Forgotten Figures: The Rhetorical Function of Tecmessa, Chrysothemis, and Ismene in Tragedies of Sophocles and Selected Adaptations
Abstract: This investigation centers on the forgotten figures, three
Sophoclean women who exist largely in the margins of scholarship on Greek tragedy and who
are often underutilized in adaptations. For instance, Judith Butler, Hegel, and Jean Racine
each overlook them. These women, Tecmessa, Chrysothemis, and Ismene, have much in common.
They were all royal at one time, have vital rhetorical ... read morefunctions, such as increasing pity
and fear in the spectator and balancing the arguments of the protagonist and/or antagonist,
and they ultimately disappear from their play or become mute characters, often without
explanation or reference. As a result of hierarchical bias toward tragic heroes, which is
inherently patriarchal, the quieter battles of the forgotten figures against gender
inequality, slavery, and psychological trauma are missed and gender norms and class
structure are reinforced. This study follows the example of feminist Adrienne Rich, who
suggests re-reading canonical plays from a feminist point of view in order to challenge
patriarchy and identify missed opportunities to discuss the merits of female characters. In
doing so, the forgotten figures are shown to not only be rhetorically significant in
Sophocles' plays and adaptations, but to be a necessary element of the tragic structure
through their increase of pity and fear in spectators and through their ability to
highlight tragic heroes, the main conflict, and contemporary societal concerns, such as
psychoanalysis, gender equality, and expressionism. Adding supporting characters, like the
forgotten figures, into a contemporary tragic structure is essential to align it with
current interests in supporting characters, alternate narratives, and ensemble casts as
illustrated by John Higgs' Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th
Century and Jeremy Rosen's Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary
Literary Marketplace. Such a study will benefit performance, historiography, adaptation,
classical Greek, military, gender, general theatre, and psychology studies. The forgotten
figures are given precedence in this study in the hope that doing so challenges the
dominant narrative, which believes that major characters are more significant than
supporting characters, and ultimately lead others to do the same.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Monica White Ndounou.
Committee: Jacqueline Romeo, Heather Nathans, and Barbara Wallace Grossman.
Keyword: Theater.read less