The Epic Rhapsode and His Craft: Homeric Performance in a Diachronic Perspective

  González, José M. 2013. The Epic Rhapsode and His Craft: Homeric Performance in a Diachronic Perspective. Hellenic Studies Series 47. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Appendix. The Origin of the Term hypokritēs

I have argued above (pp. 296ff.) that ὑποκριτής, like ῥαψῳδός, was an early technical label of some currency for the epic singer. [4] ἀοιδός was the most traditional but, semantically, also the broadest. [5] To specify the epic singer, either ὑποκριτής or ῥαψῳδός would do. As the preeminent festival performer of his time, a strong connotation of ‘on-stage delivery before an audience’ attached to the archaic rhapsode. Therefore, when the need arose for Athens to select a name for the on-stage performer of drama, it was natural to extend to the actor qua performer a rhapsodic label that did not narrowly denote what was peculiar to rhapsodic technique. This development was all the more to be expected, insofar as the complex and integrative genre of drama grew to a significant degree in rivalry with the then queen of the festival arts, Homeric performance. The rise of Attic drama must be placed in the last thirty to forty years before the end of the sixth century BC, [6] a time when ῥαψῳδός must have carried the emphatic connotation of relay performance. Such a connotation would not do for the solo performance of the actor; neither would the centuries-old implication that ῥαψῳδεῖν involved the reworking in performance of material deeply traditional in thematic sequence and poetic diction. These considerations motivate the choice of ὑποκριτής, rather than ῥαψῳδός, for the professional performer of tragedy. With the triumphant ascendancy of drama, once ‘dramatic actor’ was cemented as the default acceptation of ὑποκριτής, its application to the epic singer must have grown obsolete, only to be occasionally recalled by Plato for straightforward [7] or perverse rhetorical ends. [8] The foregoing account of the characteristically dramatic use of ὑποκριτής and ὑποκρίνομαι readily explains why the Attic dialect, unlike Ionic, should have rejected ‘to reply’ as a prevalent acceptation of ὑποκρίνομαι. The technical meaning of the nomen agentis, ‘dramatic actor’, and the acceptation of its verb, ‘to act (a part)’, both of doubtless currency and cultural prominence in Attica, restricted their use to the semantic sphere of dramatic performance. It also relegated the acceptation ‘to answer’ to the similarly constructed ἀποκρίνομαι, which received it in turn precisely under the pressure of the ascendancy of ‘to act’ as the characteristic acceptation of ὑποκρίνομαι. [9] I do not deny, of course, that ὑποκρίνομαι could mean ‘to reply’ and in actual fact acquired this sense in the dialect of Ionia. Previous scholars have already noted the semantic development that led from the judgment associated with oracular pronouncements to the notion of a formal, authoritative answer, and then, by a weakening of its meaning, to the ordinary ‘to answer’. [10] Thus, Lesky (1956:473) observes that “[d]er Verlauf der Entwicklung zur Bedeutung ‘antworten’ ist schön an Od., 15, 170 abzulesen: Menelaos soll ein Zeichen deuten, aber diese Deutung ist zu gleicher Zeit der Bescheid, den er auf eine Frage gibt, die ihn gestellt wurde.” The view that ἀποκρίνομαι was not simply a parallel Attic alternative to the Ionic ὑποκρίνομαι is suggested by the otherwise curious fact that the actor—if in fact he was called ὑποκριτής because he ‘answered’ the chorus or someone else—should not have been simply called ἀποκριτής. Drama was, after all, a genre peculiar to Attica, and ἀποκριτής never had any (potentially competing) currency as the generic noun for one who answers. [11] A helpful parallel that elucidates this point is the peculiarly narrow (technical) use of ποιητής for ‘composer’ vis-à-vis the much broader use of ποιέω for ‘to make’. Why should Attic speakers not have concurrently employed both ἀποκρίνομαι for the ordinary meaning ‘to answer’ and ἀποκριτής, ex hypothesi, for the ‘actor-as-answerer’? [12] If one should object that confusion might then arise in the corresponding (hypothetical) use of this same verb for ‘to act (a part on stage)’, the rejoinder is obvious: so also does ποιέω create comparable ambiguity when it is used for ‘to compose’ (LSJ s.v. A.1.4, the technical acceptation associated with ποιητής). Plainly, this was no object.

Thus, the facts suggest that either ὑποκριτής, as applied to the actor, did not mean ‘answerer’ and that the motivation for the label must be sought elsewhere, or that ἀποκρίνομαι was not available for ‘to answer’ at the time when ὑποκριτής was applied to the actor. But if it was not available then, the motivation for its origin remains mysterious and one is left to wonder why ὑποκρίνομαι should have been deemed insufficient or inappropriate. [13] Unless of course, as argued here, ὑποκρίνομαι (with ὑποκριτής) had already become denotative of the performance of the rhapsode, pure and simple—i.e. ordinarily it no longer denotated ‘(exegetical) interpretation’—and upon its transference to the actor the ensuing relatively greater currency of its acceptation ‘to perform (on stage)’ was now felt to encroach on its non-technical one ‘to reply’ to a degree sufficient to provoke both a novel resort to ἀποκρίνεσθαι and its rapid embrace as an alternative to ὑποκρίνεσθαι by the linguistic community. In all likelihood, the nomen agentis ὑποκριτής, like ἀποκριτής, was not in use to designate the ordinary ‘answerer’. Hence, it was readily deployed without interference in the theatrical context and, in turn, must have pulled into its orbit ὑποκρίνομαι, serving to root its technical acceptation ‘to perform (on stage)’ into common linguistic usage. [14] That, under this scenario, a similar encroachment of the technical meaning on the broader sense had not been felt before hints at the relatively rarer use of the verb ὑποκρίνομαι to designate the performance of the rhapsodic ὑποκριτής, for which verbs like ᾄδειν, καταλέγειν, and (especially) ῥαψῳδεῖν were readily available and commonly used instead. The enthusiasm and vigor with which the new genre of drama was embraced by most Athenians commends the view that its basic nomenclature was broadly adopted and its impact upon the popular vocabulary for performance was swift. [15]

The numerous past attempts by scholars to explain the use of ὑποκριτής to designate the actor of Attic drama have failed to produce a consensus because the question has not been properly framed. By and large, most have assumed that a synchronic semantic approach could yield the correct answer. This presupposition led them first to establish the meaning of the verb in its several Homeric contexts, whether it should be understood as ‘to interpret’ or ‘to answer’; then, to reduce the word to its building blocks, ὑπό + κρίνεσθαι, from which they sought the common semantic denominator that best explained all Homeric occurrences; they supposed that this common denominator would make clear which of the two acceptations, ‘to interpret’ or ‘to answer’, was more fundamental; and, finally, they assumed that this more fundamental meaning would satisfactorily account for the use of the verb and its agent noun in the context of Attic drama. I referred above to the semantic approach commonly adopted as ‘synchronic.’ In truth, it is a sort of ‘synchronic diachrony’: it consists in the etymological investigation of the constituent parts, verb and preverb, out of which issues the disputed bifurcation into ‘to interpret’ and ‘to answer’. Both camps assume that one of these meanings is supported both by the etymology and by all of the earliest attested uses, and that the other is an accidental synchronic concomitant, a contextual incident mistaken for the denotation. This is what I mean by the oxymoronic ‘synchronic diachrony’: the ‘diachrony’ refers to the semantic archaeology of etymological analysis; ‘synchronic,’ to the notion that as far as the antiquity of their origin, at least potentially, both meanings are substantially on a par. A corrective to this faulty procedure is found in a thoroughgoing diachronic perspective that combines etymological analysis and a consideration of archaic Greek performance practices, epic and dramatic. The assumption of a potential synchronic parity was bound to follow from a view of Homeric poetry that lacks the appropriate diachronic depth. If the Homeric poems were not regarded as a diachronically layered product of recomposition in performance that reached down into the late archaic and early classical periods, when ὑποκρίνεσθαι could doubtless signify ‘to answer’, the admission that both acceptations were present in the Iliad and the Odyssey necessarily entailed that either was synchronically derivable from the etymology. [16] Scholars who believed that, in the last analysis, only one of them was etymologically true, conceded that the notion to which the competing alternative pointed was in some measure to be found in the context, and that the definition of ὑποκρίνεσθαι ought therefore to be generously drawn to reflect this concomitance. [17]

