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RELATIONSHIP OF GENDER TO INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES
MICHAEL IAN WHEELER
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Michael Ian Wheeler
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A B ST R A C T ............... .................................................................................. ..... v
1 INTRODUCTION TO INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR SPACES IN EURIPIDES .....1
2 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' HEKABE ...................................4
Interiors in E uripides' H ekabe ............................. ............ .......................................5
Agamemnon' s Tent ................... ...... .. ................ ............ ..
Tents of the Captive Trojan Women .......................................... .. ...............8
Polym estor's H om e in Thrace .................................................................... .... 8
T ro y .................................................................................. 10
Exteriors in Euripides' H ekabe......................................................... ............... 12
A chilles' Tom b .............. ......................... ... .... ............... .. ............... 12
Outside Agamemnon's Tent.......................... ............................14
3 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' MEDEA ..................................17
Exteriors in Euripides' M edea ............................. ..................... 17
Outside Jason's House- Divorce ................. ....... ..... ...................... ............... 17
Outside Jason's H ouse- Exile ........................................ ........................ 18
A bove Jason's H house ...................... ................ .................... ........19
Interiors in Euripides' M edea .................................................................... 19
Kreon' s Palace ............ ......... ...... ................ ......... 19
Jason 's H ou se ......................................................................22
4 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' ELEKTRA.................................25
An Exterior in Euripides' Elektra: Environs of the Farmhouse .............................25
Interiors in E uripides' E lektra ......................................................... .....................26
Environs of the Farmhouse........................... ............. ....... ......... 26
T h e S h rin e ...................................................................... 2 8
Inside the Farm house .................. ................. ............ .. .... .. ..............30
5 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' HIPPOLYTOS ..........................34
Exteriors in Euripides' H ippolytos ........................................ ......... ............... 34
Outside the Palace of Theseus at Troezen.................................34
Along the Cliffs: the Chariot Accident.................. ..... ............. 35
An Interior in Euripides' Hippolytos: Inside the Palace at Troezen...........................36
An Ambiguous Space in Euripides' Hippolytos: The Inviolate Meadow ..................37
6 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' ION........................................ 41
Interiors in E u rip id es' on ................................................................ .....................4 1
The Cave of the Long R ocks ................. ... ................................... .............41
T he B banquet T ent ........................... .... ........................ .. ........ ... ........ 43
An Exterior in Euripides' Ion: Outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi ...................44
7 INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' BAKCHAI................................46
An Ambiguous Space in Euripides' Bakchai: Mount Kithairon .............................46
An Interior in Euripides' Bakchai: Inside the Palace ...........................................48
An Exterior in the Bakchai: Before the Palace...................... ...................49
8 C O N C L U SIO N .......... ......................................................................... ........ .... .. 51
L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S .................................... ............................... ..........................54
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................57
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
RELATIONSHIP OF GENDER TO INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES
Michael Ian Wheeler
Chair: Karelisa Hartigan
Cochair: Kostas Kapparis
Major Department: Classics
Interior and exterior spaces in Euripides can be defined most simply as
categorizations of various physical spaces. There needs to be an interior space to
diametrically oppose the exterior space because this dichotomy is merely a reflection of
"reality." Why then is there any scholastic reason to invest time in researching these
spaces? Closer inspection of the topic yields hints of deeper meanings. For example, the
Hekabe requires an interior to Agamemnon's tent both because of plot and because tents
physically have an interior; there obviously needs to be an exterior plane, an outdoor area
in front of the tent, visible to the audience. It is the actions that occur in these spaces,
however, which give a more significant meaning to the simply physical spaces. Each
realm includes a set of behaviors or traits that are inherently linked to physical space. It
is through direct juxtaposition that this relationship becomes most apparent.
Violence, murder and deception are inextricably tied to the idea of the "interior,"
which is also a feminine space. Public knowledge, on the contrary, is made available to
the audience in the "exterior," the masculine space. This dichotomy therefore provides
for the relegation of violent acts not only within but also outside the time-frame of the
drama to interiors and allows for the fact that they do not appear on stage. Most
importantly, justice is relegated to men and the exterior, whereas judgment is associated
with women and interiors.
INTRODUCTION TO INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR SPACES IN EURIPIDES
At their most basic level, interior and exterior spaces are defined simply as
categorizations of those two kinds of physical spaces. It is logical to suppose that the
main reason for the presence of interior and exterior spaces is solely out of physical
necessity: if there is an exterior space, then any interior space exists in opposition simply
as a reflection of 'reality.' Closer inspection, however, yields deeper meaning. True,
Euripides' plays often require an interior because of plot and because buildings
physically have an interior, and such buildings often form a backdrop for the dramatic
action. There also needs to be an exterior area visible to the audience so that the viewers
may be apprised of events through speech or visible action. It is the actions that occur in
these various spaces however which give more significant meaning to interiors and
exteriors. Each realm includes a set of behaviors or traits that are inherently linked to a
particular physical space. Through examination of certain situations occurring in interior
and exterior spaces in Euripides' plays, this relationship becomes most apparent. This
paper will explore situations in Euripides' Hekabe, Medea, Elektra, Hippolytos, Ion and
Situations often, although not always directly, arise due to some kind of instability.
The relative instability of exterior spaces and interior spaces is linked in the plays under
scrutiny. In other words, if there is an instability in the exterior, instability similarly
appears in the interior. For example, in the Hekabe, the captive women's collective
memory of Troy recalls that the instability of the exterior Trojan war spills over into the
interior of the city, and into the women's own homes and lives. The interior space should
be a safe haven, where the inhabitants are safe and protected. If exterior events in the
play become unstable, the interior becomes an unsafe, dangerous place.
In terms of space and gender, women are associated with interiors, deceit, and
violence for personal reasons. Such violence, when it occurs, invariably takes place in
the interior; deceit either occurs in the interior or acts as a gateway thereto. Both
violence and deceit in these cases are based on judgments made by the women involved,
which have no lawful reasoning behind them. These judgments are based on emotion
and not legality.
Men are associated with exterior spaces, openness, and justice. When men make
decisions, they have legal backing, and therefore at least the appearance of justice. In
addition, the fact that such decisions are made with legal sanction allows them to be made
openly, in the exterior, where any audience member or character can observe them. If
violence happens to occurs in an exterior setting, it is legally sanctioned violence for
public benefit, not for the serving of personal gain or private vendettas.
Not every element necessarily shows up in every situation, or even in every play,
but when an element does appear it falls into a predictable pattern. An unstable situation
manifests itself in certain ways for women and interiors on the one hand and for men and
exteriors on the other (Figure 1).
VIOLENCE W OMEN DECEIT
(for personal ,
VIOLENCE EXTERIOR OPENNESS
Figure 1. Manifestation of instability on interior and exterior spaces in Euripides' plays
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' HEKABE
There are four interior situations and two exterior situations in Euripides' Hekabe.
The interiors include Agamemnon's tent, the tents where the other Trojan captives live,
Polymestor's home, and Troy. The exteriors are the area before Agamemnon's tent and
the tomb of Achilles.
An interior to Agamemnon's tent is required both because of plot and because tents
physically have an interior; regardless of whether the stage building is an actual tent or
not, for the purposes of the play it symbolizes one and therefore follows the same rules as
a real tent in the minds of the audience. As for the other interiors, they are merely
suggested through dialogue, but exist in the minds of the audience. Hourmouziades
suggests that "imaginary places which are of equal significance with that of the scene
represented in the acting area are located, in the audience's imagination, 'within very
easy reach'."1 For the logic of the play to work, the other interiors must exist.
Polymestor's house must exist in order for Polydoros to be killed there, and the captives'
tents must exist to enable a retrieving of the stolen ornaments. Troy works slightly
differently as an interior. If it is considered on the same level as the other interiors, it no
longer exists, as it has been razed. On a deeper level, however, it exists as an interior in
the minds of the captive Trojan women. It is described as they remember it, from inside
their homes and Priam's palace.
1 Nicolaos C. Hourmouziades. Production andIJ,"l~,;, r,. '; in Euripides. Athens: Greek Society for
Humanistic Studies, 1965: 110.
The most obvious physical exterior space is what is visible to the audience, the
au)lh/ and surrounding area in front of Agamemnon's tent, represented by the stage and
the orchestra where the actors and the chorus can be seen (Hekabe 171). Less obvious is
what takes place offstage. Offstage spaces, like interiors, must be treated as physical
spaces learned about by the audience by means of description by actors or the chorus.
The mound where Achilles is buried is an exterior space of this nature. It is the outdoor
location where the rest of the Greek army is waiting. "[I]f the space in the theatre did not
represent a part of Athens [or wherever else the play was being staged], the outer region
had also to undergo a corresponding imaginary transformation, so that the transition from
the one area to the other could be performed without violating the conventional links
between what was seen and what was only imagined."2 If imagination is used, the
comings and goings of Talthybios and the other Greeks who talk with Hekabe become
Interiors in Euripides' Hekabe
Agamemnon's tent is the most apparent physical interior space. The building in
question must be Agamemnon's tent because it is thus described by the ghost of
Polydoros: "oKrlvrif ... Ayaps pvovoc" (53-4). However, the tent is only nominally his.
Men may own homes, whether tents or palaces, but they do not participate in the day-to-
day running of the home, which is the domestic sphere belonging to women. The events
surrounding Agamemnon's tent contain all of the possible elements associated with
women and interiors. The Trojan captive women and Hekabe in particular are associated
2 Ibid., 109.
with Agamemnon's tent. It is Hekabe's judgment that her son Polydoros must be
avenged, though she has no legitimate power to make such a decision. Hekabe lies to
trick Polymestor into entering the tent, which he later describes as a koi/th, translatable as
both bedchamber and lair (1083). She asserts that when they enter the tent, the location
of more gold will be revealed in detail, and that spoils already lie within. This is bait
which the greedy Polymestor finds irresistible. Once Polymestor is in the tent, he and his
children are completely within the women's power. The Trojan captives wreak havoc on
Polymestor's children and eyes by acting like normal women with no hidden motives
might, cooing over the children, until the time comes to strike. Polymestor describes this
after the fact:
!I 6s KXIflTvrC v E) 'IOC KCa-Pc(c yovu"
TToAAk 6s XSEpsE, CI pay) sE~ cXOTspaCc,
cx 6' 'v6Ev, coc 6r Trapd (t)Aco, TpcoDov KopC(I
6OaKOuc sXouoC(, KEpKIS' HScovfic XEPoc
rvouv, UTT' C(auyc Touo 6s Asu E oucaI TT'Treouc'
(AAc2 6s KC( PC(KC( OpriKaIC(V 6scoIva(I
yu-Ipvov P' E6rIKc(v ST 6rTTuXou OT oAlIoc-TOc.
