table 1). The average scene length ofAeschylus plays is notably higher (95.5) than that of his successors, Sophocles (72.3)and Euripides (67.8). While the range for the individual plays of all three playwrightsis quite wide, a general tendency toward accelerating stage action over time clearlyexists. IV. Aeschylus Tragedies Contrary to the prevailing trend, however, the data for Aeschylus surviving playsdispel any notion that the evolution of average scene length in Greek tragedy towarda faster turnover of scenes proceeded in any gradual or even rectilinear fashion, atleast prior to 456 BCE (Table 2). Though it is true that classical tragedy on the wholegravitated toward decreasing average scene length and that Aeschylus fastestmoving play (The Libation-Bearers) falls among his last, at the same time the evidence is clear that his drama in general cannot be taken to entail any demonstrable progress toward shorter scenes over time. In particular, when The Oresteia (Agamemnon, TheLibation-Bearers, Eumenides) embodies within a single trilogy both his play with the lowest average scene length (The Libation-Bearers) and that with the second highest Table 1. Overall Scene for the Classical Length Tragedians16 Averages Range 95.5 136.9-59.8Aeschylus 72.3 98.1-54.1Sophocles 67.8 93.5-58.2Euripides [with Rhesus 67.0 93.5-52.4] 15 Graham Ley, "A Scenic Plot of Sophocles Ajax and Philoctetes," ?ranos 86 (1988): 106, notes the of entrances and exits in Greek tragedy: "It is clear that in a form of this kind especially significance the very creation of what we understand as drama came (i.e. Greek tragic drama), where perhaps from the manipulation of the arrivals and departures of characters, there is unlikely to be explicitly co-incidental about the introduction or removal of an actor into or from the presence of a anything fixed and partly defining chorus/7 16 as determined is The full data for the breakdown of plays into scenes by entrances and exits contained in Appendix 3 at the end of the paper. 17 scene the range Since the authorship of Rhesus is debated and its average length falls below attested for Euripides, I exclude it from the data here; see below, note 27.
  8. 8. THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL OF DRAMA / 119 Table 2. Aeschylus Entrances-Exits/ Position inPlay Lines Average Trilogy PremierePrometheus Bound 8/1095 136.9 first (?) uncertain Persians 10/1077 107.7 uncertain 472 BCESeven Against Thebes1* 12/1078 89.8 467BCE thirdSuppliants 11/1073 97.5 first post-467 BCEAgamemnon19 13/1673 128.7 458 first BCELibation-Bearers 18/1076 59.8 458 second BCEEumenides 13/1047 80.5 third458 BCE [Oresteia trilogy 44/3796 86.3] TOTAL 85/8119 95.5 (Agamemnon), it is hardly possible to credit Aeschylus with anything but masterfulflexibility in this regard. Moreover, if Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus play with thehighest attested average scene length, is to be dated among his later works, as some scholars assert, the notion of smooth and continuous progress in this regard over thecourse of time is hopelessly undercut.20 To the contrary, what drove Aeschylus tomodulate scene length was evidently not agrowing mastery of this aspect of the art form or a search for the best means possible bywhich to enact a complex nexus of scenes. From at least the last decade of his career on, 18 Questions of authenticity and interpolation bedevil the end of Seven Against Thebes; see Taplin, TheStagecraft, 169-70. In the play as transmitted, there are two scenes after 821 (Antigone and Ismene enterat some point between 861 and 961; the Herald enters at 1005). Omitting the entire passage along withthese entrances scene changes the average length of Seven Against Thebes only somewhat (82.1) anddoes not alter its position relative to the other plays of Aeschylus (between Suppliants and Eumenides). 19 on and off stage are In Agamemnon, the movements of Clytemnestra see notoriously problematical;J.R. Wilson, "Unsocial Actors in Agamemnon," Hermes 123 (1995): 398-403, and Thomas G. Rosenmeyer,The Art of Aeschylus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 70-74. If the minimalism presumed in this study distorts the reality of Aeschylus7 staging in which Clytemnestra may be supposed to haveentered and exited several more times in the course of the drama, the advantages provided by reducing character movements to a minimum in order to assert as much as possible across uniformity the data more than compensate for any misconstructions of what may have actually transpired on theclassical stage. It is worth in mind that this is not a in the uses to which bearing fundamentally study the Greek an to assess tragedians put entrances and exits but attempt only the general picture ofcharacter movement therein. Thus, equalizing the criteria comes at a higher premium than deliberating the nature of scene transitions in specific plays. 20 Taplin, The Stagecraft, 460-69 (Appendix D), discusses the notoriously question of problematicalthe authorship of Prometheus Bound as it relates to the issue of stagecraft, its arguing against However, even if Prometheus Bound is not by Aeschylus, it is certainlyauthenticity. "Aeschylean"?after all, it bore enough hallmarks of his style to warrant included among his works?and, beingwhether or derivative, itmust constitute evidence of a sort about the typical Aeschylean mode originalof crafting plays. Since average scene length is a generality of just that type, I have included PrometheusBound among the plays taken into consideration here.