Methodologically, there can be no objection against the etymological approach per se. But scholars have spent most of their efforts in determining as precisely as possible the semantic implications of the preverb ὑπό. Is it one of acting under the influence of an external agent [19] or of acting with immediacy of sequence? [20] Or perhaps, of acting in a manner that brings something out of secluded depths into open view? [21] Might it not imply a representative substitution of the inquirer by the interpreter? [22] Or refer to ‘furnishing’ or ‘putting under’? [23] Little time has been spent on κρίνεσθαι by comparison. Most proponents of ‘to answer’ seem to assume tacitly that, however obscure the underlying semantic rationale, the Ionic acceptation of ὑποκρίνεσθαι ‘to answer’ or, in its place, the identical Attic one of ἀποκρίνεσθαι, readily proves that κρίνεσθαι can denote ‘to answer’. This justification is judged sufficient and no further effort is expended upon it. [24] Alternatively, the ancient statements relevant to the meaning of ὑποκριτής are shown to agree on relating it to ‘to answer’ and are marshaled as sufficient to settle the legitimacy of using κρίνεσθαι in this sense. [25] Once the verb is hastily dispatched, the investigation naturally focuses on the implications of ὑπό: whom does the actor ‘answer’? Is his acting called an ‘answer’ because of the manner of his speaking (Curtius) or because he speaks ‘in response’ to another (Else)? But, with the investigation thus framed, this question is premature. One cannot reach a proper understanding of the preverb without first settling the meaning of the verb, apart from which many of the competing explanations of ὑπό seem credible and possible.

In fact, under any reasonable etymological analysis and in view of its attested use in the oldest sources, κρίνομαι cannot mean anything other than ‘to separate, to pick’, from which follow ‘to decide’, ‘to judge’, and the transferred sense ‘to pick or judge the meaning’—in other words, ‘to interpret’ or ‘to expound’. [26] All attempts to champion ‘to answer’ run aground on this shallow. The notion that a psychological process of sifting could underlie and define the essence of ‘to answer’ is implausible. What precisely are we to think the individual separates in his mind in order to answer a question? Would one perhaps have to imagine an array of possible answers, all fully formed and mingled together, out of which he picks the one he is to utter? Some such improbable reconstruction is unavoidable if the sense of κρίνεσθαι is to be respected. [27] On the other hand, the challenge of expounding the divine will or interpreting divinely sent σήματα (like dreams or omens), at least according to the archaic view (before Plato’s tendentious treatment of it), calls for the exegesis of a trained and intellectually engaged mantic expert who sifts through alternative interpretations and picks out the correct one: ὧδέ χ’ ὑποκρίναιτο θεοπρόπος, ὃς σάφα θυμῷ | εἰδείη τεράων καί οἱ πειθοίατο λαοί (Μ 228–229). This degree of psychologically self-aware discernment is precisely what is lacking in an ordinary answer, even when that answer is formal in nature. Individuals do not ordinarily face their own psyche with a need to ‘sift’ it before they speak. Only if one colors ‘answer giving’ with the interpretive judgment entailed by the verb’s denotation and pragmatics can one lend plausibility to the notion that ὑποκρίνεσθαι denotes a qualified sense of ‘to answer’. In so doing, however, one restores to it a particular variant of its true meaning, only to allege it as a concomitant factor of the answer giving—and not, as it actually is, its true and essential meaning.

In principle, every act of the will can be reduced to a prior judgment. In this regard, the giving of an answer is no different from any other act of speaking. If the logic that ascribes ‘replying’ to the etymology of κρίνεσθαι were sound, could we not fairly expect a derivative of κρίνω for every act of utterance? Only one reason makes ‘deciding’ seem marginally more acceptable than ‘separating’ as the mental process underlying the use of κρίνεσθαι in (allegedly formal) answer giving: pragmatically, the utterance is a speech-act and, as such, it shares its markedness with ὑποκρίνεσθαι, which involves the pronouncement of an oracular interpretation. But once again, it is important to emphasize that one should not confuse the pragmatics of the associated speech-act, which, however important, is culturally contextual, with the term’s own denotative meaning. This semantic muddle is the key to Else’s superficially more successful attempt to defend the meaning ‘answerer’ for ὑποκριτής against the alternative ‘interpreter’. But this is only the first dubious stage of his ultimately unconvincing argument. For Else is rightly adamant that ‘answering’ cannot be a passing activity of the professional who bears the title ‘answerer’. [28] How does he seek to motivate this as the defining function of the actor? His argument, in short, is that when the poet himself performed his plays he was called τραγῳδός. Only with the introduction of the second actor do we meet with a subordinate figure who ‘answered’ the τραγῳδός. This figure would be the ὑποκριτής. After the poet ceased acting and a professional actor took his place, all the professionals left on stage were called ὑποκριταί by an abuse of the original nomenclature. To lend plausibility to this explanation, the scholar identifies the second actor with the messenger of tragedy, whose characteristic function was to answer the question ‘what happened?’ [29]

Nonetheless, Else’s argument lacks a foundation that might bear the weight of its conjectural reconstruction. For there is no sound basis on which to justify retrojecting to the earliest days of tragedy the late distinction between τραγῳδός as ‘protagonist’ and ὑποκριταί as ‘supporting actors’. [30] There is, furthermore, every likelihood that the didascalic record already used ὑποκριτής in 449 BC, when the first contest for actors was held; [31] and, as Zucchelli (1962:37) remarks, if the term was already established by then, it was probably in use before poets ceased performing their own plays. Else’s proposal implies that, if not immediately, at least within the compass of only a few years ὑποκριτής was also applied to the actor that replaced the poet. If, as he avers, the poet had always and exclusively been called τραγῳδός, his conjectural reconstruction would entail a striking and highly dubious departure from the traditional name for the ‘protagonist’ (to use our term). What about τραγῳδός would have made its transfer to the first actor so objectionable that, ex hypothesi, Athenians preferred instead the glaring incongruity of applying to him the very label that had hitherto designated the performer whose characteristic function was to answer the first actor? I know of no etymological analysis of τραγῳδός that ties it manifestly to the composer, nor of any other bond between this word and the poet that has the strength and specificity required to support Else’s argument. The alleged renaming would have designated the first actor as his own answerer! Are we to believe that this jarring change in nomenclature happened so late after drama’s adoption of ὑποκριτής that its meaning ‘answerer of the poet-as-performer’ had already been lost on the public? Moreover, it is hardly certain that the figure of the messenger was so fundamental to the development of tragedy that it had the definitive impact on its terminology that this theory presupposes. [32] That ancient scholars and manuscripts often refer to him explicitly by the (eminently reasonable) label ἄγγελος further undercuts Else’s case. [33] For does this not make clear that generally the messenger’s function was not, in fact, construed as an ‘answer’ to a question—whether one was posed or not—but as a ‘report’? [34] Untenable too is Else’s claim that, without any contextual indication to this effect, Aristotle used ὑποκριτής in two different senses: an old, narrow one that he had ascertained from his didascalic researches (‘answerer of the τραγῳδός’) and the one in common use later (‘actor’, pure and simple). [35]

