The Tragic Nightingale Between Lament and Revenge

  • Alessandra Abbattista
Keywords: Nightingale, lament, revenge, Procne, Electra

Abstract

The analysis of the nightingale theme in ancient Greek tragedy sheds fresh light on the emotional contradictions present in female laments. Classical scholars have traditionally interpreted the tragic nightingale as a symbol of ritual lamentation. In light of its use in the myth of Procne, Philomela and Tereus, they tend to emphasise its association with grief, loss and mourning. They have overlooked, however, the nightingale’s dramatic connection with vengeance. I argue that Attic dramatists reproduce the call of the nightingale during key moments of their revenge plays and use it to create an effect of high suspense for their audiences. Through a reversal of the mythological transformation of Procne, they capture the tragic heroines in their dramaturgical passage from lament to revenge. This is particularly striking in the metamorphosis of the Sophoclean Electra, who caught between grief and anger performs the vengeful lament of the nightingale.

References

Alexiou (1974). – Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1974).

Billing (2007). – Christian Billing, ‘Lament and Revenge in the Heka-be of Euripides’. New Theatre Quarterly, 23.1 (2007) 49-57.

Burnett (1998). – Anne P. Burnett, Revenge in Attic and Later Tragedy (Berkeley: University of California Press 1998).

Cairns (2014). – Douglas Cairns, ‘Grief’, in Hanna Roisman (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Greek Tragedy (Malden, Mass. and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell 2014) 656-659.

Cannatà Fera (1990). – Maria Cannatà Fera, Pindarus: Threnorum Fragmenta (Roma: Edizioni dell’Ateneo 1990).

Campbell (1881). – Lewis Campbell, Sophocles (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1881).

Chandler (1934) – Albert R. Chandler, ‘The Nightingale in Greek and Latin Poetry’. The Classical Journal 30.2 (1934) 78-84.

Chantraine (1968). – Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étimologique de la langue grecque (Paris: Klincksieck 1968).

De Dios (1983). – Lucas J. De Dios, Sophocles: Fragmentos (Madrid: Editorial Gredos 1983).

De Martino (2008). – Ernesto De Martino, Morte e pianto rituale: dal lamento funebre al pianto di Maria (Turin: Boringhieri 2008).

Derderian (2001). – Katharine Derderian, Leaving Words to Re-member: Greek Mourning and the Advent of Literacy (Leiden and Boston: Brill 2001).

Dobrov (1993). – Gregory Dobrov, ‘The Tragic and the Comic Tereus’. American Journal of Philology 114.2 (1993) 189-234.

Dobrov (2001). – Gregory Dobrov, Figures of Play. Greek Drama and Metafictional Poetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001).

Dué (2012). – Casey Dué, ‘Lament as Speech Act in Sophocles’, in Kirk Ormand (ed.), A Companion to Sophocles (Chichester: Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2012) 236-350.

Dugdale (2008). – Eric Dugdale, Sophocles: Electra (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2008).

EG (1965). – Aloysius de Stefani (ed.), Etymologicum Gudianum (Leipzig: Teubner 1965).

EM (1976). – Franciscus Lasserre & Nicolaus Livadaras (eds.), Etymologicum Magnum Genuinum (Roma: Edizioni dell’Ateneo 1976).

Fantuzzi (2007). – Marco Fantuzzi, ‘La mousa del lamento in Euripide, e il lamento della Musa nel Reso ascritto a Euripide’. Eikasmos 18 (2007) 173-199.

Fitzpatrick (2001). – David Fitzpatrick, ‘Tereus’. Classical Quarterly 51.1 (2001) 90-101.

Fleming (1977). – Thomas Fleming, ‘The Musical Nomos in Aes-chylus’ Oresteia’. The Classical Journal 72.3 (1977) 222-233.

Foley (2001). – Helene P. Foley, Female Acts in Greek Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2001).

Foley (2014). – Helene P. Foley, ‘Mourning and Lamentation in Greek Tragedy’, in Hanna Roisman (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Greek Tragedy (Malden, Mass. and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell 2014) 863-866.

Fontenrose (1948). – Joseph E. Fontenrose, ‘The Sorrow of Ino and of Procne’. Transactions of the American Philological Asso-ciation 79 (1948) 125-167.

Fraenkel (1950). - Eduard Fraenkel, Aeschylus: Agamennon (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1950).

Holst-Warhaft (1992). – Gail Holst-Warhaft, Dangerous Voices: Women’s Laments and Greek Literature (London: Routledge 1992).

Jebb (1880). Richard Jebb, Sophocles. The Plays and Fragments. Electra (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1880).

Kiso (1984). – Akiko Kiso, The Lost Sophocles (New York: Van-guard Press 1984).