  9. 9. 120 / Mark Damenhe knew how to move scenes on when the situation demanded. clearly quickly stageRather, itwas what the story type and plot elements of individual plays required. That is, if Prometheus Bound is a slow-moving drama, it is not because Aeschylus did not asyet grasp how to accelerate dramatic action through a succession of rapid-movingscenes; neither is it because he did not have at his disposal performers capable of suchor even was hesitant to include a sequence of characters entering and exiting the stagequickly in that it might confuse the audience. The drama moves slowly primarilybecause this part of the Prometheus myth requires that the hero be "bound," leavinghim immobile on stage, which by necessity slows down the stage action. At the same time, however, the data for average scene length in Aeschylus suggest there was perhaps another factor at play, the position of a tragedy in its trilogy. To agreater degree than with Sophocles or Euripides, the essential unit of performance inAeschylus is the "connected trilogy," three tragedies linked by narrative, which wereoriginally designed to be performed together. Two of Aeschylus four slowest-movingdramas as determined by scene length are known to have stood first in their trilogies:Agamemnon (128.7) and Suppliants (97.5). Another, Prometheus (136.9), was almost certainly designed to lead off. The position of the fourth, Persians (107.7), is not known.Next come the two known third plays in trilogies: Seven Against Thebes (89.8) andEumenides (80.5). And finally, the fastest-paced of Aeschylus extant plays is TheLibation-Bearers (59.8), the only certain middle play. With that firm conclusions the allowance cannot be grounded on such slightevidence, the data suggest that, besides the particular story, the average scene lengthof a play is to some extent affected by its position in a trilogy, i.e. a relatively slow pacefor the first play, accelerated action during the second drama, and a moderate tempo in the concluding tragedy. Nevertheless, in light of how little evidence underlies thishypothesis, it seems inadvisable to speak in conclusive terms about this?or itwouldbe more so if there were not sound and compelling principles of dramatic constructionevident in such a of the action. In scenes and slower disposition particular, longeraction early on allow a more static and rhetorical posture at the outset of a trilogy,when the audiences curiosity and attention are naturally high and the exposition of the plot calls for careful delivery of the underlying situation to the viewers. Later,however, during the second play, when audience focus is at a greater risk ofwandering and as the complications of the plot are unfolding but must by definition remain unresolved, a faster pace suits better. The final play affords the opportunity to slow the pace again, as the plot reaches closure and the playwright brings his themeshome. So, whether or not it was typical of Aeschylus, the largo-allegro-andanteperformance tempo attested in The Oresteia makes good general sense in the largercontext of his theatre and is supported by the data derived from his other remainingdramas that appear to accord well with such a notion.21 21 same The is, of course, impossible to determine in Sophocles and Euripides since there is not enough known about the relative positions of their plays in trilogies to do a comparative analysis.Moreover, when the plays in a trilogy are unconnected in plot, one must ask whether the order inwhich were would have mattered at all in the structuring of scenes. tragedies produced
  10. 10. OF DRAMA THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL / 121 V. Sophocles and Euripides Tragedies In Greek tragedy after Aeschylus, a clear pattern in average scene length does, infact, emerge, but once more not the one which the general tendency towards fasterstage action over the course of the classical age would lead one to expect. Among thedata for Sophocles and Euripides plays, there is again neither a gradual decrease inaverage scene length visible, nor even regular progress toward a faster turnover ofscenes. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Contrary to the dominant trend, Sophocles extant plays gravitate toward longeraverage scene length (Table 3). While the dating of Antigone and Oedipus Tyrannus isdebatable at best?most critics, however, would not situate these plays in the final reason to posit Oedipus Tyrannus inphase of Sophocles career, and there is some good the early 420s?Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus can be securely fixed among his lastworks.22 Just that alone, however, makes it clear Sophocles drama could not havegradually evolved over time toward plays with shorter scenes, since his two slowestmoving tragedies are among the last he wrote. If there is any pattern deducible from the scant data at hand, Sophocles style of composing scenes must have evolved in amanner almost directly opposite to the way scene length was changing during his lifetime. That is, from the late 440s up until nearly the end of his career, Sophocles wasbraking, not accelerating the pace of his dramas. Only with his last tragedy, Oedipus atColonus, is it even possible to say he wrote a play with a faster rate of scene change than one before it. It constitutes the only evidence this playwright ever accorded with the general pattern of quicker stage action in his day. It is important to recognize, however, that we cannot rely too much on these databecause they are problematical inmore ways than one. First, very little of Sophoclestotal dramatic output survives?less than ten percent, in fact?which is a weak basis Table 3. Sophocles Entrances-Exits/Play Lines Average Date of PremiereAntigone 25/1353 54.1 441(?)BCEAjax 25/1420 56.8 (?)Trachinian Women 19/1278 67.3 (?)Electra 19/1510 79.5 (?)Oedipus Tyrannus 19/1530 80.5 429^25(?) BCEPhiloctetes 15/1471 98.1 409 BCEOedipus at Colonus 21/1779 84.7 405 BCE TOTAL 143/10341 72.3 22 The precise dating of Oedipus Tyrannus is problematical, but likelihood and consensus accord in setting its premiere after 429 BCE, most probably at some point shortly thereafter. R. G. Lewis, AnAlternative Date for Sophocles7 Antigone," GRBS 29 (1988): 35-50, reviews the evidence for datingAntigone and suggests 438 BCE as an alternative. If so, it would not affect the data here significantly.
  11. 11. 122 / Mark Damen for conclusions of sort. Second, what evidence there is runs drawing general any inexplicably counter to the known course of progress in scene structure across the century, which makes it seem all the more suspect. Thus, these conclusions may be easily dismissed?or they would be, if the comparable data for Euripides work which is relatively better attested did not conform to much the same pattern. Just as with Sophocles, the datable plays deriving from Euripides earlier career (Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus) slowly climb in average scene length, reaching a crescendowith those tragedies produced in or shortly after 415 BCE (Trojan Women, Helen,Phoenician Women) (Table 4). Following that, the average scene length drops dramati Table 4. Euripides Date of Premiere Entrances-Exits/ ProjectedPlay Lines Average Known (Zielinski)23Alcestis 20/1163 58.2 438 BCEMedea 23/1419 61.7 431 BCEHeraclidae 17/1055 62.1 430?4 BCEHippolytus 22/1466 66.6 428 BCEAndromache 20/1288 64.4 426?4 BCEHecuba 21/1295 61.7 424?4 BCE Suppliants 17/1234 72.6 422?4 BCEElectra 22/1359 61.8 416?4 BCETrojan Women 18/1332 74.0 415 BCEHeracles 18/1428 79.3 414?4 BCE Iphigenia (T) 16/1496 93.5 413?4 BCEHelen 24/1692 70.5 412 BCE 23 Zielinskis analysis of iambic trimeter in Euripides (T. Zielinski, II, De Trimetri Tragodoumenon Evolutione a on the Euripidei [Cracow, 1925]) suggests growing tendency playwrights part to resolve the meter over the course of his career, i.e. to substitute other poetic feet for iambs. Using this, Zielinskiwas able to infer when the undated most see T. B. L. Webster, plays of Euripides likely premiered; TheTragedies of Euripides (London: Methuen, 1967), 2-9, who recaps Zielinskis conclusions. Zielinskiswork has also been reviewed and largely confirmed by A. M. Dale, Euripides Helen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), xxiv-xxviii, and more recently Martin and Gordon Fick, Resolutions and Chronology Cropp in Euripides: The Fragmentary Tragedies, Bulletin Supplement 43 (London: of London, University Institute of Classical Studies, 1985). Thus, I have included his suggested dates as a guideline to the order in which were first produced, but neither Zielinskis conclusions nor general Euripides plays any chronology which the analysis of scene length here may seem to betoken can serve as a firm foundation for assigning dates to Euripides dramas.
