Politics of Myth in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis and Bacchae

Grintser Nikolay P.

By analyzing the two latest of the extant Euripides’ tragedies, the article addresses two interdependent questions: the possibility to perceive an internal structural unity within a dramatic trilogy lacking a unifying plot, and the role of political context in constructing such a dramatic unity. The investigation of the motif structure of Bacchae and Iphigenia in Aulis (as well as the reconstruction of the contents of the third part of the trilogy, Alcmaeon in Corinth) demonstrates that they are connected by the key themes of preserving/breaking the philia and being true to one’s kin. Although these themes could be treated as rather general, they might also allude to contemporary political events. More specifically, the motif and lexical parallels to Aristophanes’ Frogs (performed within the same year) reveal some possible references to the idea of restoring the exiled participants of the 411 BC oligarchic coup, which was passionately debated at that time. However, in contrast to Aristophanes, Euripides seems to treat it in a much more ambivalent way.

Keywords: Aristophanes, Euripides, tragedy, comedy, political context, motif structure, dramatic unity

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