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Objects As ActorsProps and the Poetics of Performance in Greek Tragedy$
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Melissa Mueller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226312958

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226313009.001.0001

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Tragic and Tragicomic “Letters”

Tragic and Tragicomic “Letters”

(p.155) 6 Tragic and Tragicomic “Letters”
Objects As Actors

Melissa Mueller

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 6 considers writing tablets as metatheatrical props that symbolize and embody the process of composing tragedy out of competing possible plotlines. Trachiniae’s oracular deltos (writing tablet) serves as a mise-en-abîme refraction of the entire play. Phaedra’s writing tablet is more akin to a defixio (a curse tablet) than a letter and is used by the heroine preemptively to silence her stepson in Euripides’ Hippolytus. The letter Iphigenia reads aloud in Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians provokes a playful scene of recognition, while Agamemnon’s revised letter, revoking his earlier decision to sacrifice his daughter, becomes the catalyst for a burlesque tug-of-war in the Iphigenia at Aulis; in that play, it is particularly clear that control of the girl—and consequently of the plot—is what is at issue. But because of their general tendency to thematize plotting as a tragic concern, these props more than others solicit metatheatrical interpretations.

Keywords:   deltos, writing tablet, letters, defixio, mise-en-abîme, Iphigenia, metatheatricalprops, Trachiniae, Hippolytus, Euripides

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