Curtius’s case for ‘answerer’ is more straightforward than Else’s but also, for being more precise in its etymological analysis, the more transparently flawed. Starting from the presupposition that the almost uniformly attested ancient understanding of ὑποκρίνεσθαι must be right, he attempts to account for the application of the word to dramatic performance. [36] But he realizes that the verb κρίνεσθαι hardly allows for an ordinary sense of ‘to answer’: “Dass bei dem ὑποκριτής von einem Antworten im eigentlichen und gewöhnlichsten Sinne nicht die Rede sein kann, … versteht sich im Grunde von selbst. An Fragen des Chors ist doch nur in seltenen Fällen zu denken” (Curtius 1866:151–152). Thus he selects for ὑπό the sense of ‘immediate succession’, [37] and for κρίνεσθαι, that of the Latin certare. [38] ὑποκρίνεσθαι, then, would amount to ἀγωνίζεσθαι, specifically, subcertare or in certamine succedere (153). By the logic of this analysis, Curtius is forced to grant that ὑποκρίνεσθαι conceives of ordinary conversation, with its questions and answers, as a sort of concertatio, and that ὑπόκρισις encapsulates “die rasche Folge der Antwort auf die Frage” (153). Thus, the argument moves away by degrees from his opening categorical statement that ὑποκρίνεσθαι means ‘to answer’ (and was so understood in antiquity) and that ὑποκριτής was the one who answered the chorus towards the inescapable conclusion that the actor-as-ὑποκριτής was so labeled because he vied with the chorus by rushing to answer their questions. [39] But if this outcome seems too strained and implausible, Curtius appears to share the feeling, for he hastens to add: “Aber bei dem dramatischen ὑποκριτής ist nicht hieran, sondern nur an die Fortsetzung der Aufführung, an die Ablösung des Chors durch den ihn aufnehmenden Schauspieler zu denken” (153). The analysis oscillates between the ancient datum Curtius seeks to uphold—the acceptation ‘to answer’—and the meaning of κρίνεσθαι, which does not accommodate this goal and drives the argument away from anything that one may reasonably recognize as an ordinary reply. This accounts for Curtius’s ultimate rejection of his own conclusion. [40]

Patzer 1970, in his review of Zucchelli 1962, offers yet another attempt to reconcile the etymology of ὑποκριτής and ὑποκρίνεσθαι to ‘answerer’ and ‘to answer’. Although he rightly insists throughout that a credible answer must account for the root κρι, like Curtius, he gradually veers away from this etymological anchor. He first proposes a definition that, at least ostensibly, seems to fall within the semantic sphere of the simple verb: “Es ergibt sich also als genaue Bedeutung von ὑποκρίνομαι ‘etw[as] zur (geistigen) Unterstützung einer Person auf Grund besonderer Sacherkenntnis, Überlegung oder Verantwortung entscheiden” (Patzer 1970:647). Like Else, Patzer confuses the denotative content of ὑποκρίνεσθαι (‘to interpret’) with its pragmatics as a speech-act, and he picks the particular sense ‘to render judgment’ from the broader meaning ‘to utter authoritative (potentially transformative) speech’. But at least his definition explicitly includes the discriminating function of discursive thought. [41] And yet, only a few sentences later, Patzer replaces “entscheiden” by the similarly looking but, as to sense, rather different “Bescheid geben.” Whereas ‘entscheiden’ is “ein maßgebendes Urteil fällen über, den Ausschlag geben für, endgültig bestimmen, anordnen, festlegen,” [42] ‘Bescheid geben’ is “Auskunft erteilen, jmdn. benachrichtigen.” “Bescheid,” in turn, is glossed as “Antwort, Nachricht, Auskunft,” and only in an official setting (“behördlich”) is it equivalent to “Entscheidung” (that is, the pragmatics makes the ‘answer’ authoritative and, hence, the functional equivalent of a ‘judgment’). By this verbal sleight of hand, Patzer moves away from a straightforward notion of ‘judgment’ and offers in its stead a gloss that poses as a synonym but in fact approaches the notion of ‘answer’. This allows him to add, parenthetically: “(wobei [sc. bei ὑποκρίνεσθαι] Anfrage und Bescheid sich auf Träume, Orakel, Wunderzeichen, politische Angebote … o. ä. beziehen kann). Damit ist die Entscheidung für ‘Antworter’ gefallen …” (647).

The foregoing survey makes clear that, when it comes to the original sense of ὑποκρίνεσθαι, defenders of ‘to answer’ are unable to adhere to a strict etymological analysis. These scholars are persuaded that the straightforward ‘to interpret (a message, omen, vel sim.)’ will not do and they labor hard to shore up what appears to them as the sole alternative. But the right etymology follows readily once the correct meaning of κρίνεσθαι is embraced. Then, the import of ὑπό is straightforward. Greek deploys this preverb in contexts that imply decoding submerged meaning or making someone aware of, and bringing to light, thoughts that are otherwise suppressed or below the subject’s awareness. Such is the case, for example, with ὑπόνοια; or, to mention two Homeric examples, with ὑπομιμνήσκω (α 321 ο 3) and ὑποφήτης (Π 235). [43] Archaic literature, including Homer, clearly supports this meaning, as one can readily see from Μ 228 and ο 170 τ 535 555. As noted above, Η 407 and β 111 prove that the meaning ‘to answer’ was already present in Homeric diction. But while the meaning ‘to interpret’ for κρίνεσθαι is unproblematic, and the development from ‘to interpret (an oracle)’ to ‘to answer (a query)’ can be readily envisioned (see below), ‘to answer’ as the original meaning of κρίνεσθαι is impossible and there is no plausible semantic path from ‘to separate or pick’ to ‘to answer’. Realizing this, those who champion ‘to answer’ as the root meaning of ὑποκρίνεσθαι in Homer focus on the fact that the corresponding interpretations are all in reply to questions (sometimes implicit), thus denying that ‘interpretation’ is basic to its meaning and reducing it to a concurrent secondary factor. [44]

‘To interpret’, the acceptation both recommended by the etymology and clearly exampled in four of the six Homeric passages, follows naturally from the revelatory nature of Homeric poetry, which, as argued above, [45] must have been in its origin closely allied to mantic and oracular speech. [46] The meaning ‘to answer (solemnly vel sim.)’ developed diachronically from the manner in which the interpretation was rendered and from the social circumstances that attended this speech-act. Therefore, one must not look for ‘to answer’ in the etymology of ὑποκρίνεσθαι, which can only yield ‘to interpret’, but in the social pragmatics of the interpretive act—in the fact that this interpretation was usually rendered ‘in answer to’ (or ‘as a response to’) a challenge, a request, or a situation that called for a pronouncement or the expression of a viewpoint. It might seem odd at first that ‘to answer’, a verb that is semantically less marked, could derive from the rather more semantically dense ‘to interpret’. But this development can be readily exampled. Spanish uses the verb ‘contestar’ for ‘to answer’, a verb that derives immediately from contestor, which in classical Latin was used narrowly and technically for ‘to call to witness’ or, in the legal expression litem contestari, for ‘to join issue’. [47] It is not right, then, to reduce to ‘to answer’ the contexts that point to ‘to interpret’: not only does this strategy fail to do justice to the text, it is etymologically indefensible. Neither is it right to ignore the contexts that clearly call for the meaning ‘to answer’. We must accept that the semantic development from ‘to interpret’ to ‘to answer’ was already well under way, if not completed, during the poems’ long formative period of recomposition. But instead of trying to derive the two acceptations as parallel synchronic outcomes from a common pool of semantic building blocks, we should recognize that ‘to answer’ derives diachronically from the social pragmatics of ‘to interpret’.

It is time to return to the goal of this section, that is, to accounting for ὑποκριτής as the characteristic label of the actor of Attic drama. I am persuaded that neither ‘to interpret’ nor ‘to answer’ satisfactorily explains this application of the term. One must remember what scholars on all sides agree with: that, whatever its meaning, the label ὑποκριτής must refer to the defining nature of the actor’s doings on stage, at least during the beginning phases of Attic drama. [48] Views that explained it with reference to a secondary facet of his work would not be persuasive. But ‘to answer’ makes the actor subservient to some other dramatic agent: either to the chorus or, as Else argued, to the (implausibly sounding) ‘performing poet-as-non-actor.’ But the back-and-forth suggested by ‘to answer’ hardly seems central enough to the actor qua actor to make this the plausible differentia that called for ὑποκριτής, not to mention that ancient reports tied the historical introduction of the actor to the addition of a tragic prologue and a rhēsis, [49] neither of which seems to have involved the requisite dialog. [50] And there is no historical support for making the introduction of the messenger, and not just the second actor generally, the pivotal stage in the development of drama. This presupposes an inversion of dramatic priority and is too clever by half. ‘To interpret’, on the other hand, suggests that, when the word ὑποκριτής was first applied to the actor in the late sixth and early fifth centuries, the dramatic plot was felt to be so obscure and problematic as to call for the introduction of a figure—the actor—that would offer an ‘interpretation’ or ‘explanation’ of it. This is implausible even if the actor is thought to interpret a divinely predetermined plot, [51] and downright improbable, if one conceived by the poet. [52] To this meaning one may also object that, whereas the prologue can reasonably be thought to set the stage—and, to that extent, to aid the understanding of the audience—it is primarily through the chorus that the poet conveys reaction and reflection. [53] The chorus, not the actor, might be said to carry out a (weak) version of ὑπόκρισις understood not as ‘delivery’ but as ‘interpretation’.

