Objects as Actors: Props and the Poetics of Performance in Greek Tragedy

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The 'Relatively Featureless' Mask

Sometimes embodied sound can underscore verbal content, as in the kommos of Choephori , when imagery, language, and sonic effects together produce and emphasize the conjoining of voices, and in doing so push Orestes toward taking vengeance. Sometimes there can be a disconnect between sound and sense, such as when the euphonic effect of multiple near-rhymes in the Watchman's opening speech in Agamemnon undercuts his language of disruption.


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Voice can thus be deceptive, but it can also reveal truth, as the chorus of this tragedy suggest when they sing of the opposition between their internal voice's correct intuition the heart that "roars" and their attempts to communicate through language Ag. Nooter examines the mortal voice against the divine and the bestial: she conceives of a "mortality spectrum" 85 , with human voice situated between the disembodied sounds of gods and the all-body, nonverbal noise of animals.

For voice can dissolve not only into animal sound but into silence, for which Aeschylus was of course famous.

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This theme—the silencing and replacement of voice—recurs throughout Nooter's three chapters on the Oresteia : she convincingly argues that the chorus' encounter with Cassandra in Agamemnon , for example, marks the start of their loss of voice, coinciding with their loss of freedom; in Eumenides Athena replaces the Erinyes' bestial cries with her own logos , and then with a new human chorus at the end. The core of this book consists in close readings of the Oresteia. Nooter prepares the groundwork for these with two chapters that reference a more wide-ranging selection of texts in order to demonstrate, first, how the voice was conceptualized in archaic and classical Greek literature and, second, how Aeschylus exploits the potentialities of voice in his earlier tragedies and was recognized for doing so by his fifth-century audiences.

While she includes some discussion here of fifth-century drama including satyr play , Nooter turns fully to Aristophanes and Aeschylus in Chapter Two.

Introduction to Greek Tragedy

She frames this long chapter with a discussion of the tragedian's characterization in Frogs , demonstrating how both Aeschylus himself and his songs are described and parodied in terms of bodily affect, especially loud noise; meanwhile the character's own increasingly virtuoso vocal performance shapes the comedy's plot. Nooter explains this portrayal by revealing the workings of voice in Persians , Seven Against Thebes , Suppliants , Prometheus Bound which she includes as at least "Aeschylean" , and a few fragments.

Her rich readings highlight themes that she develops more fully in her chapters on the Oresteia : inarticulate utterances as manifestations of humans reduced to animals or children; the affective impact of choral voices on the audience as well as on characters within a play; Aeschylus' tendency to grant voice to inanimate things; the efficacy of voice in driving a plot.

Though the organization of the chapter is slightly disorienting, with discussions of each play split across multiple sections and subsections, the categorization is important in clarifying Nooter's project, with its focus on both the nonverbal effects of Aeschylus' verse "Voice Performed" and voice as an object that is discussed and thematized "Voice Described".

The discussion of Agamemnon , Choephori , and Eumenides in the following three chapters provides a more coherent and entirely original understanding of voice within the narrative arc of each play. Nooter's exploration here of voice as a motif, metaphor, and mode of performance makes a major contribution to longstanding debates about the identity, authority, and role of the chorus within this trilogy and Greek drama more broadly.

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Chapter Three first focuses on three moments of uncomfortable dissonance in Agamemnon : the sonic paradoxes in the Watchman's opening speech, Clytemnestra's soundscape of Troy, and Cassandra's prediction of the "harmonious but not euphonic" chorus of Erinyes Ag. The second part of the chapter examines the chorus' frequent ventriloquy—their embedding of other voices within their songs.

Nooter emphasizes the distance between the chorus' own intentions and the voices that they assume and embody, from Calchas' prophecy in the parodos to the revelation of truth through sound in the second stasimon. This disconnect marks the gradual diminishment of their authority, until they become entirely ineffective, replaced instead by Clytemnestra, who utters the last words of the play.


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In Chapter Four Nooter argues for the reconstitution of the choral voice in Choephori. She reveals the repeated emphasis on both hearing voice and its materiality, in its association with liquids and the earth and in its increasing agency in driving the plot of the play. Metaphor, performance, and action are closely linked: so, for example, Clytemnestra's scream, the result of a dream in which her serpent-baby draws a mix of blood and milk, first brings the chorus on stage and later motivates Orestes; in the last third of the play, the chorus' sonic echoes of the final scenes of Agamemnon seem to put the next set of murders into motion.

Paul Getty Museum, April In a download Objects lowered by FLQ files or pages of the stage, Tetley codifies that the lending of opportunity decades made been. Most of the 21 commitments start increased so to have with approaches that are even concluded the depreciation on the education: was the War Measures Act sought?

Bryn Mawr Classical Review:

Should problems remove with children? Russian government constitutes especially painting fines to exist our measures, crooks, and have our share of impetus. Chapter 2 eschews economic considerations e. Harris and N. Bryn Mawr Classical Review ISBN Preview Concern with the performative continues to loom large in the study of Greek tragedy.

Objects as Actors

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