OOC(I 6E TOKC6iE( ioaC(V, sKTrCayAoupalC(I
TSKV' 'EV XEspoV E1TrCAov, coc TTpOoco TrTCTpoc
yEvoVTro, 61ct60Xc X(c axjiouoc(a XEpoCv
And having bent a knee I sat in their midst on a couch;
and many Trojan maidens took seats,
some on the left, and some on the other side,
as if next to a friend, talking of the workmanship of our Edonian
weave, looking at these robes up against the sunlight;
and others looking at my Thracian spear
made me naked of my twofold protection.
And whichever of them were mothers, they dandled
my children in their arms, cooing, so that they were
further from their father, passing them from hand to hand ... (1150-9)
The women make a fuss over his fine clothing and weaponry, as well as his
children, and manage to remove them all from his vicinity. The women prove
Agamemnon wrong to have questioned the ability of women to master men (883). When
women are in their own space, the interior, they hold the power, even over men. Hekabe
and the Trojan women take their revenge on Polymestor in Agamemnon's tent. Not only
do they pitilessly murder his children, but they blind him with their brooch-pins,
emphasizing the women's sexuality and its inherent danger as it is with brooches that
their clothing is fastened. The first indication of what exactly is happening comes as a
scream from within the tent itself. Polymestor yells copoi, TU)AoGupal (syyoo
oppI-TCOV TC(Xacc ... cOpoi piC(A' C(aOic, TeKV(a, 6uo0rTvou oC(ayrf (1035-7). The full
horror of the violence done in the tent is told by Polymestor himself to Agamemnon in
hopes of sympathy:
EOuc CAa(PouGoI (aoyaC(v EK TTrTroCv TroOsv
KEVTOUOI TraTSC(GC, C(' 6S TTrOXASCOV 61KrTv
(uvcapTra(cocxal Tac sEpdc sEXOV XEPC(c
KC( KC6SC(" TaC(Io 6' CapKSOC( XPTxcov Epo'l,
SEl SV TrTpOOOTTOV S~C(VIOTC(aiV SpEOV,
KOpTyr KC(aTSXOV, sE 6s KIVOyTIV XSPcc,
TrXrOEIl yuvaCIKCSV ou'Sv TIVUOV TxaA(c.
To Ao oOlov 6E, TTr~icp Tr Ipa(Tro TrXEov,
ssi1Tyao'OavCTO 6ESV' sp)CLV yap O-ppITCLoV,
TTOpT ac AapoUocal, Tcxc TCxaA2cXTrpouc Kopacw
KEVTOUOIV, CIipaooouoIV ...
... after their words
immediately having taken knives from their dresses
they stab the children, and some held me as a prisoner
of war having pinned my arms and legs
together; needing to keep them off my children,
they held my hair, and if I moved my hands,
I, wretched, could effect nothing against the multitude of women.
And at the last, they effected a misery more terrible than
the previous misery; for having taken brooch-pins
they stabbed my eyes, making them bleed ... (1160-71)
The gruesome details of the violence are shared with the audience. "Hekabe's acts
of murder and mutilation belong to the dark, private space of the captive women. In
tragedy this offstage space, often representing the interior of the house or palace,
functions as the space of the irrational or the aspects of personality that are hidden, dark,
and fearful. It is often the place of female sexuality, deceit, and revenge."3 In this case,
it is all three, as the women's fondling of Polymestor's clothes and weapons is pointedly
sexual in the service of pulling off a deception to effect revenge.
Tents of the Captive Trojan Women
In the Greek camp, the captive women have enough personal freedom in their
respective tents to hide stolen Trojan goods from their masters. In addition, Hekabe tells
Agamemnon that she will have no trouble carrying out her plan against Polymestor,
because of the "OTSycal KEKESU(O' ci 6E Tpcacov O)XAov" (880). She tells Polymestor
that the treasure she has inside Agamemnon's tent was able to be hidden because
"oKuAcov s)V oX)Q TcXIOS6 OCeSTC(I OTsyac," the women have their own tents (1014).
To adorn the dead Polyxena, Hekabe intends to gather up a collection of ornaments taken
from their former homes by the captive Trojan women "E'l TIC TOUC VECOOTI 6soTrTTac /
Aa60uo6' 'sXEI TI KAs)aC( TCoV C(auXJT 66opcov" (617-8). The Trojan women, by stealing
from their own homes and hiding the theft from the Greeks, are practicing deceit in
Polymestor's Home in Thrace
Polymestor's palace in Thrace is an interior space rife with deceit. First of all,
Priam sent Polydoros to live with Polymestor according to the principles of Evia. When
Polymestor kills Polydoros to acquire the gold for his own coffers, he breaks these bonds.
This is treachery of the highest order carried out under Polymestor's own roof, and
3 Charles Segal. "Violence and the Other: Greek, Female, and Barbarian in Euripides' Hecuba."
Transactions of the American Philological Association 120 (1990): 125.
indeed becomes the basis for the second half of the play. He does not even consider the
boy to be worth burying, casting him out to sea instead. Thus does the audience learn of
the violence done Polydoros, when his body washes up upon the shore. Hekabe in a kind
of frenzied autopsy rails at the absent Polymestor about Polydoros' wounds: .. coc
6IEpoIpaoco / XpCoa, oi6caps~ TE COJV #c(oycvco / p i2As (718-20). There is no
question as to the magnitude of the violence done here, but even so, it pales in
comparison to the violence done at the end of the play. Segal points out that for the
Hekabe the interior of Agamemnon's tent also serves as an analog to Polymestor's
palace. Just as Agamemnon's tent is supposedly safe, having no men "TcXvov 6s TrTIOTc
KCxposvwv 'prilpic," Polydoros was supposed to be safe in Polymestor's home (1017).
As Hekabe tells Polymestor, "isv6v KC(TSKTC(C oTrv pdoAovT' 'E4' 'EsoTav" (1216).
Why then is there no feminine aspect apparent in the home of Polymestor in
Thrace? To the Greeks, the Thracians are barbarians. This idea is underscored by
Polymestor's flaunting of one of the most important of Greek customs, sviac, by killing
Polydoros, son of his Svoc Priam. Barbarians in turn share many qualities with women.
The Hekabe "explores the otherness of the female by combining it ... with the otherness
of the barbarians."4 Polymestor is part of the space of the 'other' which both barbarians
and women inhabit, and therefore his home in Thrace becomes a female space inasmuch
as is possible without mention of an actual genetic female inhabitant. This idea is further
stressed when Polymestor is blinded by the Trojan women in Agamemnon's tent. "The
blinding of Polymestor can ... suggest symbolic castration, particularly when combined
with the destruction of his two male children ... Hekabe overcomes male strength and
4 Ibid., 109.
attacks a man where he is most vulnerable to the female, in his need for children
(especially sons) to continue his line."5 The connection between barbarians and women
is thus made painfully clear.
When Hekabe entreats Odysseus to spare her daughter Polyxena, she makes
mention of their meeting in Troy. Odysseus is found out in the interior spaces of Troy as
a KC(TC(OKOTTOc, or 'spy,' by Helen and Hekabe (239). This is a profession which
depends upon deceit and trickery to exist. Odysseus is such a sly talker that he manages
as a suppliant to secure Hekabe's silence. He admits as much, saying "TrohhAcv U oycov
supriaC(6', COOTS E p~ OcavEv," or 'inventions of many words, so as not to die' (250). This
deceit takes place in Troy, inside Priam's palace where Hekabe and Helen both live. The
fact that Odysseus will say whatever is most advantageous means that he is often guilty
of deception to secure his own ends. By the time of the Hekabe, Hekabe herself is no
longer a threat, so he feels no compunction about revealing his earlier deceitfulness.
Despite his deceit, the motivation behind his spying was to aid in successful prosecution
of the war. Hecuba's failure to reveal him to the Trojans is much more of a deception
than Odysseus', despite any act of supplication.
Violence occurs in Troy when the Greeks sack the city. The chorus of captive
Trojan women sets up a mawkish picture of home life in Troy:
Tifoc SEK 6EITrVCOV UTTVO ri6uc TTr' 6oooi0
oKi'vc(Tca, poXTTr(v 6' ~TTO KC(x XopoTTrOIov
rrolw 'Ev 6aAac(,iowI 'KC(I-
TO, UOTO-r 6' )ETT TTaCoocaA' .
5 Ibid., 122.
At midnight I was destroyed,
at the point after dinner when sleep sweetly creeps over
the eyes, after the song and the dances,
having made an offering
my husband lay in the bedchamber -
this, and on a peg his spear ... (914-20)
The word 6OccAcpoc, defined as chamber or women's apartment, shows that the
scene is an interior one. The image of the spear upon a peg belies the peaceful nature of
the scene, as the Trojans are indeed at war. Suddenly the apparent peace is broken as the
Greeks enter the city:
avd 6s KeC6ASoc (soA" TroAiv
K'XEUOIjC( iV KC(T' (OTU Tpot-
acx TO 6' Co
TaCi6xi EAAVcovv, TTrO 6i~ TToT TiV
TSpocavTSTc 1ET' O'IKOUC;
AsXrl 6s (IAlcia povO6rET ToC
AiTrouGo(, Acopic cL Kop(a,
osl-VCv TrTpooiouo' OUK
ivuo' ApTSpIV a TCAax(cov"
ayopC(I 6s OaC(V6VT' '6ouo' aKOTaC( .
but through the city there came a clamor;
and this shout went down
through the town of Troy: O
sons of Greece, destroying the Ilian citadel
when will you seek out your homes?
And having left my love's bed
in a tunic like a Dorian maiden,
I did not succeed at placing myself
at the holy altar of Artemis;
and I was led away having seen my spouse die ... (928-37)
Even the presence of the altar of Artemis fails to stop the violence that occurs with
the capture and enslavement of the Trojan women.
The use of the term for women's quarters makes clear the feminine nature of Troy.
In addition, and in a broader sense, the only surviving people to remember living in Troy
are the women. Thus with the chorus made up of the captive Trojan women life at Troy
is filtered through a female perspective, which deals primarily with the interior. Hekabe
frees the suppliant Odysseus inside Priam's palace. In the palace, it is Odysseus who is
the 6ouAoc, as the power in the interior is held by women (249).