The way out of this impasse, I suggest, is to grant the rhapsode the title ὑποκριτής in its original (sacral) interpretive function, i.e. as the mediating agent of the speech of the Muses and mediating revealer of the will of Zeus (βουλὴ Διός). After centuries of the rhapsode as the preeminent solo archaic performer, ὑποκριτής came to be associated with the pragmatics of his delivery—his ‘stage presence,’ so to speak—and it was emulatively applied to the budding trade of dramatic acting. The thematic kinship between epic and tragedy and the mimetic character of Homeric speeches facilitated this application. In other words, by the late sixth century, the notion of ‘performer’ was preeminent in the rhapsodic use and application of ὑποκριτής, and ὑποκρίνομαι was used simply for ‘to perform’. The original meanings of ‘(inspired) interpreter’ and ‘to interpret (inspired communication)’ could still be activated by an appropriate context (as Plato later proves), but it would not necessarily have been an overriding association in the mind of the average festival-goer. Therefore, the meaning responsible for the reuse of ὑποκριτής to designate the dramatic actor was neither ‘to interpret’ nor ‘to answer’ but simply ‘to perform’.

This view of the matter forecloses attempts, however tempting, to explore the genesis of drama through the meaning of ὑποκριτής. If this is a regrettable loss, embracing it as a fact at least allows us to shed once for all the debilitating implausibilities that burden equally both alternatives, ‘answerer’ and ‘interpreter’. Neither carries conviction, because their indefensible assumptions and untenable implications are not true to the essential nature of drama as a performance genre. By focusing narrowly on its genesis, they presuppose early stages in the art of tragedy in which the defining generic differentiae of drama are missing and the resulting reconstruction cannot be recognized as a dramatic performance. [54] Aristotle’s famous theories notwithstanding, [55] what is drama without the actor? How cogent is it, after all, that the essential function of the actor could be determined by a thought experiment which posits an existing strictly choral genre, to which a new figure is added as ‘answerer’ or ‘expounder’? But even if we embrace the Gedankenexperiment as legitimate and useful, the difficulties that follow in its wake make clear that in either alternative we are eventually faced with a dead end. It is better, then, to admit that we have no sure hold other than the hermeneutic function of the rhapsode as the agent who reveals and expounds the will of Zeus to his audience, and who, as such, is labeled ὁ ῥαψῳδὸς καὶ ὑποκριτής. In this regard, he stands in metapoetic continuity with the epic characters who appear as subjects of interpretive ὑποκρίνεσθαι—the very characters whom he reenacts and re-presents mimetically before his audience. In the nature of the case, the transference of his designation ὑποκριτής to the actor, whose professional practice developed in direct emulation of rhapsodic performance, remains conjectural. But it commends itself to us by accounting best for all the facts while avoiding the debilitating weaknesses of the competing explanations. It builds on the close relationship between the two corresponding performance domains that this book endeavors to establish and fully motivates the designation by reference to what is the indisputable essence of the dramatic art: its on-stage mimetic performance.


[ back ] 1. The earliest Panathenaic amphoras “are dated to slightly before 560 B.C.” (Tiverios 2007:1). The pride of first place, until recently given to the Burgon Amphora (see Beazley 1943:441, with the relevant bibliography conveniently assembled by Moore 1999:53n22), has now been ceded to an amphora by the potter Nikias (MMA 1978.11.13, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; see Moore 1999). The date 560 BC matches closely the ascription of the festival (or its reorganization) to the archon Hippokleides in 566/65 BC. For this ascription and the corresponding date, see Davison 1958:26–29, Bancroft 1979:77–80, Kotsidu 1991:27–28, Neils 1992b:20–21, Kyle 1996:116–123 (notes at 132–136), Slings 2000:69n38, and Shear 2001:507–515. On Panathenaic amphoras, see the items cited above and Tiverios 1974, Beazley 1986:81–92, Valavanis 1987, Kotsidu 1991:90–103, Neils 1992c, Hamilton 1992, and Bentz 1998.

[ back ] 2. See above, p. 368.

[ back ] 3. A comparative study of the engagement of Greek tyrants with art and of their cultural programs would support the notion that both Peisistratos and his sons must have put their stamp on the major Athenian festivals. Cf. Shapiro 1989, Angiolillo 1997:125, Shapiro 1998, and Sancisi-Weerdenburg 2000 passim.

[ back ] 4. That ὑποκριτής probably existed before it was applied to the tragic actor is often acknowledged. Thus, for example, after considering the possibility that Aristophanes coined the agent noun as a “back-formation” (his term) from the surviving use of ὑποκρίνεσθαι in the sense of ‘expounder, interpreter of oracles’, Else (1959:101–102n93) writes: “It is simpler to suppose that ὑποκριτής already existed in the sixth century, and that its not being found in any extant text of that date is accidental. (As was pointed out above, it will not go into hexameters.)” Its prior existence as ‘performer’ and ‘interpreter’ is suggested by its occurrence during the Second Sophistic (see Zucchelli 1962:26–27), arguably, a return or reappearance of an old usage under the conservative Atticizing impulse of this cultural movement. See also Timaios Lexicon Platonicum ο 308 (Bonelli): Ὁμηρίδαι: οἱ τὰ Ὁμήρου ὑποκρινόμενοι (Bonelli 2007:160; cf. 479–480); and ρ 374 (Bonelli): ῥαψῳδοί: ὑποκριταὶ ἐπῶν (Bonelli 2007:166; cf. 544); also Pollux 5.154: ἑρμηνεὺς καὶ ἑρμηνευτής, γλῶτταν συμβάλλων, γλῶτταν ὑποκρινόμενος, γλώττης ὑποκριτής; 7.188.4: τερῶν ὑποκριταί; and 7.188.8–9: ὀνειράτων ὑποκριταί. Patzer’s attempt (1970:643n1) to dismiss the witness of Pollux 5.154 as an “artificial hyper-Atticism” strikes me as a feeble evasion.

[ back ] 5. I cannot accept as sound in the main Maslov’s views of the genesis and semantic development of the term ἀοιδός (Maslov 2009). I hope to evaluate his stimulating diachronic study in a future work.

[ back ] 6. Even West, who discounts the traditional chronology of Thespis with radical skepticism, acquiesces “in the ancient belief that his activity began under Peisistratus” (West 1989:254). Immaterial to my argument is whether the City Dionysia goes back at least to the times of Peisistratos (so Pickard-Cambridge 1988:57–58, Shapiro 1989:86, and others) or else to the inception of Athenian democracy (so Connor 1989, with the approval of Del Rincón Sánchez 2007:103). The material point is that the definitive development of tragedy as a performance genre would have happened during the latter half of the sixth century BC. Connor himself suggests that Thespis may have performed his plays in the rural Dionysia (Connor 1989:13).

[ back ] 7. In the Timaios 71d–72b (see above, p. 220), not specifically in connection with rhapsodes, but more broadly in regard to the original respective meanings of ὑποκριτής and ὑποκρίνομαι as ‘interpreter of’, or ‘to interpret’, ‘divine revelation’.

[ back ] 8. As I have shown above, p. 299, the Platonic juxtaposition ῥαψῳδός καὶ ὑποκριτής (Iōn 532d7 and 536a1) not only draws our attention to the very old connection between epic and oracular or mantic poetry, but with it Sokrates also intends to tease Ion for his overly histrionic delivery and a ‘Homeric exegesis’ devoid of interpretive insight. On this rhapsodic exegesis of Homeric poetry, see above, p. 299 (with pp. 275 and 289).

