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Crossing the Stages:
The Production, Performance and Reception of Ancient Theater


Hanna Roisman
Department of Classics
Colby College

Seneca's Phaedra: Parody and Originality

Much has been done with regard to analyzing Seneca's Phaedra in the light of Euripides's two plays,Hippolytus Kalyptomenos and Hippolytus. Typically, the emphasis is on Seneca's innovations, or lack thereof, and the conclusions drawn by modern scholars are usually to the detriment of the Latin author. Rather than examine Seneca's innovations in an attempt to redeem him, my paper will seek to analyze scenes that resemble their Greek model. I will look at scenes that seem to parody Euripides's plays, and, based on the nature of the parody, I will attempt to decode the motivations within the resolutions reached by Hippolytos, Phaedra and the Nurse. The parody assumes different forms, from a definite if subtle change in requests or statements, to an intricate but recurrent clash of vocabulary, of both semantics and messages, divergent from the examined passages.

My paper will re-evaluate the inner motivating forces, the stances taken, the attitudes and the explicit claims of the tragedy's leading characters. In so doing, I will try to show that the method of comparing the Latin tragedy to its Greek model is not only productive (contra: e.g., Henry and Walker, Pratt, etc.), but does not detract from Seneca's originality. Seneca, while drawing from the Greek plots and their intricate literary devices, succeeded in composing an original play which portrays a new and different set of characters and goals.

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