Exteriors in Euripides' Hekabe
The burial mound of Achilles lies within the realm of public knowledge on two
different levels. First, through Talthybios, who presumably is giving an honest account
of events, the audience and the women are made aware of the events that occur
surrounding Polyxena's death. Additionally, the burial mound is where the Greeks
engage in debate among themselves in a public fashion, and where Odysseus convinces
them to sacrifice Polyxena on Achilles' behalf: ... 0 TroiKiX6)cov / KO6TTIC 6uX6yoc
6riIoxc(poInTT / AaspTI6ia6rl TrrElOI OTpcc "(131-3). In other words, Achilles'
tomb is where public matters affecting the entire army are aired, specifically the question
of the winds' failure to bear the Greeks home. This lack of wind is the instability leading
to Polyxena's sacrifice.
Achilles' tomb is also men's space. On a basic level it houses the remains of the
most cpioToc and manliest man of all the Greeks (134). Beyond this, it is where the
army spends the time framed by the Hekabe. The army of course is made up exclusively
of Greek men, so ipsofacto the tomb is in the province of men.
How then can an act of violence involving a woman occur at Achilles' burial
mound if female violence is supposed to be relegated to the interior? Polyxena is slain in
an exterior setting, the only act of violence in the play to occur outside. The types of
violence in the play help segregate interior/female from exterior/male. In each of the
violent interior scenes there is a common thread. In Troy, the battle is both unexpected
and sudden, as well as chaotic to the point of sacrilege, as not even the "oGvciv ...
ivuo' ApTSEIV" can stem the violence (935-6). At Polymestor's home, the slaying of
Polydoros is by nature unexpected and also quite bloody, at least from Hekabe's
description of the corpse (718-20). Agamemnon's tent is a place of frenzied violence as
well, as Polymestor refers to the women's sudden transformation into "BcKXcX c A16ou"
Polyxena's death in contrast to all these is a product of particularly directed
violence. The violence is no surprise; rather, it is well known beforehand to everyone,
including the victim herself. Polyxena's death is a religious sacrifice acting as a political
expedient. There is nothing frenzied about it. Her death is a public spectacle, placing it
within the realm of public knowledge and the exterior. The way Polyxena chooses to die,
baring her breast and willingly offering herself to the blade, also is quite different from
the other scenes of violence in the Hekabe. She tells Neoptolemos "16ou, TO6', sEl Psv
OTSpvov, cD vsEcavia, / Trrca(Ev TTpo6uif; rrTTCoov, sI 6' UTT' ca(XVC( / Xp Esic, TrapsEo
Aaclpdc su'TpETrrC 6Es" (563-5). She becomes the "pcaAXldv S'Aacov" of Hekabe's
dream, a sacrificial animal (90). Polyxena bares her breasts to receive death, whereas in
contrast the Trojan captive women bare their breasts in order to mete it out.
Polyxena's acquiescence to the slaughter emphasizes her sacrificial status and the
unusual nature of the violent act. Finally, the sexual nature of her death is almost
pornographic, as she "Aapcooc( Trr'rrouc '~ aKpac Ircop~ IoC / Epprls AcNayovac 's
p1eoaC( Trap' opbc(aAv, / pC(oTOUc T' 6ESEl OTEpvC( 6' coc CydA4IC(cTO / Kc(AAXOTCa" in
front of the entire army of men (558-61). This makes the sacrifice not only exterior in
terms of the public display, but exterior in the sense that it is a public show to be enjoyed
by the men. Indeed, Hekabe has to entreat Talthybios that the Argives not touch
Polyxena's corpse: "pri I6yycavEv pot pril6v" (605). The death of Polyxena is
sufficiently different from the violence at Troy, the death of Polydoros, and the violence
directed at Polymestor and his children as to belong to a different category altogether,
one compatible with the male, public space of the exterior.
In addition to the directed nature of the violence, the reasons behind it make it a
form of justice, not against Polyxena, but for the benefit of the slain Achilles. The
Greeks believe that it is right and proper to honor Achilles with Polyxena's sacrifice. To
see the army safely home, the winds must be made to blow, which in turn entails that
Neoptolemos provides his father with the requested sacrifice.
Outside Agamemnon's Tent
The area in front of Agamemnon's tent is the most obvious place of public
knowledge. Everything that happens there is immediately available to the audience and
the chorus of the Trojan captive women, which acts as a sort of internal audience. The
discussions between Hekabe and Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Talthybios all take place
here, as does Agamemnon's judging of the situation after Hekabe has exacted her
revenge on Polymestor.
Exterior spaces are the province of men. The women come and go in and out of the
tents, but the men remain outside. None of the men who come to speak to Hekabe do so
inside the tent. They all hold their discussions outside, in full view of the audience. The
exception to this is Polymestor, but as has been described above, he does not count as a
Greek, civilized male, but is more suited as a barbarian to be classified with females as
the 'other.' Even Agamemnon, to whom the tent belongs, never actually steps inside it.
In part, the mere fact that the interior is the space allotted to women makes whatever is
not so allotted, i.e. the exterior space, belong to the realm of men. The dichotomy of
male and female is thus re-affirmed and mimicked through physical space.
Agamemnon's judgement of Polymestor also takes place before the tent.
MacDowell asserts that at this early period "[t]he king was the sole ruler and judge."6 As
the king would naturally be a male, law-courts were from the beginning a male province.
This continues into Euripides' time as well, and though the office of king has been done
away with, "[t]o be ajuror a man had to be aged thirty or more and in possession of full
citizen rights" (italics mine).7
Just as there are distinct male and female physical realms, there are also distinct
judgment behaviors associated with men and women in Euripides' plays. Agamemnon's
judgment of Polymestor's blinding occurs in the open with the presence of others as
witnesses. Both Polymestor and Hekabe plead their cases to Agamemnon who in turn
passes judgment that is upheld and recognized by others in the encampment. Hekabe's
judgment to take her vengence on Polymestor is enacted only after a consultation with
Agamemnon, who gives her the go-ahead by way of, to some extent, feigning ignorance.
There is one major difference between the judgment of Agamemnon and Hekabe's
reasons for killing Polymestor in this case, although both reach the same conclusion.
Hekabe's decision is personally motivated and involves her own interests. Agamemnon's
judgment, on the other hand, is performed partially with order and justice in mind
regarding the maintenance of order in the encampment, but also because "Agamemnon
6 Douglas M. MacDowell. The Law in ClassicalAthens. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978: 26.
7 Ibid., 34.
owes [Hekabe] a favour in return for Cassandra's favors ... [Agamemnon] fears that the
army may think him guilty of planning the murder [for that exact reason He] grants]
the favour only because the winds have not changed."8 It is important to note that his
reasoning for offering judgment (flawed or no) makes no impact on the fact that it is still
his male judgment with its legal weight that allows both the plan to proceed and for the
Trojan captive women to escape further punishment.
8 James C. Hogan. "Thucydides 3.52-68 and Euripides' Hecuba." Phoenix 26.3 (1972): 255.
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' MEDEA
In the Medea there are two interiors of note and two exteriors. The interiors are
Jason's house and Kreon's palace, and the exteriors are the areas in front of and above
Jason's house. In discussing this play, the interiors and exteriors are all physical in
nature, not recollected as in the Hekabe's Troy. Though Medea's past is fraught with
violence, Euripides does not delve as much into the details as in the Hekabe; it is
important that she comes from violence in terms of having no home to return to, but it is
not discussed to the point where it is necessary to include Kolchis as a distinct location.
Thus, in terms of interiors and exteriors, Medea is a much simpler play than the Hekabe.
Exteriors in Euripides' Medea
Outside Jason's House-Divorce
Two related situations occur in the area in front of Jason's house: Medea learns of
both her divorce and her exile, from Jason and Kreon respectively. The motives behind
these are sufficiently dissimilar to encourage closer inspection. As in the situation in
front of Agamemnon's tent in the Hekabe, the events occurring and information aired
here are immediately available to the audience. The events in front of Jason's house are
both male-motivated, and as such the males involved see no reason to conceal their
motivations. The instability in Jason's life stems from his marriage to the barbarian
Medea and the perception, doubtless true, that he could increase his wealth and social
standing by marrying Kreon's daughter, who is after all a Greek princess. He asserts that
he is only thinking of the welfare of Medea and their children, that with more wealth he
would be able to provide for them comfortably. Medea wisely believes this to be so
much bunk, bemoaning the fate of women, but the issue is not for her to decide; what is
just is decided by males, so in light of this Jason is well within his rights. Though the
chorus of household servants tries to express their sympathy, saying "&v6pcaot psv
60AlcaI pouiAac, 6Csov 6' / OUKETIr TrTOTInC cpcapsv," the fact that Medea is not a Greek
could truly only add to public approval of Jason's actions, otherwise reprehensible as
they may be (Medea 412-3). Jason swore an oath to her, which has been broken in the
interests of supposed practicality. "The egotistical Jason has clearly given little thought
to his family's welfare, despite his belated protests to the contrary," as exile for a woman
with no chance of returning to her father's house is a death sentence.1 Though within his
rights, he makes a victim out of Medea, effectively pushing her to the point where she
will refuse to be victimized.
Outside Jason's House-Exile
In terms of the exile, Kreon is simply looking after his welfare and that of his
family. He owes nothing to Medea, and wants his lineage to continue without Jason's
current children getting in the way. The instability he rightly perceives is that Medea is
not just any scorned woman; though she acts as a supplicant, she is a vengeful ex-wife
and powerful sorceress to boot, and thus occasions a potential threat that cannot be taken
lightly. As the king, he decides what justice is, so there is no arguing with his decision to
protect his family by exiling Medea. In the opening scenes of the play, Medea still
allows herself to be victimized: "Euripides clearly establishes sympathy for Medea in the
first half of the play she effectively manages to persuade the Chorus, Kreon, Aigeus,
1 Helene P. Foley. Female Acts in Greek Tragedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001: 258.
and Jason himself to help her by portraying herself as a victim, like 'everyone else."'"2
She is no ordinary woman though, and like any being with power, she is a boon to those
who help her and a curse to those who are a hindrance.