[ back ] 9. ἀποκρίνομαι, of course, was not coined de novo. The only innovation was to ascribe the acceptation ‘to reply’ to the middle voice of ἀποκρίνω, a verb long before in use for ‘to separate’. Theognis 1167 instances ἀπόκρισις with the meaning ‘answer’, but given the nature of the Theognidea this could hardly serve to date the acceptation even if the authenticity of the reading went unchallenged. Otherwise, both ἀπόκρισις and ἀποκρίνομαι as ‘answer’ and ‘to answer’ appear occasionally in Herodotos, where they are often doubted. Nothing prevents the view that the historian picked up, and occasionally resorted to, Attic turns of expression. At any rate, his date is late enough not to pose any difficulties to my argument. The earliest occurrences of ἀποκρίνω in a voice other than the active are the aorist passive ἀποκρινθέντε in Ε 12 and ἀποκριθείς in Arkhilokhos 185.3 (those in Anaximander are all from testimonia). As is well known, the aorist passive was not ordinarily used in good fifth- and fourth-century Attic for ‘to answer’. This later practice was condemned by Phrynikhos (Eklogē no. 78 Fischer s.v. ἀποκριθῆναι, on which see TGL 1.2.1495–1496 s.v. ἀποκρίνω and Lobeck 1820:108) and the only exceptions are Pherekrates fr. 51 K-A (PCG Ⅶ.129) and [Plato] Alkibiadēs 2.149a (Xenophon Anabasis 2.1.22 is dubious). Therefore, the interference of the new acceptation ‘to reply’ with the old ‘to separate’ must have been minimal. Curtius’s suggestion (1866:153) that ὑπόκρισις connoted “die rasche Folge der Antwort auf die Frage,” while ἀπόκρισις pointed to “die Abwechslung der redenden” may help to rationalize a posteriori the logic of ascribing to the latter the sense of the former, but it is unlikely to have played any part in it.

[ back ] 10. That ὑποκρίνεσθαι is already used for ‘to answer’ in the Homeric poems has been disputed, but it is hard to deny it at Η 407 and β 111, although admittedly neither passage presents a straightforward answer in reply to a specific question. But ‘to answer’, in Greek as much as in English, is commonly and unproblematically used to denote a verbal reaction to a given situation, even in the absence of a specific question. The pragmatics of ‘to answer’ cannot be tied narrowly to a corresponding question. So, the OED s.v. Ⅱ.12: “To speak or write in reply to a question, remark, or any expression of desire or opinion; to reply, respond, rejoin; also To reply to an implied question, to solve a doubt” (cf. Else 1959:85, Patzer 1970:642, and Ley 1983:20–21). Proponents of the evolutionary model of textual fixation have no difficulty accepting that Homeric epic should attest to this later semantic development. At the same time, one must recognize the formal nature of the corresponding ‘replies’: “[T]he verb is used with emphasis and a certain formality. … [I]t is the official or acknowledged head of the group who speaks, and he uses ὑποκρίνεσθαι to describe the decisive reaction of the group to the proposal” (Else 1959:82; cf. Patzer 1970:642 and Ley 1983:21). Hence the LfgE s.v. κρίνω Ⅱ.3a: “give a response conveying one’s decision (choice).” The unmarked Homeric verb for ‘to reply’ was (ἀπ)αμείβεσθαι (as Patzer 1970:642 remarks, “eigentlich nur die Wechselrede … bezeichnend”).

[ back ] 11. A search of the extant literature only turns up five instances of ἀποκριτής, three of them in etymologica that explain ὑποκριτής as ‘answerer’ from the perspective of koinē usage: the Lexicon of Apollonius Sophista (p. 160, line 3 Bekker), the Etymologicum of Orion (column 158, lines 3–4 Sturz), and the Etymologicum Magnum 782.48 s.v. ὑποκριτής (col. 2190 Gaisford).

[ back ] 12. Koller 1957:103 makes a similar point.

[ back ] 13. Curtius (1866:150) realizes this and argues, doubtless with good reason, that old Attic shared the Ionic usage of ὑποκρίνομαι. But he cannot account for the rise of its competitor ἀποκρίνομαι and its successful displacement of ὑποκρίνομαι in the acceptation ‘to answer’. It is not enough to claim that speakers of old Attic must have used ὑποκρίνομαι and that the older diction is occasionally reflected in more recent writings (he points to Thoukydides 7.44.5, which the OCT emends to ἀποκρίνοιντο without ms. warrant). This by itself neither accounts for the origin and eventual absolute dominance of ἀποκρίνομαι as ‘to answer’, nor does it explain why (ex hypothesi) the actor should have been characterized as an ‘answerer’. My reconstruction, on the other hand, predicts precisely such a state of affairs. IG I3 533 (dated to ca. 490–80? by the editors) is of little probatory value, so long as the influence of epic diction cannot be precluded (cf. Koller 1957:101n3 and Lesky 1956:473).

[ back ] 14. That various derivatives of the same root—in this case the verb ὑποκρίνεσθαι, the agent noun ὑποκριτής, and the nomen actionis ὑπόκρισις—may be differentially attached to different semantic spheres is well illustrated by the rhetorical use of the same words: whereas ὑποκρίνεσθαι and ὑπόκρισις were adopted to refer to oratorical delivery, the agent noun was not and remained instead specific to the dramatic actor. Cf. Else 1959:80n25 (with Koller 1957:104 on ὑπόκρισις).

[ back ] 15. The suggestion that it was in reaction to the use of ὑποκριτής as the label for the actor that ἀποκρίνομαι was substituted for ὑποκρίνομαι in its acceptation ‘to answer’ was put forward by Else (1959:101) with his accustomed sagacity (cf. Zucchelli 1962:25n50, with bibliography). Patzer (1970:647n1) calls this conjecture “ansprechend.”

[ back ] 16. This view is held by the article on κρίνω in the LfgE, which views both meanings as mutually independent and equally valid: “It is not at all clear that either of the two senses below is a development of the other … ; both senses may be independently derived from basic meaning” (s.v. Ⅱ.3, column 1545).

[ back ] 17. So Zucchelli 1962, whose treatment is generally accurate, but who writes in regard to the four Homeric loci Μ 228 ο 170 τ 535 555 which instance ὑποκρίνεσθαι in connection with ‘interpretation’: “Accanto all’uso specifico testé considerato, ὑποκρίνεσθαι poté averne anche uno più ampio e generale—certamente non secondario rispetto al primo—poté indicare cioè il ‘pronunciarsi su una questione qualsiasi’” (12, my emphasis). In this, he follows Lesky (1956:472–473), who is forced to use the word “Erklärung” to gloss the peculiar ‘interpretation’ that, in the interest of a uniform (‘synchronic’) Homeric acceptation for ὑποκρίνεσθαι, he wants to find in Η 407 and β 111. I do not think that Hymn to Apollo 171 helps to advance the debate, because those who think that the text of the Homeric poems was already fixed in the early archaic period also date the hymn to a later time, by which ὑποκρίνεσθαι might have acquired the acceptation ‘to answer’ irrespective of its original meaning. All the same, because its context is explicitly one of performance, the metapoetic implications of this passage are rich: the words from the blind bard from Khios, superficially ‘all of you, reply very well’, may be read metapoetically as ‘all of you, perform very well (the answer)’. This insight guides Nagy (2003:21–38) in his analysis of ὑποκρίνεσθαι as “responding by way of performing.” (εὖ μάλα often goes untranslated or μάλα is notionally assigned to reinforce πᾶσαι; but πᾶσαι does not admit of degrees and the regular epic order when μάλα intensifies εὖ is εὖ μάλα—cf. Ψ 761 δ 96—which qualifies the verb ὑποκρίνασθαι; in Theokritos 25.19, εὖ μάλα goes with the immediately preceding φαίνεται, not with the following πᾶσι; cf. Theokritos 24.94 with Gow 1950–1952:2.430 ad loc.) We have in the Hymn to Apollo the overlapping occurrence of the ordinary Ionic meaning ‘to answer’ and the rhapsodic technical meaning ‘to perform’ in a context that evokes in modified fashion an old choral mode of epic performance.

[ back ] 18. So Zucchelli 1962: “[D]a questi passi (ma non più che dai precedenti) risulta chiaro come poté avvenire l’ulteriore sviluppo semantico di ὑποκρίνεσθαι, il suo passaggio cioè dal significato di ‘pronunciarsi’ a quello di ‘rispondere’” (14).

