Spoken Like a Woman: Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama

Spoken Like a Woman: Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama

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by Laura McClure
     
 

In ancient Athens, where freedom of speech derived from the power of male citizenship, women's voices were seldom heard in public. Female speech was more often represented in theatrical productions through women characters written and enacted by men. In Spoken Like a Woman, the first book-length study of women's speech in classical drama, Laura McClure

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Overview

In ancient Athens, where freedom of speech derived from the power of male citizenship, women's voices were seldom heard in public. Female speech was more often represented in theatrical productions through women characters written and enacted by men. In Spoken Like a Woman, the first book-length study of women's speech in classical drama, Laura McClure explores the discursive practices attributed to women of fifth-century b.c. Greece and to what extent these representations reflected a larger reality. Examining tragedies and comedies by a variety of authors, she illustrates how the dramatic poets exploited speech conventions among both women and men to construct characters and to convey urgent social and political issues.

From gossip to seductive persuasion, women's verbal strategies in the theater potentially subverted social and political hierarchy, McClure argues, whether the women characters were overtly or covertly duplicitous, in pursuit of adultery, or imitating male orators. Such characterization helped justify the regulation of women's speech in the democratic polis. The fact that women's verbal strategies were also used to portray male transvestites and manipulators, however, suggests that a greater threat of subversion lay among the spectators' own ranks, among men of uncertain birth and unscrupulous intent, such as demagogues skilled in the art of persuasion. Traditionally viewed as outsiders with ambiguous loyalties, deceitful and tireless in their pursuit of eros, women provided the dramatic poets with a vehicle for illustrating the dangerous consequences of political power placed in the wrong hands.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691017303
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/09/1999
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
331
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix

NOTE ON ABBREVIATIONS xi

CHAPTER ONE The City of Words: Speech in the Athenian Polis 3

Speech and the Construction of Civic Identity 8

Speech in the neater of Dionysus 15

The Silence of Athenian Women 19

Women as Speakers in Athenian Drama 24

Summary of Chapters 29

CHAPTER TWO Gender and Verbal Genres in Ancient Greece 32

Ancient Observations about Women's Speech 38

Lamentation 40

Aischrologia 47 Choruses of Girls and Women 52

Gossip and Volubility 56

Seductive Persuasion 62

Conclusion 68

CHAPTER THREE Logos Gunaikos: Speech and Gender in Aeschylus' Oresteia 70

The Male Chorus as Internal Audience 72

Gender and Performance: Clytemnestra's Shifting Verbal Genres 73

Clytemnestra's Binding Song 80

The Lament of Cassandra 92

Clytemnestra's Heroic Speech and the Feminized Chorus 97

Speech and Gender in the Choephori 100

Orestes and judicial Speech 104

Women's Speech in the Pairs: The Eumenides 105

Conclusion 111

CHAPTER FOUR At the House Door: Phaedra and the Politics of Reputation 112

Phaedra's Concern for Reputation 116

Eros and Illusion: Aphrodite's Prologue 119

Hippolytus and the Language of Prayer 121

Women's Traffic in Speech.- The Chorus 123

Phaedra's Shameful Speech 125

Eros and Rhetoric: Phaedra's Great Speech 127

The Nurse's Charm of Speech 135

Hippolytus' Invective against Women 142

The Agon and judicial Discourse 146

The Song of Girls and the Laments of Men 153

Conclusion 157

CHAPTER FIVE Women's Wordy Strife: Gossip and Invective in Euripides' Andromache 158

The Status of Speech in the Andromache 161

Spartan Women and Their Speech 164

Hermione's False Accusations 168

Female Nature on Trial: The First Agon 170

The Male Intruder: The Second Agon 183

Helen and the Education of Women: The Third Agon 186

Hermione's Invective against Women 193

Slander: The Male Disease 198

Rescuing Marriage: Peleus and Thetis 201

Conclusion 203

CHAPTER SIX Obscenity, Gender, and Social Status in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclsiazusae 205

Gender and Comic Obscenity 206

Ritual and the Origins of Comic Obscenity 215

Comic Masculinity: The Relative in the Thesmophoriazusae 218

Rendering the Female: The Relative's Flawed Performance 226

Rhetoric and Obscenity at the Thesmophoria 228

The Scythian Archer and the Recovery of Masculinity 235

A Female Rhetor: Praxagora in the Ecclesiazusae 236

Blepyrus' Scatological Obscenity 246

Speech in the Gynaecocracy 248

The Speech of Older Women 253

Conclusion 258

CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion 260

BIBLIOGRAPHY 265

INDEX 285

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