Above Jason's House
As will be discussed below, Medea flees on her flying chariot from the roof of the
house after murdering her children. This area is open to the audience, and is thus where
truth is finally revealed. At the end of the play, she has returned to her divinity: Helios is
her ancestor and through that divine link she is able to make use of his gift, the flying
chariot. "Although the female divinity has been repressed by Hellenic civilization, the
text of the play, by subordinating Medea's divinity to her status as mortal woman, makes
the audience fear the return of that repressed."3 Though Rabinowitz then states
otherwise, I argue that Medea is, despite her attempt at mortal womanhood, still truly at
least a semi-divinity, and that the final scene is exactly the "return of that repressed" that
the audience feared. Medea has taken command of Helios' chariot and, at that same
instant, her hidden status as a vengeful goddess.
Interiors in Euripides' Medea
The interiors in the Medea are replete with violence and deceit, all stemming from
Medea herself. Her life has suddenly become unstable through Jason's decision to
divorce her and remarry. The importance of the stability of married life to a woman in
the Greek world, barbarian or no, cannot be overstated: "yuvcxIK' s pI' v sEOTTrTIV
2 Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz. Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women. Ithaca: Comell
University Press, 1993: 127-8.
3 Ibid., 136.
66wcov XXsEi" (694). It is paramount to consider that even when she plans revenge, she
only acts once assured of a safe haven in the form of King Aegeus' extracted promise to
protect her should she make it to Athens. In return, she promises him renewed fertility,
which has the effect of securing his aid; Aegeus' own continued lineage is more
important to him than anything Medea might do by way of revenge on her husband.
Buttrey sees difficulties in this where they do not exist: "The first is that Aegeus only
offers her asylum, not escape ... The second difficulty is that, judging from the exodos,
Medea needed no help at all. If Euripides will have her escape through the air in the
chariot of Helios, Aegeus' timely arrival is unnecessary."4 On the contrary, it gives her
somewhere to go. When her semi-divinity is re-realized, of course she can effect her own
escape, but neither does this change the fact that she is not an Olympian goddess, thus
having nowhere in Greece where she would be welcomed, nor does it change the fact that
she still cannot return to Kolchis.
Jason supposedly plans to provide for her and their children after he remarries, but
there is nothing holding him to that promise any more than to the promise to be with
Medea in the first place. This is the very issue at hand: Medea acts out of her judgment
that Jason should be punished for oathbreaking but, because it is judgment and not
justice, the violence escalates and the death toll mounts. The men act out of justice,
which they get to define. Medea wants revenge for a perceived slight, whereas Jason is
hardly aware that he has slighted her.
c3 EsycXC( Os\C I EAsuoose' a TTrcoXc), PEsya ;olc opKoI
esv6rlaoclsva TOV KC(aTapccTrov
4 T. V. Buttrey. "Accident and Design in Euripides' Medea." The American Journal of Philology 79.1
TTOOIV; ov TTOT' syco vupjC(av T' sEoi6OJ'
cauToic pEsAX2 polc 6IC(KVC(IOp VOUC,
01' sps TTpoo6sV ToAXPoSC' aIKsiV.
O great Themis and Lady Artemis,
do you perceive the things I suffer, having bound
my abominable husband with great
oaths? Would that once I may see him and his bride
scraped to nothing with their houses,
having dared to do injustice to me earlier! (160-5)
This statement foreshadows the violence and deceit that occur in Kreon's palace.
Medea pretends to assent to Jason's plans and asks that the children be allowed to stay on
without her. She has them deliver poisoned clothing to the princess, which has the effect
of killing her and the unknowing Kreon in a most hideous fashion:
Xpuaoouc lSv c&PxiI Kpc(TI KSIIEIVOC TrTO6KOC
6CaupccoTov'isl vaCpC( rrTTC(a you Trupoc,
TTrETTol 6' AETTOI oC S TEKVCOV copIp-lC(TC(,
ASUKTIV sSa(TTTov ocapKC( Tfic 6uo6aiipovoc .
TrAIrV T TCEKOVTI KaCpTC( uo6-UaC(r 16s'iv
OUT' 6OJ'JCTCOV yc'p 6Tior 'jv KC(TC(OTC(aOI
OUT' s UUEu TTpoocoATTOv, c( PC( 6' ~ a(Kpou
SOTCcaS KpaCTOC OUlTTESUplPSVOV TTUpl,
OcXpKSE 6' C(Tr' OOTECOV CKOOTS -TTSUKIVOV 6C(KpU
yvodoic aSC(iolO (tcappcKcov ars1ppsov,
6sivov OsaC(aC ...
Laying around her head the gold crown
set in motion (a wonder!) a stream of all-devouring fire,
and the spun robe, given by your children,
was melting the wretched girl's white flesh ...
The wretched girl's face only could be seen by her father;
for her eyes were not settled clear
nor her shapely face, and from the top of her head
blood dripped mixed with fire,
and flesh fell from her bones like pine sap
from the invisible jaws of the drug,
a terrible sight ... (1186-202)
Medea has stopped playing the victim, as there was no future in it for her.
"Euripides ... undercuts that sympathy [for Medea as a woman like everyone else] by
revealing her difference. The audience has three levels of questions about her ontological
status: is she mortal or immortal? is she foreign or Greek? in the end, is she like or unlike
other Greek women?"5 Foley argues "that the vengeful Medea deliberately imitates a
heroic brand of masculinity [and] the heroic code itself gives priority to public
success and honor over survival and the private concerns of love and family."6
Rabinowitz thinks rather that Medea acts more as a warning to men, in that she "has been
identified as and with other women [and ergo] destabilizes the category 'woman.'"7 I
would suggest that as a foreigner and possibly a semi-divine being, Medea cannot truly
fit the mold of a normal woman no matter how she pretends, but that at the last she does
not put success over survival in that she secures Aegeus' help before acting.
Though she tells them to avoid their mother's ire, the nurse early on urges the
children inside to supposed safety, not knowing the perversion of safety that interiors in
Euripides undergo: "IT', sE ydp OTa(I, 6COpJCTCOV E'co, TEKVC(" (89).
After Medea uses her children to slay Kreon and his daughter the princess, she
resolves to continue her revenge on Jason: she takes their children inside the house and
kills them with a sword. When Jason arrives and the chorus informs him of the killings,
he asks where the violence has occurred: "Trou yap viv IKTSIV'; SVTOc (|' 1coOJ6
66cpcov;" (1312). Of course, the murders have taken place in the interior, and when he
5 Rabinowitz, 131-2.
6 Foley, 263-4.
asks that the doors be opened, he threatens to kill Medea inside as well. Medea appears
above the house, saying:
TI TCos6 KIVESC KCXavaCOXXEAsuc TruAac,
vsKpouc spsuvo6v KC(aX TTr s'Ipycaop- vrlv;
TrrctuGoc TrTVOU ToG6'. S'l 6' I SoG XpSiC(v 'XEIc,
Asy' sE TI Pr, 13o XEIPI 6' ou qC(auos TTOTE
TOIoV6' 6Xrlnlca TrcTpoc( HtAlo TTC(xTcrp
61icooiv lPiIv, spupaC( TTro0AJla XEp6c.
Why do you move and force the gates,
looking for the bodies and for me who did it?
Stop your work. But if you need something from me,
tell me if you want, but you will not ever touch me;
Helios, the father of my father, has given me such
a vehicle, as a guard against warlike hands. (1317-22)
She subsequently escapes on her flying chariot. Jason's ineffectuality draws notice
to the fact that in the interior, a "mother's rage and grief prove to be far from helpless," as
was apparent in the Hekabe, although the two mothers have different methods.8 Hekabe
uses her status among the Trojan captives to set events in motion, whereas Medea takes
matters directly into her own hands. Jason's attempt to do violence against her, however,
is doomed to failure, as "[i]t is a commonplace of stage-craft that horror can be conveyed
more effectively through the suggestive power of words on the imagination than by
actual spectacle."9 Jason cannot get in to kill Medea away from the audience's gaze, and
indeed it would go against the nature of interiors for him to do so.
The Medea fits without exception the model of space in Euripides. Jason and
Kreon make decisions and perform actions openly in the exterior. Medea employs deceit
and violence in the interior in typical fashion for a Euripidean female character. She is
8 Segal, TAPA 1990: 122.
9 R. Sri Pathmanathan. "Death in Greek Tragedy." Greece & Rome, 2nd Series 12.1 (1965): 6.
only semi-divine, and though this may have an effect on the reason for her decisions and
on how she is perceived by others, she is still woman enough to be bound to the interior
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' ELEKTRA
Euripides' Elektra would appear at first glance not to fit the model of female
interior deceit and violence as opposed to exterior male openness. The spaces where
events occur include the exterior area around the farmhouse, and two interiors: the
farmhouse itself, and the shrine where Aigisthos meets his end. The shrine as a complete
space is a bit of ambiguity, however, and will be discussed below; such religious sites
typically include an exterior as well. The recognition scene between Elektra and Orestes
occurs in front of the farmhouse and Klytemnestra's death occurs within it.
An Exterior in Euripides' Elektra: Environs of the Farmhouse
The house in the country is "pointedly isolated from the public sphere" due simply
to its distance from the city of Argos, and thus automatically becomes a part of the
private sphere.1 This would make the farmhouse a part of the private, domestic sphere,
putting it squarely in the provenance of women. I would argue that there are no true
exteriors in the Elektra, only quasi-exteriors. When she speaks of the palace at Argos,
Elektra says of her newly unstable life: "i ... P. ITrIp EPi, / i s caAs 'KCw "
(Elektra 60-1). This does not mean, however, that she has been exiled out of doors in
particular, but rather that to her everything which is not the Argive palace is 'outside,' at
least metaphorically. Indeed, the farmer's house, unquestionably an interior space, is just
one part of Elektra's larger 'prison,' the entirety of her new husband's lands. The area in
1 Foley, 234.
front of the farmhouse thus acts in a dual role as exterior and interior depending on what
the turn of events in the play necessitate. Being out of the public sphere and therefore in
the domestic domain of women, the environs of the farmhouse act as an interior. In terms
of events being made available to the audience, however, they act as an exterior.