[ back ] 19. Else 1959: “[O]ne important function of ὑπό in early Greek … was to express psychological nearness or exposure, the experience of being within immediate range of a person or object … that was felt as having power to menace or protect. It would follow that a verb ‘compounded with ὑπό’ … will tend to denote a reaction or response to such a situation” (90, his emphasis).

[ back ] 20. Curtius 1866: “ὑποκρίνεσθαι wäre also gleichsam subcertare oder in certamine succedere. … [B]ei dem dramatischen ὑποκριτής ist … an die Ablösung des Chors durch den ihn aufnehmenden Schauspieler zu denken” (153, his emphasis).

[ back ] 21. Schwyzer GG Ⅱ.525: “hom. ὑπο-κρίνομαι (urspr. ‘seine Meinung aus der Herzenstiefe, aus der Verborgenheit hervorgeben’; vgl. att. ἀπο-κρίνομαι!).” He is followed by Lesky 1956:472.

[ back ] 22. Koller 1957: “Die Erklärung ist vielmehr in einer Gruppe von Verben zu suchen, in denen das ὑπό- ‘Begleitung’ und ‘Vertretung’ ausdrückt …” (102).

[ back ] 23. “ὑποκρίνεσθαι … ist ‘unterlegen, daruntergeben, an die Hand geben’, im Sinne der Präposition bei ὑποτιθέναι und submittere, die auf ein ‘Positives, Unterstützendes’ zielt, das ‘an die Hand geben’ wird” (Schreckenberg 1960:119n79). Also: “Zunächst ergibt sich als Grundbedeutung des Wortes: etwas Geschautem, Gesehenem, das der deutenden Erklärung bedarf, mit Worten einen Sinn unterlegen” (112).

[ back ] 24. Curtius provides a rare and telling exception. See below for the details.

[ back ] 25. Curtius (1866:148) opens his article by stating forcefully the agreement of ancient sources, starting with Alexandrian scholarship down to Byzantine times, that the dramatic actor was ὁ ἀποκρινόμενος πρὸς τὸν χορόν, i.e. a “Respondent” of the chorus (149). Cf. Heimsoeth 1873, on which see Sommerbrodt 1876b.

[ back ] 26. Cf. Frisk 1973–1979, Chantraine 1999, and Beekes 2010 s.v. κρίνω. Note, in particular, the Celtic cognate go-grynu ‘to sift’ < *upo-kri-nō, on which see Pedersen 1909–1913:1.124 §77.

[ back ] 27. So, for example, Koller (1957:102n4) motivates the etymology of the related ἀποκρίνεσθαι as follows: “ἀποκρίνεσθαι als Verbum dicendi, ‘antworten’, muß von der Bedeutung ‘für sich wählen, aussondern’ … abgeleitet werden, etwa nach einer Situation, wie sie Platon im Staat 337c bietet: Thrasymachos muß sich entscheiden aus den vorgelegten Möglichkeiten 2 × 6, 3 × 4, 6 × 2 oder 4 × 3 die Zahl 12 zu bestimmen ὧν ἐγὼ ἀπεῖπον, τούτων τι ἀποκρινῇ ‘Du triffst daraus eine Wahl für dich’—diese Wahl, in Worten ausgedrückt, ist eben die ‘Antwort’.” Note in Koller’s psychological reconstruction the fully-formed nature of the possible answers: they are laid before the answerer, ready for his choice. Another attempt at a motivation, similarly unconvincing, is Sommerbrodt’s: “[Homer gebraucht] statt ἀποκρίνεσθαι in der Bedeutung ‘antworten’, die aus ihr naturgemäß hervorgeht, (da antworten nichts anderes ist, als die Rede des Einen von der des Andern trennen …) das anschaulichere ἀμείβεσθαι …” (Sommerbrodt 1867:513).

[ back ] 28. See below, p. 663 n. 48, where I quote his words to this effect.

[ back ] 29. Schreckenberg (1960:116–119) assigns the ἄγγελος a similar significance in the development of tragedy, although he does not, like Else, attempt to motivate the etymology of ὑποκριτής as ‘one who answers the τραγῳδός’ but as the original actor who “mit seiner ‘Ansage’ der getanzten Schau durch Worte die stoffliche Grundlage unterlegt und damit zugleich das zu Sehende ‘deutet’” (114). Therefore, “ἄγγελος und ὑποκριτής sind ja ursprünglich identisch und stehen erst in einer entwickelteren Form des Dramas nebeneinander” (117). This last sentiment is at least as old as Hornung 1869:4 (cf. Fischl 1910:5, who declared it a “pervulgata … opinio”).

[ back ] 30. See Pickard-Cambridge 1988:129–132.

[ back ] 31. For details, see Pickard-Cambridge 1988:72–73, 102, and 126. Cf. Capps 1943:2–3.

[ back ] 32. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the figure of the tragic messenger and his dramatic potential. See De Jong 1991, Green 1996, Green 1999, Barrett 2002, and Dickin 2009. The role is often defined functionally to embrace characters who are not explicitly cast by the manuscripts as ἄγγελοι. Although few would dispute the possibilities open to him, the significance of his contribution to the action (cf. Euboulos fr. 134 K-A and Stephanēs 1988 no. 1861 on the messenger extraordinaire Nikostratos), and the consummate artistry of some of the surviving messenger speeches, this is far from commending, much less requiring, that we ascribe to him the fundamental structural role and central historical import that Else argues for. For older treatments of the messenger, see Hornung 1869, Rassow 1883, Fischl 1910, Bassi 1899, Di Gregorio 1967, and Bremer 1976.

[ back ] 33. ἐξάγγελος was also used, the difference turning on whether his report was from within to those outside or from outside to those within. The verb ἀπαγγέλειν denoted his reporting (cf. Bassi 1899:51n4). Some of the ancient testimonia about the messenger are quoted by Di Gregorio 1967:3–6.

[ back ] 34. This is, of course, the primary acceptation of the tragic ἄγγελος, although the label is conventionally translated ‘messenger’. Not all tragic ‘reporters’ are ‘messengers’, but all ‘messengers’ are ‘reporters’. Else (1959:104–105) himself details instances (e.g. in Aiskhylos Seven against Thebes) in which the messenger “blurts out his news without waiting to be asked.” The scholar excuses this on the grounds that “the situation is many times more immediate and urgent.” And he adds, tellingly: “Thus the specific use of the Messenger varies strikingly—and creatively—from play to play; but his generic function … remains constant, namely to bring into the play a report of significant action that has taken place off-stage” (105, my emphasis). It is still possible, if hardly compelling, to argue that no one thought of the term ‘reporter’, ἄγγελος, for the actor, only of ὑποκριτής in the (alleged) sense ‘answerer’. And that, once the circumstances had unfolded according to Else’s speculations and his label had been made common to all actors (after the poet-τραγῳδός ceased performing), nevertheless the function of the messenger was still felt to be distinct and prominent enough to call for a separate label peculiar to him. The logic of the argument is paradoxical: it first assumes that the messenger was not so markedly distinct that his denomination ‘answerer’ could not be shared promiscuously with all other actors (including the one whom he characteristically answered!); but that, once the label was common to all, the need for an individuating designation was felt again.