Loraux (1986). – Nicole Loraux, The Invention of Athens (Cam-bridge: Harvard University Press 1986).

Loraux (1998). – Nicole Loraux, Mothers in Mourning, transl. by Corinne Pache (Chicago: Cornell University Press 1998).

March (2000). – Jenny March, ‘Vases and Tragic Drama: Euripi-des’ Medea and Sophocles’ Lost Tereus’, in Keith N. Rutter and Brian A. Sparkes (eds.), Word and Image in Ancient Greece (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2000) 119-139.

March (2001). – Jenny March, Sophocles: Electra (Warminster: Aris and Philips Ltd 2001).

Marchiandi & Mari (2016). – Daniela Marchiandi and Manuela Mari, ‘I funerali per i caduti in guerra. La difficile armonia di pubblico e privato nell’Atene del V secolo a.C.’. Mediterraneo antico 19 (2016) 177-202.

McClure (1999). – Laura McClure, Spoken Like a Woman. Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1999).

McHardy (2004). Fiona McHardy, ‘Women’s Influence on Revenge in Ancient Greece’, in Fiona McHardy and Eireann Marshall (eds.), Women’s Influence on Classical Civilization (London: Routledge 2004) 92-114.

McHardy (2005). – Fiona McHardy, ‘From Treacherous Wives to Murderous Mothers: Filicide in Tragic Fragments’, in Fiona McHardy, James Robson and David Harvey (eds.), Lost Dra-mas of Classical Athens: Greek Tragic Fragments. Exeter: Uni-versity of Exeter Press 2005) 129-150.

Milo (2008). – Daniela Milo, Il Tereo di Sofocle (Napoli: M. D’Auria Editore 2008).

Monella (2005). – Paolo Monella, Procne e Filomela. Dal mito al simbolo letterario (Bologna: Pàtron Editore 2005).

Palmisciano (2017). – Riccardo Palmisciano, Dialoghi per voce sola: la cultura del lamento funebre nella Grecia antica. Quaderni dei Seminari romani di cultura greca, 22 (Rome: Edizioni Quasar 2017).

Pearson (1917). – Alfred Chilton Pearson, The Fragments of Sophocles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1917).

Raeburn (2008). – David Raeburn, Electra and Other Plays (London: Penguin Classics 2008).

Raeburn & Thomas (2011). – David Raeburn and Oliver Thomas, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011).

Roisman (2008). – Hanna M. Roisman, Sophocles: Electra (Newburyport: R. Pullins Company 2008).

Scattolin (2012). – Paolo Scattolin, ‘Le notizie sul Tereo di Sofocle nei papyri’, in Guido Bastianini and Angelo Casanova (eds.), I papiri di Eschilo e di Sofocle. Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Florence: Firenze Editore 2012) 119-142.

Seaford (1985). – Richard Seaford, ‘The Destruction of Limits in Sophokles’ Elektra’. Classical Quarterly 35 (1985) 315-323.

Seaford (1994). – Richard Seaford, Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1994).

Segal (1993). – Charles Segal, Euripides and the Poetics of Sorrow (Durham: Duke University Press 1993).

Sommerstein et al. (2006). – Alan H. Sommerstein, David Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Talboy (eds.), Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays. Volume I (Oxford: Aris & Phillips Classical Texts 2006).

Stears (2008). – Karen Stears, ‘Death Becomes Her: Gender and Athenian Death Ritual’, in Ann Suter (ed.) Lament: Studies in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008) 139-155.

Suksi (2001). – Aara Suksi, ‘The Poet at Colonus: Nightingales in Sophocles’. Mnemosyne 54.6 (2001) 646-658.

Sultan (1993). – Nancy Sultan, ‘Private Speech, Public Pain: The Power of Women’s Laments in Ancient Greek Poetry and Trag-edy’, in Kimberly Marshall (ed.), Rediscovering the Muses: Women’s Musical Traditions (Boston: Northeastern University Press 1993) 92-110.

Suter (2003). – Ann Suter, ‘Lament in Euripides’ Trojan Women’. Mnemosyne 56.1 (2003) 1-28.

Thompson (1966). – D'Arcy Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1966).

Verrall (1889). – Arthur Verrall, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (London and New York: MacMillan and Co 1889).

Walker (1893). – Richard J. Walker, Sophoclean Fragments (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd 1893).

Wheeler (2003). – Graham Wheeler, ‘Gender and Transgression in Sophocles’ Electra’. Classical Quarterly 53.2 (2003) 377-388.

Winnington-Ingram (1980). – Reginald P. Winnington-Ingram, Sophocles: An Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980).

Wright (2005). – Matthew Wright, ‘The Joy of Sophocles’ Electra’. Greece & Rome 52.2 (2005) 172-194.

Published
2019-07-19