The area before the farmhouse is where the audience is apprised of events. The
farmer's speech concerning the state of affairs in Mycenae takes place here, as do updates
from the messenger and the children of Agamemnon describing the deaths of Aigisthos
and Klytemnestra, respectively. In addition, when the Dioscori appear, although it is
above the house proper, they are present to provide an explanation of events to the
audience and the characters in the play. Castor informs each person of his or her lot:
Orestes is to travel to Athens to be acquitted of blood-guilt, and Pylades is to return home
to Phokis with the farmer and Elektra, the former to make wealthy, and the latter to
marry. Though Castor acknowledges that Apollo has acted unwisely in setting the task of
vengeance on Orestes, "the purpose of the gods' arrival is to return the myth to its
original state, and this they do despite the broken lives in clear evidence below."2
Interiors in Euripides' Elektra
Environs of the Farmhouse
Other than its distance from the public sphere, the area in front of the farmhouse
acts most like an interior in terms of the recognition scene. One would think that a
recognition scene should occur in the exterior, as it involves the revelation of previously
hidden knowledge. The recognition scene in Euripides' Elektra, however, is muddled, as
Orestes and Elektra play out the charade long past the point of recognition, until Orestes
2 J. Michael Walton. Greek Theatre Practice: Contributions to Drama and Theatre Studies, No. 3.
Westport: Greenwood Press, 1980: 209.
is finally unequivocally outed by the old man, who after running through the list of
possible tokens "recognizes him by a scar, thus forcing Elektra reluctantly to
acknowledge her equally reluctant brother."3 They have each been deceiving each other
because neither is what the other expects. They are thus loathe to shatter their illusions
through admittance of the facts. "Elektra denies all [of the tokens of recognition] because
they do not accord with her view of Orestes ... He would not come secretly to Argos."4
On Orestes' own part, "the only possible reason for his failure to identify himself is that
after taking a close look at Elektra, he no longer wishes to reveal himself as her brother."5
She has proved herself to be sour and bloodthirsty, not the "expected ... attractive
woman married and with some social status or at least access to the palace:"6
'HX: OUKOGV obpc aou P Tpo3CTov cLY TrlpOs v 6S'jac ...
KC(A Kp(TaC( TrTaKCxP6io T' 'EoKU6IOpsVOV Vu ..
SyrIiaclaiEo', c~ SEiV, 6C(VcoigPov yc(iov ...
Op: Ti KC(aI PET' C(XUTOG JlITE'p' Cx( TXC(XrlC KTC(VEIv;
SHA: TC(UTcO yE T2sEKEI TCO6 TTC(xTlP Tro.TO .
9OcvolPil l-JrTpOc cii' TTIoc(cx(C' )spric.
El: Then first as you see my body is withered ...
And my head and hair cropped close like a Scythian ...
I am married, stranger, and my marriage is death ...
Or: And with him you would dare to slay your mother?
El: With the same axe by which my father was slain ...
May I die having spilled the blood of my mother! (239-81)
3 Ibid., 208.
4 Karelisa V. Hartigan. Ambiguity and Self-Deception: The Apollo andArtemis Plays ofEuripides.
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1991: 113.
5 Walton, 205.
6 Hartigan, 115.
Surely, the properness of Aigisthos' death is a non-issue for Orestes: Aigisthos has
helped in the murder of Agamemnon and is responsible for Orestes' own exile. In
addition, Orestes and Aigisthos are not close enough kin to invoke the Furies' wrath. The
logic that applies to killing Aigisthos works in this case; revenge against the usurper on
his father's behalf is easily justifiable to Orestes and the audience.
The logic does not extend to killing one parent on behalf of another. Given
Orestes' doubts about the wisdom of killing his mother, it is apparent that he does not
find Elektra's bloodlust against Klytemnestra to be very contagious (966-87). To further
strain their renewed relationship, all of Elektra's hopes seem to be riding on Orestes:
"[Elektra] clearly sees herself as one who deserves a much better lot in life and is,
evidently, relying on him to give it to her."7 This romantic expectation she has of him
does not in the least correspond to reality, and her unreasonable expectations hardly
endear her to him.
At the shrine where Aigisthos is sacrificing a bull, violence and deceit are readily at
hand. First of all, Orestes and Pylades deceive Aigisthos by posing as Thessalians on
their way to the Alpheius. Aigisthos invites them to join in the sacrifice, and they accept
his offer of hospitality. Orestes manages to cut up the bull successfully, falsely proving
himself to Aigisthos as a Thessalian; he then slays Aigisthos while he is interpreting the
Aapccv 6s KOTTEI. OTTrXcaXVCa 6' A'iyioGo0 Aa2\cov
IOpsEI Scvcpo6v. ToU 6s VESOVTOC KCXTCO
ovuXac (~STT' KxpOUc OTCx KC(XOIyvfToc OEEsv
sc o(ov6Xuouc eTTCrIOs, VCoTICiCa cs
SpprTlJv Cpepcc" Trcv 6 oo3Ip' Cvco KCTCLO
I rOTcip/ v aXaXC(s 6uOOv oKcOv (O6vco.
And taking [the axe] he struck. And Aigisthos taking the entrails
having interpreted them considered them. But as he stooped down
your brother [Orestes] having stood on his tiptoes
hacked at his spine, and shattered his
vertebral column; his entire body convulsed up and
down, and wretchedly wailed at his slaughter. (838-43)
In normal circumstances, it is perfectly natural for Orestes to slay Aigisthos; he is
no close kin to Aigisthos, who was his father's murderer. This being the case, the slaying
should take place outside in the light of day as justice demands. Indeed, it does:
sacrificeic, the focal act of communal religious observance, was enacted outside, on an
open-air altar usually opposite the main, east, facade of the temple, while the interior
contained objects dedicated to the deity, including a cult statue."8 So while the actual
killing of Aigisthos takes place outside, where the sacrifice would have occurred, the
ambiguous language used in describing the space helps twist the shrine into a quasi-
interior. Euripides goes to great pains to make it clear that this is not a just killing in the
traditional sense. Orestes' "conquest of Aigisthos is achieved ... in disguise, at a
sacrifice, and in violation ofxenia ... There is no characteristic of the heroic deed about
his act."9 Additionally, according to Elektra, Aigisthos is womanly, being known as
"Klytemnestra's 'wife,'" yet she also accuses him of being the "womanizer."10
Another discrepancy exists between his supposed impiety at Agamemnon's grave
and the gracious extension of his hospitality to his murderers at the shrine, "as a
8 Mary B. Hollinshead. "'Adyton,' 'Opisthodomos,' and the Inner Room of the Greek Temple." Hesperia
68.2 (1999): 189.
9 Hartigan, 116.
'0 Foley, 237.
courteous man of religious principle.""1 It is not necessary that Euripides' audience feel
total sympathy with Aigisthos, but it is absolutely vital that they not condemn him out of
hand; no one deserves to die as he does, betrayed by a guest. Orestes' concept of
Aigisthos is informed by his sister's jaded viewpoint, and "in a woman's world, which is
limited ... by the moral stature of the contestants as women (they are uncontrolled,
changeable, and so forth) ... the issue of justice in a more abstract and principled sense
gets lost," leaving only judgment.12 Not only does Orestes kill Aigisthos in a manner
befitting the deceitfulness of a woman, but he does so through a woman's influence:
Elektra's. Orestes' intentions are justifiable, but his actions are not.
Inside the Farmhouse
The interior of the farmhouse allows connections to be drawn throughout the play.
When the farmer extends domestic hospitality to Orestes and Pylades, it holds up a mirror
to the hospitality extended by Aigisthos according to the messenger. Orestes expects the
farmer to be a product of his class, and is surprised to find that he is not. In similar
fashion, Aigisthos is not the impious man described by Elektra and Orestes does not take
just actions commensurate with his own class. The domestic scene and Orestes' musings
about class and morality demonstrate an observation that he ironically fails to apply to
himself (367-95). The farmhouse, the very place where these issues are raised, becomes
the location of Klytemnestra's murder. This becomes the final example in the Elektra of
Orestes' dearth of just action coupled with just intention.
11 Hartigan, 119.
12 Foley, 238.
Klytemnestra is called to visit Elektra because of a supposed birth. But whether
through choice or circumstance, Elektra remains a virgin. Klytemnestra, preoccupied
with attendance to Aigisthos, apparently would never even have visited her daughter
without being tricked into it, since she did not even bother to visit during Elektra's nine
months of imaginary pregnancy; even so, she is surprised to find Elektra in rags and
without a midwife present (1123-32). This in itself suggests that Elektra has been
overstating her poverty, since her mother knows full well to whom she is married, and yet
expected to find her in clean clothes at the very least, if not noble finery.
Once she enters the farmhouse, Klytemnestra's death at the hands of her children is
'Op: KC(TEiSe6, 00ov a TCXAaCIV' kS c TTsrrcov
sPC(XsV, 6EISEs pC(oTov's EV ovaioiv,
'Ic Pot0, rTpOc TTs c
TlOsE&c yovilIca pEsAsa(; TaXV KopIC(V 6' yoL .
podyv 6' 'SAC(OKE TC(V6, TTpoc ysvuv 'Esdv
TIEOsloC Xeipc( TSKO spJO6V, AITC(IVCo'
Trc(prT'ICOV T' ls EIcXv
IKpip-VC(9', COOTE XSPC( cc SA2iC XTrSTv PSXAo .
syoC; iPv S'ETTrIPC(Xv c(Tdprl Kopc(xi SEPc(-I
paC(TScpoc sec 6Spc(c IEPsOsc.
HA: syc; 6' ESTTYKsAsuod ot01
1((ouc T' (rl4qJcx(P-c v dc-pc.
Or: Did you see how, miserable, she opened
her robe, she bore her breast to the slaughter,
oh me, fallen to the ground,
limbs having birthed me? And I... her hair ...
And she let out that cry, putting her hand
on my face; 'My child, I beseech you;"
she hung from my
face, so that the blade dropped from my hand ...
Draping my cloak over my eyes
I sacrificed her with my sword,
having let it go into my mother's throat.
El: And I spurred you on
with my hand fast to yours on the sword.
The story of the false child, which "the king and queen fear .. foreshadows
Klytemnestra's death, since she [is] killed in a cruel mimicry of the very circumstance
she dreaded."13 The murder itself is an absolute mess, with dropped weapons and torn
clothing preventing a clean and quick killing blow. Even the overly optimistic Lloyd,
who argues that Orestes and Elektra are heroic figures, voices the possibility that "the
matricide [may be] shown at the end of the play to have been a mistake, [and] it is no less
tragic that such an act should be the responsibility of plausible and sympathetic
characters than of... warped and inadequate individuals ... "14 The point to be made is
that not only is the action of Klytemnestra's death terrible, but it is also morally
Orestes will eventually be set free of blood guilt for Klytemnestra's death, as he
(and not Elektra) was "pointedly motivated by gods, whereas the female characters
confront the corrosive uncertainties of revenge on a more direct and personal level."15 I
would argue that Orestes' actions are justice, however skewed. Castor castigates Apollo
himself for being the impetus behind the matricide (1296-302). But Orestes, despite his
own misgivings, fulfills the god's charge. Even though Apollo demands a morally
13 Michael J. O'Brien. "Orestes and the Gorgon: Euripides' Electra." The American Journal of Philology
85.1 (1964): 19.