  12. 12. THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL OF DRAMA / 123 Table 4 (continued). Euripides Date of Premiere Entrances-Exits/ ProjectedPlay Lines Average Known (Zielinski)Phoenician Women24: 23/1766 76.8 411-409 BCE Ion 20/1622 81.1 410?4 BCEOrestes 28/1693 60.5 408 BCE Bacchae25 23/1392 60.5 406 BCE Iphigenia (A)26 27/1629 60.3 406 BCE [Rhesus27 19/996 52.4] TOTAL 359/24329 67.8 [with Rhesus 378/25325 67.0]cally (Orestes, Bacchae, Iphigenia inAulis). Thus, Euripides later plays follow the samepattern as Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus in a long, slow upward trend reversingencompassing the majority of his career until very late when his style suddenly shiftstoward a more rapid turnover of scenes. The evidence also hints that Euripides began 24 How the additions made after Euripides lifetime affect the average scene length of PhoenicianWomen is notclear, but it appears there is enough genuine material in the play that we can remaining a sense of of scenes. gain Euripides original disposition 25 The lacuna before Bacchae 1330 is estimated to be about fifty lines. Adding it into the total line count increases the plays scene length = average only slightly (23/1442 62.6). 26 Poe, "Entrance-Announcements," 122 (n. 4), reviews salient and addresses the bibliography complications of dealing with the purported interpolations, textual corruptions and general questions of authenticity surrounding the texts of in Aulis and Phoenician Women. His there is Iphigenia analysis a model of sage counsel the difficulties that these plays present to the wider assessment of concerning Euripides stagecraft. For instance, if the beginning of Iphigenia in Aulis represents alternative versions of the opening scene, each should be enumerated so, fortunately, does not affect the separately. Doing data for the plays average scene length in any significant way. Both reduce the plays scene average a little: the (49-114) to 59.0 (26/1533) and the "dialogue" length "monologue" prologue prologue (148, 115-63) to 60.1 (26/1562). 27 To judge by scenes, Rhesus is the fastest-moving in the Euripidean corpus. In this way and playothers, it defies easy analysis, and, as such, its authenticity has been much debated. While the evidencehere suggests the play we have is not Euripides inasmuch as no other extant classical tragedy exhibitsso a turnover of scenes, it should be noted that the data do not preclude the possibility that rapidRhesus derives from Euripides period of playwriting the rest of his surviving see pre-dating corpus;William Ritchie, The Authenticity of the Rhesus of Euripides Press, (Cambridge: Cambridge University 1964), 361; and more recently, Luigi Battezzato, "The Thracian Camp and the Fourth Actor at Rhesus 565-691," CQ 50 (2000): 367-73. In spite of that, however, it seems more likely our play is a fourth century namesake of Euripides original in that, following the last tendency visible in Greek tragedy, it is reasonable to presume average scene in tragedy continued to drop after the end of the length classical age. If so, fourth-century tragedy would have conformed with comedy which, to judge fromMenandrean drama, also shortened scenes and accelerated the stage action in general over the courseof the generations succeeding the fifth century. Thus, Rhesus fits well into a post-classical of patterndramatic more evolution encompassing rapid scene change and other broader stage effects.
