ELINOR SCOLLAY WRIGHT, University of Pennsylvania


The object of this thesis is to describe the features of laments in Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Comparison of the specific meters, structure and content of laments reveals essential similarities. The likeness of laments suggests that they may be considered to be a structural part of tragedy in the same way as rheseis, parodoi and messenger speeches.^ Four aspects of the laments are considered for comparison: the occasion, strophic structure, meters and content. The occasion combines the dramatic action, which is usually lamentation for a recent death, and the location of the lament in the play, which is invariably near the end. The structure of laments combines the antiphony of ritual laments in actual life and the strophic regularity of tragic odes into a bipartite form. The two parts contain different rates and styles of antiphonal exchange as well as different meters. The meter of one part is double-short, and the meter of the second part is single-short, lyric iambs with occasional dochmiacs. The content of laments is considered in two categories: the topoi of lamentation and the repeated linguistic features such as anaphora.^ The full laments which contain these elements are: Persians 908-1077, Seven 961-1004, Oedipus Coloneus 1670-1750, Oedipus Tyrannus 1307-1366, Antigone 1261-1346, Euripides' Suppliants 1114-1164, Troiades 1287-1352 and Andromache 1173-1225.^ The characteristic elements of laments are used by all three tragedians in full laments toward the end of the play for the combined emotional and climatic effect. When lamentation occurs at a different part of the play, the lament contains many of the original features, but it is modified or reduced according to the dramatic situation and characters. Reduced laments are useful because they can suggest past or future lamentation and color the present scene without bringing the play to a full climax when the action is not complete.^ Some reduced laments deviate slightly from the full lament in exactly the same way for similar situations and characters in different plays. In this way, both the full and reduced laments must be considered to be structural elements of tragedy in that their dramatic function determines their form. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Classical

Recommended Citation

WRIGHT, ELINOR SCOLLAY, "THE FORM OF LAMENTS IN GREEK TRAGEDY" (1986). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8614891.