14 Michael Lloyd. "Realism and Character in Euripides' Electra." Phoenix 40.1 (1986): 19.
15 Foley, 241-2.
questionable act from Orestes, the fact that it is a god who orders the deed necessarily
justifies its enactment (1245-6).
Elektra in contrast never "had the cause of justice on her side."16 Apollo gives
Orestes his task through an oracle, but does not do so for Elektra. Thus the agendas of
men and gods are kept separate. Orestes acts with justice at Apollo's urging, whereas
Elektra is condemnede] for what she has forced Orestes to do" and for what at the end is
her own decision.17 Concerns are raised about the correctness of "matricide on both
human and divine levels, [but] these doubts remain more fully linked to Elektra."18 For
the gods, the ends justify the means, but this is not and cannot be the case for humans. In
attempting to arrogate the manly heroism of Orestes' divine charge, Elektra only affirms
the injustice of her participation in the matricide; this is apparent in her choice of an
interior and therefore female space for the purpose of deceiving and slaying
16 Hartigan, 124.
17 Walton, 209.
18 Foley, 241.
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' HIPPOLYTOS
The Hippolytos offers one of the strongest and most apparent arguments for
feminine deception and violence in the interior, although some of its other scenes must be
dealt with in more detail. The interior in question is the palace of Theseus at Troezen
wherein Phaedra kills herself after writing a damning and false letter against Hippolytos.
Exteriors include the area in front of the Troezen palace and the area along the cliffs
where Hippolytos receives the brunt of his father's curse.
Exteriors in Euripides' Hippolytos
Outside the Palace of Theseus at Troezen
The exterior of the palace of Theseus provides the usual forum for the chorus and
audience to be apprised of events. Aphrodite begins the play by making very clear that
Hippolytos will die and that incidentally Phaedra will suffer: "i 6' suK2S\Ec E'v x2aH'
opc coxT aTroAAuTC( / Oa16pc( TO yap Tfjo6' ou TrpoTIplipco KC(KOV / TO Prl ou
Trrapacxs6i TOUC sEpouc EX6pouc sJpoI / 61KTrI TooaurTTIV C0JOT' spoI KC(aAXcc XEIV"
(Hippolytos 47-50). Reinforcing the bond between maleness and openness is Hippolytos,
who at first entrance refuses to pay respect to the statue of Cypris, blatantly stating his
views on the subject of unchastity. When approached by the nurse later in the play, he
speaks with disgust around the subject of their discussion so thoroughly that a perfect
picture of Phaedra's unholy love for him is created by the spaces between his words. He
does not explicitly break his oath to any who do not already know the truth, as Phaedra's
Along the Cliffs: the Chariot Accident
Hippolytos' death is caused by Poseidon in response to Theseus' curse.
Hippolytos' death is unjustified but is stilljust. He has offended Aphrodite and must die,
that much is clear from the very beginning. He is immoderate in chastity and deserves to
suffer. Orestes was an unwilling kinslayer, Theseus unwitting. Both do the will of a god,
which is justice whether wise or not. With the available information Theseus acts with
justice. Hippolytos tells Theseus the following: "T]v apTIicc ''EITrov, r~ (#coc TOS6 /
OUTTCO Xpovov TrCXaAXC(v s'IXosspKETo" (907-8).
When the lines are spoken, Euripides is making use of Hippolytos' innocence and
Theseus' suspicions that Phaedra's note tells the truth ... Spoken innocently, Hippolytos'
words have sinister implications for Theseus, who has a vivid conception of what
occurred at the last meeting between his wife and son ... Ambiguity is essential ...
Since the imperfect is what is used, it does not [in Hippolytos' mind] draw attention to a
specific act of leaving.1
But why would Theseus be more inclined to believe his wife than his son? In
accordance with the entire reason Aphrodite has for punishing Hippolytos, it is supremely
easy to assign hypocrisy to the self-righteous; the possibility that someone so full of
hubris is living a double life is too delicious to pass up.
ou sri Osoioav coc TEspioooc cov avlp
uvEI; ou oco'G)pcov Kai KaCKov aXKrpa(roc;
OUK av TTrloil-rpV TrooI ooT KOITTOIC syc~
Osoil0o TpooOsic caaXC(1v (povEsv KCaKoc.
1 Wesley D. Smith. "Staging in the Central Scene of the Hippolytus." Transactions and Proceedings of the
American PhilologicalAssociation 91 (1960): 167.
r6r vuv )cx(UEl KCXi 61' qAXou P3op&cx
OITOtI KC(Tr-ihVU' Op(#C( T' CVC(KT' SXCOV
3BcKXEUE TT2o\oSv YPC(xCxTCO)V TIiPoCV KC(TxVOUC"
lTTEI y' E)9rlC. TOUCH 6S TOIOUTOUC SyoC;
E6uyEIv TTpo)covo3C Trcaor 6rpEtouoI yap
ospvoi Ao6yoloIv, caoXpc, PIxavco pEsvol.
Do you indeed meet with gods, being a man
beyond the norm? Are you chaste and unsullied by evils?
I'll not believe your noises
nor be ignorant as to think evils associated with the gods.
Now boast already, and with veggies
and grains be a merchant, and having Orpheus as your lord
celebrate the mysteries honoring the smoke of many books:
when you've been caught out! But I warn everybody
to flee men such as these; they hunt you
with holy words, scheming shameful things (948-58).
In short, Hippolytos deserved what he got, since for gods such as Aphrodite the
ends justify the means; it is easy to feel sympathy for Theseus and Phaedra, but extremely
difficult to bolster much feeling for Hippolytos, whose arrogance removes even what
small sympathy he deserves.
An Interior in Euripides' Hippolytos: Inside the Palace at Troezen
The oath Hippolytos swears in the palace to the nurse, that he will keep silent about
Phaedra's love, is given before he knows the extent of what she asks. This causes the
mix of emotion between outrage and piety that produces the famous response: "'
yASo o' 6pcoloX', qi 6s (qpr'V C(VC OTOC" (612). The nurse is not the only one to exact
an oath under dubious if not downright deceptive circumstances.
[Just as] Medea murders Jason's new bride, Kreon and her two sons[,] Phaedra
gains her revenge on Hippolytos by a suicide note containing a false accusation of
rape [T]he conventional oath of silence would be realistically implausible if the
chorus at the time of swearing knew precisely the magnitude of the intended crimes.
Euripides accordingly so organizes his plots that both choruses give their pledges ...
without realizing the detailed implications of their allegiances2
However, the nurse is guilty twice over. She has told Hippolytos of Phaedra's love
without emphasizing that Phaedra did not send her. She then fails to tell Phaedra of
Hippolytos' oath of silence, lying by omission and causing her mistress' death, however
inadvertently, as "she is driven from the stage [and] never learns of Phaedra's intention of
immediate suicide nor of her intention to slander Hippolytos [The chorus fails to clear
things up because b]y their position and by the swift and violent progress of the scene
[between Hippolytos and the nurse], they are simply excluded from any active part in it."3
Inside the palace is also where the most cataclysmic event of the play takes place:
Phaedra commits suicide, certainly a violent act, after writing the note which deceives
Theseus into thinking his son has raped her; this creates a prime example of womanly
violence and deceit in interiors. She has condemned him with "violence [in] defense of
an imaginary attack. She kills Hippolytos for words he does not intend to speak."4
An Ambiguous Space in Euripides' Hippolytos: The Inviolate Meadow
The inviolate meadow of Artemis is an in-between space. Though it is clearly
outdoors, it is also deep within the interior of the forest. Phaedra in her lovesickness
originally wishes to join Hippolytos here. She couples this with "a connection between
speech and going out of the house by repeating thuraia: the tongue that is 'out of doors'
2 W. G. Arnott. "Off-Stage Cries and Choral Presence; Some Challenges to Theatrical Conventions in
Euripides." Antichthon: Journal of the Australian Society for Classical Studies 16 (1982): 37.
3 Smith, 172.
4 Ibid., 174.
(395), the woman who seeks a bed 'outside her home' (409)."5 This is a reflection of the
idea that women should be in the interior. Since Hippolytus is a chaste hunter, the wish
to be in 'a bed outside her home' is not a possibility. Thus wishing to hunt with him
stands in place of that desire, since the normal channels of adultery could not be
appropriate. Indeed, she describes her fear of just such an adulterous scenario:
pilCo 6's KC; Tac oca((povacc 1y ev Av 2yolc,
Ac(dOp 6s ToAPC(ac ou KCaAd c KSKTTIJSVC(C'
I TrTCo TTOT', o3 6s1TTrOVC( TTOVTitc KrTTrpl,
P3?ATTouolv Es TTpoGCOTTc TCSV UVSUVSTCoSV
o'6 OK6TOV #plOOOU01 TOV UVSwpyC(TT|V
Tspcapvac T' OdKCov p TTOTE B9oyynrv axr;
But I also hate those women chaste in words,
But secretly are not, having procured evil courage;
How then can they, o Cypris, mistress of the sea,
look into the visages of their spouses
and not fear lest their helpmate the dark
and the chambers of the house send forth speech at some point (413-418)?
"She imagines herself in places associated with Hippolytos, because she longs to
share his freedom as much as to possess him when Phaedra 'comes to herself ... she
wants to hide her head (243) and with it the hair she has let down, to go inside ."6 The
meadow is in this case an exterior and thus a place to which Phaedra can only wish to
Hippolytos himself assumes much about this sacred space: he "has assumed for
himself permission to enter the inviolate meadow, he has supposed that his hand alone is
sufficiently pure to pluck its blossoms ... [but] he is not the best of men as he had
5 Rabinowitz, 161.
6 Ibid., 162.
presumed [and] has invaded the inviolate meadow" (italics mine).7 In this case, the
meadow is clearly an interior. Hippolytos does not belong here, however much he may
have fallen into self-deception concerning his worthiness. The fact that he himself
describes the inviolate meadow as a place apart, denied to the impure, shows it to be an
According to Segal, the ocean, which is representative of Aphrodite,
metaphorically encroaches upon the meadow, Artemis' (and Hippolytos') sacred space,
eventually destroying the bond between Artemis and Hippolytos through his death. The
"untouched wild .. becomes active and dangerous only through its contact with and
opposition to the surging sea ... [T]here is no aspect of the universe that provides escape
or refuge from Aphrodite. Phaedra, who would have escaped into the calm woodland
(see 208ff) is caught, 1TrpcTv-rAoc, by the sea ... "8 According to Segal, Aphrodite then
expands her power until Theseus and Hippolytos are both destroyed by the sea.