  13. 13. 124 / Mark Damenthis change a little earlier than his older rival. To wit, Sophocles Philoctetes in 409 BCEstill has a high average scene length (98.1), while Euripides Orestes, which wasproduced in the following year, changes scenes much more rapidly (60.5). The timing of this volte-face implies some correlation in the tragedians work. Thatboth follow the same general pattern is significant inasmuch as each bolsters theevidence for the other and hints there was some common factor at play, an agency independent of their often divergent tastes in drama. What that factor or factors mighthave been is not immediately clear, but the coincidence in timing shows it was not likely to have been a matter of their personal preferences alone. While for manyhistorians a date in the late 410s raises visions of the calamitous Sicilian Expedition, the reason that disaster might have influenced average scene length in Athenian tragedy is not readily apparent. If any connection at all exists between thesephenomena, it can only have been indirect, part of the larger program of change visible in the arts at and around this time. Evidence indeed suggests tragedy, and Athenian art in general, underwent adramatic transformation as Athens fortunes declined over the course of thePeloponnesian War (431-404 BCE). In particular, those tragedies dating to and afterthe late 410s exhibit distinct changes in tone, notably the addition of comic elementsas seen in several of Euripides later plays, especially those resolving in "happyendings" (Helen, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Ion). It is likely these "untragic" tragediesserved several purposes, one of which was to bolster the spirits of a despondentpopulace. Helen, for instance, exhibits quite a few elements traditionally employed in sudden even an obnoxiouscomedy: trickery, disguise, recognition, gate-keeper.28Analysis of the scene length of this play shows, however, that there is another important comic element present: relatively short scenes constituting a faster pace ofaction. This is almost certainly a product of the influence comic drama brought to bearon tragedy at this most tragic of times in classical Athenian history. it is often difficult to determine exact movements over the course Though very stageof Aristophanes plays, a glance at two inwhich exits and entrances are relatively easyto determine, The Acharnions and The Clouds, demonstrates, as few would doubt, thatthe pace of action in comic drama as measured the turnover of scenes Aristophanes byis significantly quicker than that of tragedy (Table 5). The data for the only satyr playpreserved entire, Cyclops, which represents another sort of comic drama popular inthis age, also support this assertion: 17/709 = 41.7. Thus, it is warranted to surmisethat, along with the appropriation of other comic features, Euripides later plays reflectthe sort of dramatic action typical of comedy that was as a rule disposed into shorter,faster-changing scenes. Hence, the importation of comedie elements may be invoked as at least one way of explaining the inversion in average scene length among late classical tragedies. And that comedy is the most likely culprit here opens, in turn, thepossibility that it also figured into the earlier lengthening of scenes, a process underway by the late 440s, nearly three decades prior. 28 Dale, Helen, xi-xvi, with clarity upon the comic elements in Helen. Euripides expounds
  14. 14. THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL OF DRAMA / 125 Table 5. Aristophanes29 Entrances-Exits/ Lines Play Average Date of PremiereAcharnians 37/1234 33.4 425 BCE Clouds 30/1511 50.4 423 BCE VI. Tragedy and Comedy At present, our picture of fifth-century Greek comedy, and in particular its early evolution, is cloudy at best. Nevertheless, some benchmarks in the general development of the art stand out. The first complete comedies surviving date to the 420s,giving witness that the popularity of this art form had risen to a certain level of public awareness by that point in time. It is also clear that comedy had been growing in as a dramatic medium well before this time. For instance,visibility initially it wasproduced only at the Dionysia, but in the late 440s a second festival, the Lenaea, inaugurated the performance of comedy as well. Thus, by the middle of the century comedy had evidently begun to stand alongside tragedy as a popular genre of drama, even if historical records give us no sense that audiences at the time deemed it the counterpart or rival of tragedy, or that it even as yet stood in the mainstream of publicarts. After all, the new festival showcasing comedy was strictly a local affair?onlyAthenians and their close neighbors attended the Lenaea?and at the Dionysia comicpoets were given much less "air time" than their tragic agnates in celebrating the godwho was their common forebear. Indeed, all evidence suggests that until quite late in the classical age the attention of theatre-goers in Athens was directed largely toward the tragedians work over the comic playwrights. So at least on the surface, the frenetic sideshow of comedy, even if building in popularity, should have given the tragic poets