ΣΥΣΤΑΣΙΣ ΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΩΝ: The Playwright's Use of the Action in Athenian Tragedy
Fraser, Rowan Ellis Siobhan
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis contributes to the understanding of the stagecraft and composition of Athenian tragedy through a re-evaluation of its component elements within the structure. I undertake a re-interpretation of the Aristotelian terms for ‘plot’, which allows for a more nuanced examination of events occurring within a tragedy. As Aristotle notes, the systasis of pragmata is the structure of events that forms a tragedy. The muthos is the way in which these events are presented and includes the actions and words of the dramatis personae. Pragmata are constituent elements of both the systasis and muthos. This thesis identifies and evaluates the pragma’s effects upon the movement of the systasis, its contribution to the enrichment of the muthos and its influence on audience engagement with a performance through both enacted and non-enacted forms. My approach involves a rigorous examination of the elements common to an enacted pragma, before identifying the variations therein. While a pragma involves all actions which serve the same general function, every instance of a pragma is unique. Each chapter in turn focuses on a particular pragma, before examining the role of that pragma within an entire tragedy. Enactments of each pragma in extant tragedy are tabled in appendices. The pragma of return home is examined within Andromache; recognition in Sophocles’ Elektra; supplication in Hekabe; and reporting in Women of Trachis. This analysis demonstrates the dynamic role and versatility of different types of pragma within a tragedy, and the playwright’s ingenuity as demonstrated by his deployment of this element. No single approach or methodology can by itself fully interpret an Athenian tragedy, but a focus on a particular pragma illuminates different themes and emphases and ultimately provides us with a better understanding of a tragedy.
PhD in Classics