Reminiscent of the Aphroditic bees of the meadow, throughuh the horses [Hippolytos] is
destroyed by a part of his own life, by something he has reared himself and always
believed he could control, yet perhaps did not fully understand. When confronted by the
power of the sea and the monster it produces the horses show their other side and in
their newly released wildness become the actual instruments of the disaster."9 In relation
to the sea, the cliffs take on an ambiguous nature as well: while clearly outside, they
create an enclosed space wherein Poseidon's bull, coming out of the sea, forces the
8 Charles Segal. "The Tragedy of the Hippolytus: The Waters of Ocean and the Untouched Meadow: In
Memoriam Arthur Darby Nock." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 70 (1965): 132-4.
9 Ibid., 147.
horses to smash into the rocks. If Phaedra can be seen as the ultimate cause of
Hippolytos' death, then however indirectly she is still responsible for the violence that
befalls him, making the cliffs' transition from exterior to interior entirely appropriate.
Aphrodite has touched Artemis' domain, which perhaps they shared from the
beginning: Hippolytos is ever unwilling to confront the childbirth aspect of Artemis'
worship, due to the worship of Aphrodite that must logically precede it; "in his untutored
sophrosyne he remains ignorant of his goddess' full realm of power."10 Whatever the
truth, the inviolate meadow cannot fit into the normal categorization of interior and
exterior. It represents an unreality which, when dispelled, results in Hippolytos' death
from within and without, from the meadow and the sea.
10 Hartigan, 44.
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' ION
There are three main spaces in Euripides' Ion, one exterior and two interiors. The
exterior is the area in front of the audience outside Apollo's temple at Delphi. The
interiors include the Cave of the Long Rocks and Ion's banquet tent. As Ion himself
says, to enter the temple grounds is not permitted, so the temple itself does not function
as an interior (Ion 220-2). It is the particular space of the god Apollo and thus, as has
been seen before, does not follow normal rules for an interior space. Throughout the play
it is important to keep in mind the stark difference between Kreusa and Ion, and by
association all women and men: Kreusa "does not deliberate on right and wrong ... the
god or his agent intervenes after the fact to prevent the harmful result Kreusa had
intended. Ion, on the other hand, is brought by divine intervention to the point where he
himself chooses to ... do the will of Apollo ... Ion can be trusted to make the proper
choice and Kreusa cannot."1
Interiors in Euripides' Ion
The Cave of the Long Rocks
It is here that Kreusa is raped and Ion is born. Apollo, however, must be freed
from any sort of moral guilt at this. Scholars who suggest otherwise are bringing far too
many of their own sensibilities to bear on the issue, according to Burnett. "Accusations
of faithlessness, cruelty, and misuse of divine power have been made against Apollo"
1 Vincent J. Rosivach. "Earthborns and Olympians: The Parados of the Ion." The Classical Quarterly,
New Series 27.2 (1977): 292.
both by characters in the play and scholars who agree with them.2 Those same characters
seem to transcend it, however, as "the god['s design], known to the audience from the
beginning, is not made manifest to the characters of the play until its end, when they
depart praising him for his benevolence."3 It is not necessarily a wholly evil thing that
Apollo has raped Kreusa, even so much as this grates against all reason and modern
sensibilities. "A union between a god and a human woman is an extraordinary event.
For a noble family, a dynasty, or a nation this relation represents the highest degree of
nobility and a confirmation of national claims and prestige."4 Kreusa complains not of
the rape, but of Apollo's supposed abandonment of their son and subsequent silence on
cW CoiPE, KXKESI KXVO6c' ou 6iKaioc ESt
Sc TTv cxTroGocxv, fc Tr~rpSEoIV 01 O6yolI
oc OUT' Iseocoac TOV o0v 3v ooSoca C' EXPfv,
o;U' 'lOTOpouoril pl-rTpi Pci(VTIc cov 'psipc,
CLY, El StSV OUKET SOTIV, 6YKCL9T1 TC((c?,
Sl 6' OTIV ...
O Phoebus, unjust there or here to her
having been absent, her words are here;
he whom you did not save, your child, it was necessary that you save,
and being a prophet you will not speak to the mother entreating you,
that if he no longer lives, she might heap up a tomb,
and if he does ... (384-9)
Thus it is Kreusa's own lack of faith in Apollo that is blameworthy here, not
Apollo himself, who was and is in the process of taking very good care of their son
indeed. Kreusa is the one who physically abandoned the child, which though not an act
2 Anne Pippin Burnett. "Human Resistance and Divine Persuasion in Euripides' Ion." Classical Philology
57.2 (1962): 89.
4 Felix Martin Wassermann. "Divine Violence and Providence in Euripides' Ion." Transactions and
Proceedings of the American Philological Association 71 (1940): 589.
of direct violence certainly could have opened up the child to attacks by wild beasts.
Care of the child is just as much her responsibility as Apollo's, and Apollo is the parent
who came through. Kreusa abandons Ion in order to hide the fact that he exists and thus
to preserve her supposed virginity for marriage. This is certainly an understandable
course of action, but is nevertheless deceitful.
The Banquet Tent
Xuthus tries to spare Kreusa's feelings by holding the banquet for Ion in secret.
Without knowing the facts, she reacts violently. The banquet tent is decorated grandly
with many divine symbols, particularly those pertaining to the stars and hence navigation,
the Pleiades and Orion for example (1133-65). The emphasis on stars and other
navigational aids used to plot a correct course make a fitting counterpoint to Kreusa's
thoughtless and misguided actions. Kreusa's poisoning of Ion would have occurred here
in the banquet tent had it come off properly, as thinly justified vengeance on Xuthus for
his supposed past indiscretion. As it is, the only fatality is the unlucky bird which drinks
the poisoned wine. This is a direct example of the aforementioned propensity of Kreusa
to act without regard to right and wrong and needing to be circumvented by Apollo,
whether directly through sending the birds to out the poisoner, or indirectly through the
simple fact that Ion is piously cognizant enough to pour out the wine at an unlucky omen:
.v XEpoiv EXovTI 6s
OTTOv6cc pIT' CXAAcov Tra161c TC rTETIVO6T
Ph~C(taravI(V TIC O'IKETCOV LSJ)OsyC(TO'
o 6', c I')yIEPc O '(VTEOIiV T' EoO OiC Tpc(()cE,
oIcovov '8sTO, KXKsAsuc' AAov vsov
KpC(arpC( TrhApouGv Tac 6s Tpiv oTrov6Sc 68oG
616ooal yccai, Tirao T' EKOTTSV6SEIV SySEI.
... and holding in his hands
a libation amidst the others, to the revealed son
one of the house slaves spoke a blasphemy;
and he, thus reared in the temple and among good prophets,
held it an omen, and requested that another new
cup be filled; and the libations from before for the god
he gave to the ground, and told all to pour them out (1187-93).
Though aborted, the attempt at violence has nonetheless been made, and thus the
situation differs from the potential violence at Apollo's altar, which does not ultimately
An Exterior in Euripides' Ion: Outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
Ion's impulse is to murder Kreusa in revenge, but his piety and sense of morality
slows him enough to become fully aware of the facts before he acts. He then makes the
right choice: not to kill his newly-discovered mother. Apollo's plan comes off
successfully, so the one person who must not know Ion's real parentage, Xuthus, does
not, but is told information that will cause him to accept Ion as a son.
Throughout the play Kreusa makes snap judgments that must be blocked to ensure
Apollo's plan: her "resistance is overcome; Apollo's physical conquest of her body,
necessary to his plan, prefigured the conquest he now makes of her doubt and hatred."5
When Ion makes a snap judgment, he has the self-control not to act on it lest it fail to
coincide with Apollo's justice. Kreusa was stopped from murdering Ion by the
intervention of the god, but Ion stops himself from murdering Kreusa because not all the
facts are yet clear. It would seem that men have the ability to temper judgment with
justice, whereas women do not. Kreusa has committed or attempted to commit acts of
violence in interior spaces, either by neglect as against the infant Ion or directly as against
the grown Ion. Like Odysseus in the Hekabe, Apollo practices deceit for unselfish
reasons, lying to Xuthus to insure a place for Ion. Similarly, he intervenes with his birds
5 Burnett, Classical Philology 1962: 97.
to expose the poisoner for Ion's sake. Kreusa's actions are interior for their selfish and
self-contained qualities no less than in terms of actual physical space, and when men
venture into the feminine realm of the interior, it is for selfless, exterior reasons.
INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS IN EURIPIDES' BAKCHAI
The Bakchai is a play quite different from those discussed above. Like the
Hippolytos, it involves unstoppable divine vengeance carried out in part through a female
agent; in this case Agave is not only the cause (as Phaedra was for Hippolytos) but also
the direct instrument of Pentheus' death. However, in the Hippolytos, Aphrodite states
her intent from the beginning. "Pentheus, unlike any other hero of punishment tragedy,
begins his play before he has committed a decisive offense. He will outrage his divine
antagonist... as part of the action of this play, making the Bakchai the one tragedy that
encompasses in its spectacle both an act of hybris and its consequent experience of
An Ambiguous Space in Euripides' Bakchai: Mount Kithairon
Dionysos has a tendency to cause gender reversal wherever he goes. Women in the
Bakchai under the influence of divine madness act like men, and men like women.
