The blessedness of Thebes and the accursed family of Oedipus : an interpretation of Euripides' Phoenissae

Natanblut, Erez, Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Kovacs, David, Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Clay, Jenny, Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Mikalson, Jon, Center for Liberal Arts, University of Virginia
Devereux, Daniel, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

My dissertation is an interpretation of Euripides' Phoenissae, which is a difficult play to understand and interpret: many have found that the episodic nature of Phoenissae disallows unity. Another obstacle to interpreting the play is that it is heavily interpolated: in no other play except for Iphigenia in Aulis have scholars detected so many interpolated lines. In Phoenissae we must be careful in what we discern as spurious, and what we discern as authentic. The safest course for interpreting this play is to delete when there is good reason, independent of our own literary sense.

My methodology for interpreting Phoenissae has been what Lesky calls "erzahlende Analyse," analysis by means of narration. I believe that this method accurately gleans the basic themes and design of the play. My approach has also been to put myself in the shoes of a fifth century Athenian spectator, and in this way I have hoped ยท to respond to the play in the manner Euripides intended.

In my dissertation I argue that Phoenissae is shaped by these two themes: the blessedness of Thebes and the accursedness of Oedipus' family. Euripides goes out of his way to show that the troubles stern from the royal family and that Thebes is presently afflicted by their accursedness. Many believe that Thebes is an accursed place, a sort of anti-Athens, but I believe that this is inaccurate in regard to Phoenissae. A close reading of the text reveals that Thebes is a blessed place and is an object of devotion and patriotic pride: it is the royal family that is the problem. I argue that Thebes is an analogue to Athens rather than an anti-Athens.

The first chapter is the Introduction, and in it I discuss previous views on the play and what I intend to accomplish in my dissertation. The second chapter is a reading of the play, and I examine each section as it arises in the course of the play. The third chapter is the conclusion, and in the appendix that follows, I discuss questions of genuineness.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Euripides -- Phoenician women
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