Electra and the Empty Urn: Metatheater and Role Playing in Sophocles

Overview

Metatheater, or "theater within theater," is a critical approach often used in studies of Shakespearian or modern drama. Breaking new ground in the study of ancient Greek tragedy, Mark Ringer applies the concept of metatheatricality to the work of Sophocles. His innovative analysis sheds light on Sophocles' technical ingenuity and reveals previously unrecognized facets of fifth-century performative irony.

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Electra and the Empty Urn: Metatheater and Role Playing in Sophocles

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Overview

Metatheater, or "theater within theater," is a critical approach often used in studies of Shakespearian or modern drama. Breaking new ground in the study of ancient Greek tragedy, Mark Ringer applies the concept of metatheatricality to the work of Sophocles. His innovative analysis sheds light on Sophocles' technical ingenuity and reveals previously unrecognized facets of fifth-century performative irony.

Ringer analyzes the layers of theatrical self-awareness in all seven
Sophoclean tragedies, giving special attention to Electra, the
playwright's most metatheatrical work. He focuses on plays within plays,
characters who appear to be in rivalry with their playwright in "scripting"
their dramas, and the various roles that characters assume in their attempts to deceive other characters or even themselves. Ringer also examines instances of literal role playing, exploring the implications of the Greek convention of sharing multiple roles among only three actors.

Sophocles has long been praised as one of the masters of dramatic
irony. Awareness of Sophoclean metatheater, Ringer shows, deepens our appreciation of that irony and reveals the playwright's keen awareness of his art.

Originally published in 1998.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition — UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This superb book is so well-elaborated, cogent, and revealing that my jaw would drop every few pages as I marveled at how well Ringer's approach illuminates the play. I especially liked the analysis of the three-actor convention, which has never before been so well handled. Also impressive is the way Ringer gracefully analyzes both dialog and action in considerable detail with great skill and insight."—Richard Hornby, University of California, Riverside

"Ringer, who actually produces plays, has shown us what it might have meant to an ancient audience to hear Tecmessa speak in the same voice that Odysseus or Athene had a bare sixty lines earlier: she would combine in her very voice the roles of sympathizer and revealer of Ajax."—Barbara Hughes Fowler, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846971
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/26/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 0.61 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Ringer is assistant professor of theater history and literature at Denison University. He has also worked extensively as an actor, director, dramaturg, and critic in the United States and Europe.&27;

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface
Chapter 1. Introduction
Polus and the Urn
Metatheater and the Greeks
Chapter 2. Politics, Sophism, and Deception
Thucydides, Pisistratus, and Solon Gorgias
Chapter 3. Ajax: The Staging of a Hero
Chapter 4. Trachiniae: Staging a Double Hero
Chapter 5. The Theban Plays: Illusion into Reality
Antigone
Oedipus Tyrannus
Oedipus at Colonus
Chapter 6. Philoctetes: Roles within Roles, Plays within a Play
Chapter 7. Electra
Prologue
Electra and the Eccylema of Logos
Chrysothemis and Clytemnestra
Lying Words
Undanceable Shames: Electra Rewrites Her Play
Small Dust in a Little Urn: Nothing into Nothing
The Unshakable Hounds
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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