Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

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Book Chapter

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The Soul of Tragedy: Essays on Athenian Drama

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The disqualification of Aeschylus's Suppliants as our earliest surviving tragedy has inevitably led to new understandings of the play's prominent chorus. While the use of the chorus as a main character was once seen as a direct link with tragedy's past and a conservative reflection of tragedy's origins, that fea­ture is now as likely to be viewed as an innovation. Thus H. Friis Johansen and E. H. Whittle, authors of the extensive 1980 commentary on the play, see the Suppliants as a "grandiose experiment with a group instead of a single person as the main carrier of the action." In their view this experiment stands outside the history of tragedy, telling us nothing about the evolution of the genre; it does not derive from the tragedies that immediately preceded the Suppliants, and it exerted "no influence on the development of Attic tragedy."

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Posted with permission from the University of Chicago Press.

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Date Posted: 09 January 2017