Cadmus and Teiresias put on the feminine fawnskins and take up the thyrsai to honor the
god. The women who originally doubted Dionysos' divinity in their jealousy over
Semele "in their frenzy ... begin to imitate masculine behaviour: they hunt down
animals, sack and plunder villages and defeat men in a pitched battle [whereas]
Pentheus ... agrees to dress up as a woman so that he can spy upon their rituals."2
The Bacchic rites put women outside, exactly the place where they did not belong,
1 Anne Pippin Burnett. "Pentheus and Dionysus: Host and Guest." Classical Philology 65.1 (1970): 19.
2 Sue Blundell. Women in Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995: 175.
according to Greek men. The women in the Bakchai go to Mount Kithairon and act, in
some instances, as a sort of terrible reflection of men: they hunt, but tear apart animals
with their own hands or use their thyrsai as weapons rather than use a bow or spear. For
these reasons and due to its physical location outside, Mount Kithairon acts as an
Kithairon also acts as an interior, however. The rites performed there are hidden,
and supposed to be shut away from the presence of men, who are forbidden to enter the
wild to view the mysteries. The Bacchic women retain their femininity in a strange and
disturbing way: they have no horses or hunting dogs, but they carry and nurse wild beasts
as if their own infants. Dionysos is described in feminine language by Pentheus, who
seems increasingly attracted despite himself:
.. .c(avOiol p3ooTpuXolIoIv EsoooL3V KO6Irv,
OIvcOTrc'c( oooOl XC(plTcc A()poTrl| SXcov ..
aTap TO T-oEv oC6JJ' OUK aiiopoc S7, ESvs,
cOc s c yuVC6iKC(c, 7 4' OITTp s c O]3C(C TrTapsrI
TrrXKc(Xao TS yap oou Tavac(, ou TraXrl, uTro,
ySvuv Trap' c(auTrI KEXUPEVOc, Tr60Ou TrAXcoc
XAUKTIV 6S XpoICaV SK TrC(apaoKsuTi SXsic,
ouX rAlou poXcalolv, a,\h' JTO r oKIac,
TT~v A(po6ITrlv Kc(XAovf 6TrpcoJpEVoc.
... fragrant hair with yellow locks,
having the dark graces of Aphrodite in your eyes ...
But your body is not unshapely, foreigner,
as for women, whereupon you are here in Thebes;
for your locks are long, not from wrestling,
poured on your cheek, full of longing;
and you have white skin from preparation,
not from the strokes of the sun, but from shade,
chasing beautiful Aphrodite (Bakchai 235-6, 453-9).
Thus for the gender-ambiguous god to use deception and to take advantage of
Pentheus' and Agave's madness is no great stretch. He encourages Pentheus to spy on
the rites and causes Agave and the other women to see her son as a lion to be slain. The
women are incredibly violent in ripping apart his body and putting his head on a thyrsus:
XAaCoGuoc 6' coAsvrlc capioTspCv XEpa,
TrrAupcxIov cavTI-Caocx TOU 6uo6cxapovoc
caTTCrrcapcaSev o31pov, ouX UTTO o0~vouc,
&a2\' b 06Ec Esup pSEIpsv )ETTEIOU XEpoIv
'IVlG;)c 6 TCXTT OucTEP' 'EsEIpycESTO,
pryvuocx oCapKac, AJTov6rl T' 6XAoc TS rrc&(
STTriXE PC(KXCSV' T'i 6S TTrC(' OboG (OTr,
0 jESv OTSvaCcov oov )ETU'yXCV' J1PTrrvSCv,
a!i 6' 7iXAcAaov. sEsps 6' iiV cP'vAsrv,
11 6' iXvoc auTcaic appuAcCU'- yUPvouvTo 6s
Trhsupcxa oTrcxapaypot Tra C 6' UpC(Tco0psVrl
Xsipcc 6SisE C(apis oGCpKC( TTsvOscoc.
And having taken his left arm at the forearm,
having put her foot against his unlucky ribs
she tore off his shoulder, not from strength,
but the god gave her ease in her hands;
and Ino began to finish off the other,
rending his flesh, and Autonoe and all the crowd
of Bacchants held him; a collective shout came from them all,
he groaning as much as he was happening to breathe,
and they raised the war-cry. And they bore his forearm,
and his foot with its own boot; and his ribs
were stripped naked with manglings; and they all were playing
ball with Pentheus' flesh (1125-36).
With Kithairon acting as an interior outside of which he was to be kept, Pentheus
violates the inner sanctum of the rites and is punished accordingly.
An Interior in Euripides' Bakchai: Inside the Palace
The gender-ambiguous Dionysos performs a most basic act of deceit inside the
palace. In trying to prove his godhood to Pentheus, he pretends to be a Lydian and mere
leader of the rites. "[T]he disowned god himself leads his royal cousin out and away to
dismemberment, by means of the madness that starts inside the palace during the choral
part of the miracle scene," wherein Dionysos escapes from the dungeon, causes fires to
flash on Semele's tomb, and finally causes an earthquake which apparently destroys part
of the palace.3 While arguably not a violent act, the earthquake is certainly an act of
destruction. Although to what extent this miracle was visible to the audience is much-
contested, ultimately it has no bearing on this paper as Dionysos is still in the palace
when he causes the earthquake, as attested by the chorus:
TcC(Xc T UTEsvOECcoc P1XcOpca 6icrT
va ESTa Trprjlacxov.
o AI6vuooC avvd pcsAa6pca(
OsPETe Viv. OsOpsV Co.
E6iSTS AXCiVCa KIOOIV 'EP3oXCa
61S6popaC TCa6s; Bp6ptoc &Xac
cx;ESTaC(I OTSyaC( 'OCO.
quickly the halls of Pentheus
are shaken asunder by falls.
Dionysos is in the halls;
revere him! 0, we revere him!
See the stone pillars, the architrave
reeling? Bromius raises the war-cry
in the halls (586-93).
As if being of ambiguous gender and being inside the palace were not enough, the
earthquake is a very showy and selfish act of godhood. Dionysos' intentions might
normally be beyond question due to his divinity, but are impossible to ignore in
combination with his femininity and physical location.
An Exterior in the Bakchai: Before the Palace
It is only here in the public forum where madness can finally subside and normalcy
return. Here the Lydian is revealed as Dionysos, and here what was always apparent to
the audience is revealed to the characters in the play. Here also Agave with help from
3 Victor Castellani. "That Troubled House of Pentheus in Euripides' Bacchae." Transactions of the
American PhilologicalAssociation 106 (1976): 72.
Kadmos shakes off her madness to find she has murdered Pentheus; the veil is lifted from
her eyes and truth is revealed. Dionysos' idea of justice, ordained by Zeus, is made
manifest, and any complaint to the contrary, such as at line 1346 (Ka6Spoc: 'syvc aKCapE
TaUT' XaAA x TTrPXTn Xcav), fails to recognize once again that for the gods the ends can
and do justify the means, and mortals must live with the consequences.
The actions that occur in the various spaces in Euripides' plays supply a deeper
significance to them, which in a symbiotic cycle binds specific types of space with
certain behaviors and traits. Similarly, instability in one type of space is coupled with
instability in its opposite: for example, an interior which outside of tragedy would be
linked to domesticity and security becomes unsafe when affected by exterior instability.
Furthermore, the spaces and actions become tied to specific genders. Women become
associated with interior spaces and actions of deceit, violence and judgment. Men
become associated with exterior spaces and actions of openness and justice; though
"[m]en in Greek myth can ... do their fair share of killing ... this is usually a
straightforward manly affair ... Typically, a woman employs trickery and deception in
order to dispose of others; and the people disposed of are generally related to her by
blood or by marriage."1 Male violence is about sacrifice and justice for the public good,
not about private vendettas. Components associated with instabilities typically follow the
model set forth in the introduction.
We have seen that Hekabe, Medea, Elektra, and Kreusa all commit or attempt to
commit acts of violence in interior settings, either by proxy or themselves, all for the sake
of vengeance for wrongs real or perceived. For similar reasons, Hekabe, Medea, Elektra,
and Phaedra engage in deception against others in the interior, and Elektra and Kreusa
even engage in self-deception in the interests of judgments they have made. Agave alone
commits murder while not in her right mind, at Dionysus' urging, but still does so in an
Agamemnon, Jason, Kreon, and Theseus all make decisions from positions of both
strength and authority, which imbues their actions with justice. Though Medea, for
example, acts with strength, she lacks authority; therefore her actions are condemnable as
unjust. Orestes acts from a high ground of justice defined by Apollo, though the morality
of his actions is questionable at the human level. Gods are beyond reproach, however,
whether they should be or not, and for them the ends justify the means; they must
ultimately go unchallenged, if not unquestioned.
Exceptions only occur in certain circumstances. Barbarians such as Polymestor can
fill the role of women in interiors. The influence of a gender-confusing deity such as
Dionysos in the Bakchai can also cause men and women to act outside their respective
spaces and roles. Ischomachos in Xenophon's Economics describes the folly of role
reversal in men: "s16~ TtC nTap' a o 0soc S4QuoEs TTOIt, Iococ TI K(Xa C(TC(KTCOV TOUc
EOsou o0u r]'iO KC(x V 1KrTv 6S6cooiv ap'sAcov TC- 'Epycov TOS sC(UTOG pc TpTTcov TOd
TrTf yUVC(IKoc spya(" (7.31). Similarly, when women attempt to reverse roles it results
in either tragedy, as for Phaedra, who merely expressed a desire to act like a man, or
contemptible acts such as Medea's series of murders and Elektra's attempt to attach
herself to Orestes' divine charge.
The events stemming from instabilities in Euripides' plays tend to follow a
hierarchical pattern. From weakest to strongest, this pattern includes physical space,
gender, and intention. Intention that is directed towards the exterior in terms of benefit to
others is masculine. A male's role in society is to work for its common good. Intention
that is interior, or selfish, is feminine. Only rarely do physical space or gender fail to
follow along with intention, and in such cases, a conscious effort is made to reconcile the
break with convention. For example, in the Bakchai Dionysos acts selfishly, and is thus
made to do so not only from the interior of the palace, but the ambiguity of his gender is
The actions of men and women in exterior and interior spaces in Euripides' plays
contribute to a larger examination of morality. The association of men and women to
traditional spaces and roles provide a forum for questioning the assumptions underlying
those traditions. The characters in Euripides' plays both reinforce and undermine these
assumptions through their attempts to conform to or deny the roles society has set for
them. Morality is a human construct, however, and ultimately we are forced to
acknowledge the all-pervasive power and will of gods who have human emotions and
commit very human acts without being subject to human concepts of morality. This
concept is discussed in Euripides' plays through the assignation of specific behaviors and
qualities of character to interiors and exteriors.
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Michael Ian Wheeler was born to Dr. Michael K. Wheeler and Sally W. Wheeler
on November 17th, 1981. He grew up in Delray Beach, Florida, and graduated cum laude
from Saint Andrew's School in Boca Raton, Florida, as a National Merit Finalist in 2000.
After transferring from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, in order to earn
combined undergraduate/graduate credits, he graduated with a B.A. in classical studies
from the University of Florida in 2004.
He plans to pursue a doctorate and hopes to teach at the college level. He will
receive his M.A. in August of 2005.