[ back ] 35. See Else 1945 esp. 6, with criticism from Lesky 1956:471–472, Pickard-Cambridge 1988:130–132, and Zucchelli 1962:35–36. There is a more natural way than Else’s to dispel the appearance of contradiction between Aristotle Poetics 1449a15–17 (καὶ τό τε τῶν ὑποκριτῶν πλῆθος ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς δύο πρῶτος Αἰσχύλος ἤγαγε) and Themistios Oration 26.316d (καὶ οὐ προσέχομεν Ἀριστοτέλει ὅτι τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ὁ χορὸς εἰσιὼν ᾖδεν εἰς τοὺς θεούς, Θέσπις δὲ πρόλογόν τε καὶ ῥῆσιν ἐξεῦρεν, Αἰσχύλος δὲ τρίτον ὑποκριτὰς καὶ ὀκρίβαντας, τὰ δὲ πλείω τούτων Σοφοκλέους ἀπηλαύσαμεν καὶ Εὐριπίδου;). In quoting the latter I have adopted the reading of the codex Mediolanensis (“Ambros. gr. J 22 sup.” in Schenkl’s Teubner 1971 edition; cf. Schenkl 1898), τρίτον ὑποκριτάς, for what is otherwise transmitted as τρίτον ὑποκριτήν (on the choice of reading see Else 1939:141n8 and Lesky 1956:471). Else’s approach is to harmonize by reinterpreting the passage in the Poetics. There, Aristotle seeks to list the μεταβολαί (1449a14) that led the number of actors to the final canonical three. It is clear that he subsumes the introduction of the first actor under his summary of the invention of drama. Perhaps because his genetic theories, which traced tragedy back to the dithyramb, for once in the intellectual history of ancient Greece benefit from drawing the focus away from a πρῶτος εὑρετής, he does not mention Thespis and there is no natural occasion for him to refer explicitly to Thespis’ introduction of the ‘first actor’. Thus silent, by default the passage hints at the ἐξάρχων as the primitive actor (even if, as to form, as Lesky 1929:12–13 observes, his ‘dialog’ with the chorus cannot have been like the “Sprechvers” of Thespis’ actor but a variant of choral song; cf. Schreckenberg 1960:120–121 and Zucchelli 1962:34). Lesky (1929:8–9) may be right to surmise from Poetics 1449b4–5 (with 1449a37–38) that Aristotle admits “deutlich genug” to knowing about Thespis and his prologue, despite his earlier silence, and that Themistios must have got his information from the philosopher’s Περὶ ποιητῶν. At any rate, an unforced reading of τό τε τῶν ὑποκριτῶν πλῆθος ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς δύο πρῶτος Αἰσχύλος ἤγαγε will not support Else’s contention that Aiskhylos is here said to have introduced both the first and the second ὑποκριταί and not, as it is usually understood, to have inherited one actor and added a second (Else 1945:6). Else’s construal clearly contradicts the statement about Sophokles that follows (cf. Else 1957a:167–168 ad loc.) or else requires the impossible view that here alone Aristotle used “ὑποκριτής in its special old sense [of ‘answerer’ to the τραγῳδός]” (Else 1945:6n24). A better harmonizing strategy is to construe Themistios as saying that Aiskhylos introduced more than one actor—hence ‘actors’. With Usener, one may then explicitly add δύο or supply it implicitly (cf. Lesky 1929:11 and Else 1945:2n8). Themistios’ summary would be reporting that Thespis invented the πρόλογος and the ῥῆσις, and hence also the first actor, whereas Aiskhylos was the first to introduce a plurality of actors into his plays. If we follow Else (1959:102–103) in considering the addition of the second actor “the stroke of genius by which tragedy was really created as drama”—that is, when drama came into its own as a genre—we will not be surprised at Themistios’ use of ἐξεῦρεν in this connection, rather than εἰσήνεγκε vel sim. This very interpretation was also originally espoused by Else: “From the point of view of true drama, then, the first actor is indispensable, to be sure, but fulfillment comes only with the second. On the other hand, the addition of a third actor … is a detail” (Else 1939:153); to which he adds: “In other words, it need not have mattered so much to Aristotle just who added the third actor. I should interpret the remark quoted by Themistius … in this spirit. Aeschylus brought in more than one actor, and that is what matters, not their total number” (153n51).

[ back ] 36. Curtius 1866 does not look closely at the Homeric loci (but cf. Curtius 1868:256–257). He merely assumes that ὑποκρίνεσθαι is a synonym of the more common ἀπαμείβεσθαι and lists its occurrences (leaving out τ 535 555 and including Hymn to Apollo 171).

[ back ] 37. I find this idea productive in the realm of rhapsodic performance and its allied terms. See above, p. 388 n. 198.

[ back ] 38. Curtius 1866: “κρίνεσθαι verhält sich zum activen κρίνειν ähnlich wie certare zu cernere” (153).

[ back ] 39. Sommerbrodt (1867:511) wonders, “Mit wem certirt der Schauspieler?” Obviously, not with the chorus. Nor can it be argued that a competition among actors is in view here, for his label is supposed to articulate a relationship internal to one play, and a plurality of actors for a single play was a later development. “Oder ist unter dem certamen das Drama selbst gemeint? Ein Drama an sich ist kein certamen, sondern wird erst einem andern gegenüber zu einem certamen” (511). Sommerbrodt also wonders why the chorus should not have been called ὑποκριτής, since it succeeds the actor as much as the actor succeeds it (512). Curtius (1868:259–260) faces these objections simply by reaffirming his views and buttressing them with an appeal to the deeply competitive character of Hellenic culture.

[ back ] 40. In his reply to Sommerbrodt 1867, Curtius (1868:258) draws attention to various apparent semantic disjunctions: between ὑπηρέτης and ἐρέτης; διοικητής and οἰκητής; ἀνάβασις, ἔκβασις, πρόβασις and βάσις; and διαίρεσις, καθαίρεσις, συναίρεσις and αἵρεσις. This list is designed to ease our acceptance of his meaning ‘answerer’ for ὑποκριτής, a meaning that seems impossible to relate to κριτής. I for one have no difficulty relating the simple and compound nouns in the alleged comparanda without feeling that any violence is thereby done to the language. An obvious metaphor ties the first two; the natural meaning of οἰκέω joins the next pair; and I do not see what makes either triad respectively so far from βάσις or αἵρεσις. Nothing of the sort may be said of κριτής and ὑποκριτής or of κρίνεσθαι and ὑποκρίνεσθαι. See Sommerbrodt 1875 for a final rejoinder.

[ back ] 41. This is the case, at any rate, with “Sacherkenntnis” and “Überlegung,” if not necessarily with “Verantwortung.”

[ back ] 42. All definitions and glosses are from the 1980 edition of the Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch, published by Mosaik Verlag.

[ back ] 43. On ὑποφήτης see González 2000. Patzer (1970:645) insists that ὑπό in ὑπομιμνήσκω cannot denote “aus der Tiefe empor” because this preposition is never used in the concrete, spatial sense to indicate this manner of motion (i.e. ‘from the depths upward’). Patzer trains his gun squarely at Schwyzer’s definition of ὑποκρίνομαι: “urspr. ‘seine Meinung aus der Herzenstiefe, aus der Verborgenheit hervorgeben’” (GG Ⅱ.525). There is no need, however, for the motion ‘up from under’. It is sufficient that ὑπό indicate the sphere in which the ‘separating’ or ‘sifting’ takes place: ‘under or below (ordinary reach or perception)’. This is surely the import of ὑπό in ὑπόνοια—an understanding or insight that is to be sought below the superficial meaning of the text, by thinking or reflecting ‘under’ its surface, just as παρανοέω denotes thinking that takes the subject either beyond, or else aside (and therefore away) from, what is sound, i.e. ‘to think amiss’. I would also be ready to take ὑπό in the representative sense advocated by Koller (1957:102), “an Stelle eines andern entscheiden, für einen andern deuten,” so long as the ὑποκριτής is understood to stand not just for the subject who benefits from his interpretation. If so construed, ὑπό would nicely encapsulate the mediating position of rhapsodic ἑρμηνεία. Koller’s ‘representation’ is very different from the notion of ‘mimetic substitution’ advocated by Sommerbrodt (1867:515), for whom ὑποκριτής denotes the actor’s speaking ‘for another’ or ‘as another’. Such performative reenactment—the assumption of another’s identity—cannot reasonably pose as the equivalent of ‘to explain’, the acceptation of κρίνεσθαι that he rightly embraces. At any rate, it should be obvious from this discussion that determining fine semantic shades of preverbs and prepositions is difficult and not always useful, precisely because their sense is often contextually underdetermined and one may justify the meaning of the overall expression in divergent, but seemingly equally valid, ways. I doubt that all, or even most, native speakers, if pressed, would have agreed on how the discrete building blocks add up semantically to the final product. So, for example, I cannot rule out Patzer’s view of ὑπομιμνήσκω, which takes ὑπό as “unterstützend” and the verb as “der Erinnerung von jd. aufhelfen” (Patzer 1970:645n1). But, by the same token, neither could he legitimately dismiss ‘to bring up to someone’s awareness something that has grown latent’. A bare statement of his competing proposal will not do to dismiss the alternative, and I can see no justification (other than Eustathios’ unperceptive comment ad ο 3, Stallbaum 1825–1826:2.89.31–32) for his claim that ἀναμιμνήσκω provides a semantic parallel. LfgE s.v. μιμνήσκω Ⅱ guardedly states “ὑπο-: bes[timmter] Aspekt unklar” (column 220). Moreover, pace Patzer, there are undeniable instances of concrete, spatial motion where ὑπό denotes, if not ‘up from under’, at least the comparable ‘out from under’. So, for example, ὑπαΐσσω with the genitive βωμοῦ at Β 310: βωμοῦ ὑπαΐξας πρός ῥα πλατάνιστον ὄρουσεν, ‘[the serpent] darted from under the altar and rushed toward the plane tree’ (LfgE s.v. ἀΐσσω O offers the gloss “unter etwas hervor (c. gen.) bewegen”). And ὑπόδρα < *ὑπό-δρακ < *upo-dr̥ḱ (Beekes 2010:2.1536 s.v.) makes no reference to eyebrows (it is not ‘looking from under one’s eyebrows’) but simply means ‘to have a glance from below’ or ‘to look out from below’. Just as looking from above connotes arrogance, so here looking from below connotes disapproval and anger. Other examples may be found in Schwyzer GG Ⅱ.524–525.

