THE SERPENT IMAGE IN THE "CHOEPHOROE." A STUDY OF IMAGERY IN ACTION

RONALD ALAN PEREZ, Fordham University

Abstract

This thesis aims at providing an exhaustive analysis of the serpent image in the Choephoroe. Essential to the undertaking was the need to examine the literary history of the image and yet, at the same time, to evaluate the image within the dramatic context of the play. These two considerations had to be constantly balanced and integrated, not always an easy task. As a result, the dissertation tends to develop these two ideas throughout the text.^ The first objective was to situate Aeschylus within the context of the Greek literary tradition. It became imperative to establish and trace, as far as the evidence allowed, the possible models and sources of the poet's inspiration. For this purpose, all authors, either prior to or contemporaneous with Aeschylus, were surveyed. Included in this group were Sophocles and Euripides, inasmuch as the tragedians of the Attic stage constitute a homogeneous literary configuration. This phase of research also entailed a careful consultation of available lexica, indices, and concordances which might shed light on the subject. What emerged was a conclusion consistent with the prevailing assessment of most Greek poets: within the limits imposed by tradition, Aeschylus exercised his creativity in order to achieve his own artistic goals.^ The second objective proved somewhat more elusive. Of the three plays which comprise the Oresteia, the Choephoroe has least commanded the attention of classical scholars, critics, and interpreters. No major commentary of the play has appeared in the last 75 years, and, with the exception of the great commos, the play as a whole has been neglected. The lack of any comprehensive philological and literary studies often rendered the play's intricacies and problems formidable obstacles, and thus made it difficult to integrate the serpent image into the action of the play. This phase of research consisted of three components: an investigation of the general critical literature on the trilogy, a study of the older commentaries on the Choephoroe as well as commentaries on other plays by Aeschylus, and above all detailed and repeated readings of the Choephoroe itself. The fundamental concept operative in this phase of analysis was that Aeschylus composed poetry for dramatic presentation, i.e. that Aeschylean imagery is essentially functional in nature. On this score, the thesis demonstrates that, at least as far as the serpent image is concerned, in Aeschylus, poetry and drama are inextricably fused. The action informs and defines the image, and the image clarifies the dramatic process. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Classical

Recommended Citation

RONALD ALAN PEREZ, "THE SERPENT IMAGE IN THE "CHOEPHOROE." A STUDY OF IMAGERY IN ACTION" (January 1, 1982). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8213253.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8213253

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