little to worry about. Certainly, the historical data from the time give no credible reason to believe comedy would ever eclipse tragedy in the public mind, as in fact it later did in the fourth century. But the Greek tragedians vied not only with each other for prized honors but alsowith all other art forms for public attention and acclaim. While we in retrospect may see little ground for concern, tragic dramatists may not have watched the rise of with serene was, in fact, on an arena the comedy dispassion.30 Comedy intruding tragedians had once owned exclusively and were now having to share. Outrighthumor, the sort that Aeschylus uses when he has Clytemnestra say to Cassandra, "Ifyoure stupid and dont understand what Im saying/Instead of your voice, talk with 29 The movements of characters in are to reconstruct, Aristophanes plays notoriously problematical and thus I do not mean to posit the calculations of the average scene length of these plays as in any waydefinitive, only suggestive of how quickly scenes rolled over in Old For instance, it is Comedy.possible to construe as many as eleven more scenes in The Acharnians, which would lower the average scene to 25.7 (48/1234). Likewise, The Clouds may be seen to have at least four more length scenes, its average scenemaking length 44.4 (34/1511). 30 C. W. Marshall, "Alcestis and the Problem of Prosatyric Drama," CJ 95 (2000): 229-38, adduces another way in which and comedy may have interacted in the 430s BCE. tragedy
  15. 15. 126 / Mark Damenyour barbaric hand!" (Ag. 1060-61),31 had after Aeschylus lifetime come to look lesslike the stuff of tragedy and ever more like the property of comic poets, at least tojudge from the relative rarity of comparable moments in the early extant works ofSophocles and Euripides.32 Though still far from it, tragedy was beginning to assumethe modern sense of the word, in no small part because it had now an antonym, comedy. This shift could not have pleased the tragedians. Dealing with comic drama inascendance meant either creating distance between the genres by excluding comical elements from tragedy or competing for public attention in one important arena withan eager, emergent prot?g?. On the flip side of the Dionysia, however, the oppositewas true. The comic poets were more than to acknowledge willing openly their debt to tragedy and use its popularity with the audience in their own behalf, a fact welldemonstrated in Aristophanes frequent citation of tragedy and impersonation of tragic celebrities on stage. Similar echoes from the other wing of the festival are hardlyever heard, at least in the tragedies dating to the 430s and 420s. All in all, it seems likely in more ways than one that from a tragedians perspective this was not very funny. Later, however, changes in the political and social situation of Athens rendered avery different audience and dramatic climate. Especially in the wake of the Atheniansmisfortunes during the later phases of the Peloponnesian War, the aura of gravityhaloing tragedy for much of its existence had, as time passed, begun to reflect all toowell the sense of gloom and despair hanging over the city, ever more so as the sad outcome of the age unfolded. So, while the tragedians still commanded center stage, the comic poets dashing about in the background had been making substantiveprogress in winning the publics attention?and, no doubt, their affections also. Andbecause comic poets had borrowed so much from the tragic arts, it amounted to hardlymore than collecting on debts owed, when the tragedians began to increase the shareof comic elements in their later on the and plays, capitalizing essentially growthpopularity of Old Comedy. Those in the tragic arts who remembered the libertiesAeschylus had enjoyed inmixing comedy and tragedy may even have reasoned thiswas what had once been theirs. only recovering But itwas by that day much more. Artists like Aristophanes and Cratinus had, in themeantime, made advances in the of drama and humor on presentation especiallystage, with the result that along with heroes-in-disguise and obnoxious gate-keeperscame the comic playwrights tendency to dispose the action on stage into shorter,faster-moving scenes, not something typical of tragic drama composed in Aeschylusday even when he was going after a laugh. Of course, a quicker pace of stage action 31 Rosenmeyer, The Art of Aeschylus, 69, points to comic in Eumenides: "Eumenides, of all qualitiesAeschylus plays, is closest in diction, tone, and spirit to the comic model." The of fragmentsAeschylus drama also hint at his use of comedy, including an Odysseus in The Bone-Gatherers a (Ostologoi) who recounts being hit in the head with chamberpot. 32 This is not to assert that tragedies composed in the 430s and 420s eschew humorous elements entirely. Characters like Heracles in Alcestis, the Guard in Antigone and the Nurse in Hippolytus constitute notable where an role in the tragedians work. But these exceptions comedy plays important characters are just that, exceptions in a general climate of "tragic" tragedy. Ajax, Medea, Oedipus Tyrannus, and Trojan Women certainly provide audiences with relatively few moments of levity or reasons to laugh.
