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Chapitre d'ouvrage

"Respect these Breasts and Pity Me". Greek Novel and Theatre

Abstract : By an interesting coincidence, in both Chaireas and Callirhoe and the Aithiopika are found allusions to the same passage in Iliad 22 where Hecuba shows her breast to her son Hector, asking him for pity. This allusion may appear a symbol of the continuity of Greek literature, from Homer to the Roman Empire, including Aeschylus and Euripides. Hecuba's gesture of discovering her breast is by itself melodramatic, already in Homer. Thus Clytaimnestra as well as Polyxena, Chaereas' mother Aristippes who utters “My child, stay your hand a while! Have pity on your father! Have mercy on the grey hand that raised you“ in the Ethiopika 1.12.3 have Hecuba’s and Hector’s relations in mind. When the novel alludes to theatre plays, it obeys two rules or laws: condensation and avoidance. Several œuvres or myths are alluded to at the same time, thus condensed in one and the same passage. On the other hand, particularly when the novel reminds of a tragedy, it has to avoid too close an imitation, that could dangerously approach the tragic end:. Several of our texts show an extensive use of the theatrical vocabulary, and this terminology implies a metaphorical use. A link between the romanesque thread and theatre plot appears in the relationship between the protagonist and their parents, often problematic like in the Comedies of Menander, Plautus and Terence, In New Comedy as well as in the novel, two youngsters of an astonishing beauty undergo a series of adventures and dangers before they can get married. However, the novels move away from the New Comedy by introducing a mutual and at first-glance love between the two protagonists.- The happy dénouement also recalls New Comedy. Though, the main characters in the novels often see themselves as tragic heroes or heroines, the narrator remains the leader of the play. He knows how to cut the tragic thread at the moment where it could outpass the limit.. The repetition of the tragic topoi sometimes produces a comical effect. It is difficult to decide if the novelist wanted his audience to laugh or at least to smile. In several cases, the novel characters meet theatre actors with their apparatus (cloathes, sceneries, tricks), and those tools are sometimes used by the main characters as a disguise. The vocabulary of theatre introduces the readership to « see » some episodes as plays inserted in the novel, which was called enargeia. After having shown how theatre and myth meet in the novel, we conclude that theatre's main importance in the novels comes from the fact that theatre is is first of all in the mind, as show some instances in Daphnis and Chloe, in Achilles Tatius and Chariton. It may be related to the idea that the world is a stage and to philosophical reflections on the human being as a puppet.
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Chapitre d'ouvrage
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Contributeur : Françoise Letoublon <>
Soumis le : mercredi 26 décembre 2018 - 16:00:39
Dernière modification le : mercredi 15 juillet 2020 - 20:50:04
Archivage à long terme le : : mercredi 27 mars 2019 - 13:49:18


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Françoise Letoublon, Marco Genre. "Respect these Breasts and Pity Me". Greek Novel and Theatre. Edmund P. Cueva ; Shannon P. Byrne. A Companion to the Ancient Novel, p. 352-383., 2014. ⟨hal-01965647⟩



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