[ back ] 44. Thus, Else writes in regard to ο 170 that, although the reply is also a prophecy that expounds a sign, “the mental labor involved in the judgment (νοήσας, said of Menelaus) is clearly distinguished from the rendering of it (ὑποκρίνασθαι)” (Else 1959:82); and concerning Μ 228: “The ‘interpretation’ that a diviner might give would be a statement likewise. Moreover it would be a response, and a responsible one (verbindlich); for if it were given it would be given in an official context, in reply to a question put to him on behalf of the people” (83–84, his emphasis). To this, Ley (1983:21) adds: “Taken together, these close analyses are sufficient to remove Lesky’s principal objection to the meaning ‘answer’. Even if we cannot speak of a direct question to which a reply is given, the context makes clear that in each case an answer is given in response to a demand.”

[ back ] 45. In chapter 8, pp. 219ff.

[ back ] 46. This very fact effectively disposes of Patzer’s objection, often repeated, to the meaning ‘to interpret’ on the grounds that, where it occurs, it is only in the context of dreams, oracles, and omens (“Träume, Orakel und Vorzeichen,” Patzer 1970:650). Just as Patzer does not argue for an unmarked sense of ‘to answer’, neither am I proposing a broad and unrestricted sense of ‘to explain’, as if one should expect ὑποκρίνεσθαι in the context of Alexandrian philology. It is worth remarking in connection with mantic and oracular speech that Schwyzer’s definition of ὑποκρίνεσθαι—‘seine Meinung aus der Herzenstiefe, aus der Verborgenheit hervorgeben’ (GG Ⅱ.525)—has been unfairly pressed to imply an altered state of mind that the Swiss scholar never intended and the evidence will not support. So Else (1959:84) observes that “the problem, though it may be posed by a dream or omen and require expert judgment, is never a metaphysical or theological problem but always a perfectly concrete and practical one”; and he adds that “[n]owhere have we found a hint of trance or deep meditation, of an interpretation (‘Deutung’) arising out of the depths of the soul. Nowhere did the situation have this oracular or mystical character” (85). Now, I do not embrace Schwyzer’s formulation, neither its focus on “Meinung”—which suggests subjective opinion rather than objective explanation—nor its reference to “the depths of the heart,” because mantic interpretation does not regard something that springs solely from the heart of the seer but ‘real-world’ σήματα like oracles, dreams, and omens. Applied to the context of epic performance, as ὑποκριτής of the will of Zeus the rhapsode regards the real world too, reenacting before his audience the defining past, making the present intelligible to them, and establishing the framework in which they are to construe the course of future events. In other words, he is the cultural agent through whose performative authority the worldview of the audience is shaped and divinely sanctioned. The message that the rhapsode’s ‘interpretation’ embodies is the very speech of the Muses, a message that does not spring forth from his heart as his own. It is their inspiration that occasions his mediatory hermēneia. To refer merely to “the depths of the heart” unhelpfully suggests the interpreter as the sole source of his ὑπόκρισις. I have, on the other hand, no problem with the formulation “to bring forth out of concealment,” so long as the object of the verbal action is not envisioned simply as one’s personal opinion. Drawing attention to Else’s less than fair reading of Schwyzer, Zucchelli (1962:17n26) observes that a rejection of symbolic or metaphysical meaning does not preclude “che si possa parlare di penetrazione delle cose divine da parte degli interpreti (θεοπρόποι appunto!).”

[ back ] 47. OLD s.v. Cf. the English ‘to contest’. The simplex testor was used more often. Its acceptations were ‘to invoke’, ‘to appeal to’, ‘to entreat’, ‘to affirm solemnly’, ‘to certify’, ‘to attest’, ‘to give evidence of’, and ‘to make a will in the presence of witnesses’ (see the OLD s.v.). These meanings too seem far from the semantically simpler ‘to answer’.

[ back ] 48. Else 1959: “The crux of the matter is that ὑποκριτής, with its agent suffix, implies a function, not a passing activity: not simply that the bearer of that title happened on occasion to answer a question, but that it was the essence and nature of his role to answer questions: in short, that he was characteristically and consistently—vom Fach—an answerer” (102, his emphasis).

[ back ] 49. This follows from the joint testimony of Themistios Oration 26.316d and Diogenes Laertios 3.56. Cf. Pickard-Cambridge 1988:130–131 and Lesky 1956:470 and 1983:28.

[ back ] 50. Zucchelli 1962: “[L]’esistenza del prologo dinanzi ai canti corali e alle rheseis ci vieta di vedere nell’attore un risponditore al coro, giacché una tale denominazione egli avrebbe smentito proprio al suo primo apparire davanti al pubblico” (34); “Le rheseis e il prologo originari dovettero dunque aver forma in sé conclusa, essere cioè principalmente dei monologhi di carattere espositivo” (35). Else (1945:4) admits, as he must, that the prologue could not have been a reply to the chorus, but he leaves open whether the ῥῆσις was. Rudberg (1947:15) wonders if the latter may have been “Stichomythie.” Cf. also the attempt by Patzer 1970:651 to dispose of this difficulty.

[ back ] 51. Cf. Else 1959:76 and Zucchelli 1962:38.

[ back ] 52. Cf. Zucchelli 1962:36–37. To argue that ὑποκρίνεσθαι means ‘to interpret’ and yet conceive of this ‘interpretation’ in the sense of ‘performance’—i.e. according to our modern expression ‘to interpret (a play or a role)’—amounts to ignoring the etymology of κρίνω and letting the modern sense beguile our critical judgment. For, as Patzer (1970:650) rightly observes, “κρι- ‘entscheiden’ [bezeichnet] immer einen intellektuellen Akt.” Hence, etymology cannot yield in one step the final “schauspielerisch agieren,” i.e. it cannot lead “zur bloßen Ausdruckskunst des Schauspielers.” Patzer therefore suggests that Zucchelli may have been inadvertently misled by the Italian sense of ‘interpretare’, “das sowohl auf das ‘Deuten’ von Träumen, wie auf das philologische ‘Erklären’ und auch die künstlerische ‘Darstellung’ gehen kann” (1970:650).

[ back ] 53. Else 1959: “Finally, so far as interpretation of the myths appears in Aeschylean tragedy, it is more often put in the mouth of the chorus than of the actor” (78). Cf. Zucchelli 1962:39.

[ back ] 54. Fischl 1910: “Nihilominus plane absurdum est statum quendam tragoediae ratiocinando fingere, cui dramaticum elementum prorsus defuerit. Quod quidem faciunt illi, qui Thespidem anno 534 primum actorem invenisse eumque choro dithyrambico addidisse putant ita, ut actor aliquid narraret et inter narrationes eius chorus cantaret. Talis tragoedia narrativa nusquam exstat nisi in quorundam virorum doctorum mente” (6).

[ back ] 55. Curtius (1866:149) suggests that the practice of glossing the dramatic ὑποκριτής as ‘one who answers the chorus’ must go back to peripatetic circles, perhaps even to Aristotle himself.