  16. 16. THE SCENICSTRUCTURE CLASSICAL OF DRAMA / 127was more complicated to integrate into tragedy than adding a slapstick porter-scene toHelen {fiel. 437-82) or having Ion rebuff Xuthus apparent come-on (Ion 517-26), whichexplains why comic characters show up in tragedy before average scene length begins to drop. The latter involves a more comprehensive investment in the comedie mode,and itwas, all in all, a monumental one not without change to effect in the art, effortor risk. But for all it entailed, the change turned out to be well worth the investment ofgenius and energy. Importing comic elements proved in the end an inspired move, at least when measured by its results. It stimulated the last bloom of classical tragedy, inparticular, Euripides final flourish of masterpieces: Orestes, Iphigenia in Aulis, andBacchae. Nor did Sophocles fail to rise to the challenge as Oedipus at Colonus shows,though he seems not to have thrived in the new tragicomic climate as heartily asEuripides. Comedy, after all, had never been Sophocles forte, and by now he wasalmost ninety. Ultimately, the tragedians adoption of comic elements betokened things to come. In the next humorous drama rose to the dramatic arts in century, pre-eminence amongAttica, and Euripides in retrospect ruled the tragic stage, winning among otherposthumous titles the distinction of being hailed "the forefather of New Comedy."Surely, one element in the formulation of that opinion was the comfort those whonurtured Menander?and later were nurtured on him?could feel as they watched the late Euripides accelerated stage action. A comparatively brisk pace of scenes was, bythen, what the Greek audience expected and enjoyed. VII. Conclusion The record of Greek theatre demonstrates well that, despite the newness of the artform and technical barriers like the three-actor rule, ancient playwrights as early asAeschylus possessed the skill to move stage action through a quick succession ofscenes when the dramatic situation called for such a disposition of action. Unfortunately, the data do not reveal how that skill was acquired, amonumental achievementgiven that the first Greek playwrights had no prototypes of complex drama to imitate.At the same time, affords some evidence about the later classical tradition. The historydramas composed by Sophocles and Euripides, Attic tragedians writing inAeschyluswake, show a growing disinclination to engage in plays with a rapid turnover ofscenes, to the of faster action evidenced contrary general pattern increasingly stageacross the century. If not what we might expect on first inspection, this pattern ofevolution in scene length is not intrinsically chaotic either. Indeed, it proves remark toward a of not shorter scenes?inably rectilinear?only moving pattern longer,response not to some simple, prescript norms but to its passage through the dynamicenvironment housing it and complex channels of unforeseeable social change. In sum, close analysis of the evidence shows that, while uniform change in Greek could and did happen progressively over a long period of timetragedy (e.g. metricalresolution in Euripides), in terms of scene length this art exhibits more the leaps andstarts, bumps and backwashes that typify real life, exemplifying that model ofevolution in which change proceeds in bursts and pauses with of long periodsstagnation punctuated by sharp and significant crises. In retrospect, this is indeed thevery thing to be expected, not a gradual pattern of transformation but a series of swift
