Aeschylus’s Suppliant Women: The Tragedy of Immigration (Wisconsin Studies in Classics)

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In order to exemplify this contemporary wariness over immigration and to firmly root text into context, Bakewell adopts a rigorously historicist approach, postulating for direct dialogue between history and drama.

Guide Aeschylus’s Suppliant Women: The Tragedy of Immigration (Wisconsin Studies in Classics)

A short introductory chapter "Introduction" sets the argument and delineates the framework within which it develops: methodological a political and historicist reading of tragedy and historical explication of term and institution of metoikia. Included also is an overview of the tragic play: myth, plot, date. The author rightly advocates for a first production in the latter half of the s.


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His support for a date prior to on the grounds of non-use of a skene-building in the play would benefit from further justification. Given the state of the textual evidence, its use in the two lost plays of the trilogy cannot be disqualified. What is more, the view for an early existence of a skene-building is gaining increasing currency in scholarship. In trying to establish the role of dramaturgy in casting the Danaids as foreigners to Argos in chapter 1, Bakewell exemplifies how theatrical space, blocking, gestures, costume and props feature the liminality of the newcomers.

These elements along with Aeschylus' employment of legal terminology of metoikia esp. Fears about metic speech are evoked, the argument goes, via the emphasis on the different kind of speech norms of Danaids, Danaus and Pelasgus, attesting respectively to norms of violence, dolos and democratic peitho chapter 2. Bakewell revisits the treatment of the theme of marriage in play and trilogy in chapter 3, focussing on the way the play displays the dangers of the Danaids' relative independence from their kyrios and their sexual licentiousness. The difficulties in the economic realm concern chapter 4.

The play casts Pelasgus and his people as descendants of their land Pelasgus Palaichthon, Argives gamoroi. By contrast, the Danaids are barred from land or house ownership. The stress on the different relation of natives and newcomers with the land serves to foreground the Danaids' status as metics. It should also be read, the author maintains, in light of Athenian ideology of citizen autochthony. There is a large amount of historical material here, presented with economy and clarity.

The book's concluding part "Conclusion" restates key thesis, while also pondering on similarities and differences with Aeschylus' Eumenides. The book is completed by the section of "Notes", a list of "References", a detailed "Index". All in all, casting a wide net over historical and literary material, Bakewell offers erudite accounts of both.

The Making of The Suppliant Women

New perspectives in analysis are opened up, fresh attention is given to old critical questions, especially regarding lexical and structural features of the text. Nevertheless, this same approach seems uncomfortably reductionist in certain respects. It leads to perhaps too clear cut readings of the literature at points: of the play in question, where for instance the Danaids figure as both alien Egyptians and Greeks descending from Io, and of other dramatic plays brought into the discussion, for example Medea, read as "the most vivid example of the dangers posed by the sexual mores of foreign women" There is plenty in Jason and Medea's intricate characterization where Greek and barbarian qualities intermesh to disturb Bakewell's assertion for the play as confirming Jason's view of marriage and condemning Medea merely as the paradigm of barbarian female licentiousness.

More reserve and allowance for co-existence of other possible readings would nuance and thus buttress the persuasiveness of his argumentation.


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