  17. 17. 128 / Mark Damenand dramatic which and common sense dictate are metamorphoses, experience inherent the growth of classical tragedy toward a more in any living biosystem. Thus, frequent a tale of fluctuation turnover of scenes is at heart and sudden progress, of indecision and conflict, of concerted resistance but eventual surrender to an alluring,encroaching outsider who is really an insider, a story so dramatically human it seemsworthy of Greek tragedy itself. Appendix 1. The Exclusion of Choral Movements and Odes From the Data From the vantage point of modern theatre, which for the most part does not utilizechoruses, it is natural to ask whether the data for scene length might be brought intosharper focus ifwe exclude choral activity and focus only on the "dialogue" sectionsof Greek tragedy (episodia, or "episodes"). That, however, entails an unrealistic and infeasible view of the use of the chorus in Greek tragedy. The point at which a chorusenters the course of a even sometimes exits and re-enters, cf. Eum. during play?and234/244, Aj. 814/866, 385/515?and Hel. long choral odes last are issues as howimportant to the pacing of drama in classical Athens as the movements and words ofany single character. Furthermore, while tragedy may seem to have a basic structure ofalternating episodes and choral sections, the reality is, in fact, farmore complex, as Poearticulates well (see note 1). Thus, to separate choruses from episodes not only violatesa fundamental premise of this genre but is very difficult to effect with any consistency, are put to in the classical tragedies.especially given the imaginative use that choruses So, for instance, when Euripides Medea first cries out near the beginning of the play(Med. 96) and the Chorus enters in response (Med. 131), the ensuing lyrics (Med. 131213) are then divided among the Nurse, Medea, and the Chorus. Is the Chorussentrance, then, to be seen as a scene?and it is well to bear in demarcating separatemind that at this juncture the audience first encounters the Chorus with Medea, an in the which marks this as a critical transition in the important relationship play, should it be seen as a "choral ode," since it encompasses aplay?or strophic parodos ("entrance song"), and thus grouped along with the other lyrics which belong to the orChorus entirely? The same could be asked of the parodoi in either EuripidesSophocles Electra. In general, if a character interacts in song with the chorus, is it to becounted as dialogue or discounted as ode? All in all, choral activity is too often fully integrated into other characters activities, making it impossible to distinguish be tween it and movements. "dialogic" Fortunately, as difficult as it is to engineer, the removal of choral activity appears tomake little significant impact on this study, because omitting the odes and movementsof choruses shifts the numerical outcomes only slightly. As demonstrated below, if the statistics for scene length are recalculated so as to overlook all independent choral activity, i.e. actions and words that do not immediately involve other characters, itspeeds up Aeschylus drama by only a fraction (less than 3%) since his choruses bynature tend to run long. For the other two surviving tragedians, it slows down theturnover of scenes in their plays more substantially (by around 10%), because the choruses of their dramas usually constitute less of the drama than the episodes.
  18. 18. THE SCENIC OF DRAMA STRUCTURE CLASSICAL / 129 Overall Scene Choral Odes and Movements Length Excluding Averages <Averages (with choruses)> Difference 93.5 <95.5> -2.0Aeschylus 80.7 <72.3> +8.4Sophocles 74.2 <67.8> +6.4Euripides [with Rhesus 73.3 <67.0> +6.3] Aeschylus Entrances-Exits/Play Lines Average <With choruses> DifferencePrometheus Bound 7/1001143 <136.9> +6.1Persians 8/740 92.5 <107.7> -15.2Seven Against Thebes 8/681 85.1 <89.8> -4.7Suppliants 8/676 84.5 <97.5> -13.0Agamemnon 9/1085 120.6 <128.7> -8.1Libation-Bearers 12/806 67.2 <59.8> + 7.4Eumenides 10/810 81.0 <80.5> +0.5 [Oresteia 31/2701 87.1 <86.3> +0.8] TOTAL 62/5799 93.5 <95.5> -2.0 Sophocles Entrances-Exits/Play (Date) Lines Average <With choruses> DifferenceAntigone (441) 19/1081 56.9 <54.1> +2.8 Ajax 20/1214 60.7 <56.8> +3.9Trachinian Women 82.5 13/1073 <67.3> +15.2Electra 14/1411 100.8 <79.5> +21.3Oedipus T (429^25?) 16/1307 81.7 <80.5> +1.2Philoctetes (409) 98.8 14/1383 <98.1> +0.7Oedipus C (405) 16/1569 98.1 <84.7> +13.4 TOTAL 112/9038 80.7 <72.3> +8.4