Ritual and Performativity: The Chorus in Old Comedy

  Bierl, Anton. 2009. Ritual and Performativity: The Chorus in Old Comedy. Hellenic Studies Series 20. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Bierl.Ritual_and_Performativity.2009.

Introduction. The Choral Dance and Song as Ritual Action: A New Perspective

Introductory Thoughts, Performativity, and the Twofold Composition of the Chorus

To the extent that any kind of agreement can be attained in the irresolvable dispute about the origin of drama, this much is clear: tragedy as well as comedy developed out of choral and for the most part cultic festivities. [1] On these grounds alone the chorus forms the central element in the Gesamtkunstwerk of ancient drama. Among other things numerous technical expressions relating to production and performance prove this. For instance, when a poet applied to compete in the following year’s dramatic contest (agôn), in the official language of the Athenian polis he did not present a proposal for a play named {1|2} X, but “requested a chorus” (χορὸν ᾔτησεν) for this play, which he would either “receive” (χορὸν ἔλαβεν) or not. [2] A wealthy private citizen in his capacity as khorêgos had to shoulder as a state “liturgy” the enormous costs of outfitting (masks, costumes), provisioning, and maintaining actors, extras, musicians, and chorus members, which included daily wages in compensation for income lost during the long rehearsal period. This type of “chorus management” in turn brought the individual, drawn mostly from the aristocracy, a considerable measure of prestige among his politically equal fellow-citizens in the democratic polis. The numerous choruses for dithyrambs, satyr plays, comedies, and tragedies constituted a traditional institution of training (παιδεία) for young men, retained from the archaic period. John J. Winkler goes so far as to say that he sees in these choruses remnants of initiation practices of a type common in tribal societies. [3] Choruses were so important for the continued existence of the city of Athens that a complex set of laws relating to them was enacted. [4]

Despite this fact, it must be admitted that the many choral songs of Attic drama remain peculiarly strange to today’s recipients. For, as is well known, over the long road of written transmission only the text has remained intact, while all further semiotic performative levels of this multimedia spectacle—the melody, the musical accompaniment, the dance-steps associated with it, the entire complex of visual presentation—have all been irretrievably lost. For the modern reader, these songs represent at best enchanting lyric poetry. Yet {2|3} a purely textual understanding is in no way sufficient to do full justice to the phenomenon of choruses. Beside the visual, rhythmic, and all other nonverbal elements, one must especially recognize the ritual foundation of the performance, which is radically different from the modern social context of a theatrical performance. All choruses of the archaic and classical periods consist of youths or girls—or, correspondingly, men and/or women—who honor particular deities—mostly gods associated particularly with choral dancing, especially Dionysus, Apollo, and Artemis—on specific cultic occasions. The dithyramb, the satyr play, and comedy as well as tragedy were all performed in honor of the god Dionysus, as is well known. In the case of Attic comedy, the Lenaia and the Great Dionysia were the festive occasions. In a system of communication still largely based on orality, “literature” thus had a particular pragmatic basis, that of its particular cultic Sitz im Leben. [5]

The structural similarity lies ultimately in the element of performance and the complex of the performative, which has recently enjoyed a growing popularity, even if the concept remains somewhat vague and eludes precise definition. [12] According to the criteria of immediacy and the ephemeral imposed by theater-anthropology, everything that is presented by the performer in an appropriate context becomes a performance. Nevertheless, what appears to be critical is concentration on a definite action and the union of spectator and player in the process of performative transformation. Just as in the case of ritual, in every performance there is a lack of distinction between actors and audience. Rather, the spectators are fellow players and participants in the spectacle. The production of the artistic act coincides with the reaction to it, so that the performance is thereby completed through its execution. Bert O. States aptly formulates this connection as follows:

In developed theater, this familiar constellation crystalizes out in a long cultural process: others, namely the performers, enact something from which bystanders, now called the theater audience, derive enjoyment. But countless opportunities arise in ancient performances, particularly in comedy, to nullify this communicative differentiation and to reduce the play to the pure aspect of performance. It is precisely the chorus, whose performance is always simultaneously embedded in the here and now of festive and cultic occasionality, that achieves this transparency of rituality when the fictional character, the “represented,” fades out of the picture, yielding place to his simultaneously present ritual function as performer. This happens particularly in passages where everything of a narrative and descriptive nature disappears and the present of the performative experience is brought to the fore or both categories in the act of a ritual activity are simply brought into line together.

In its assessment of the chorus scholarship on tragedy has so far fluctuated between two extreme positions: either the chorus is conceived of as purely a player alongside other players (a fourth actor) [21] or as a lyric “mouthpiece of the poet,” in which case it is also ascribed the function of being a means of directing and controlling reception. [22] The flexible concept of divided function developed by Walther Kranz comes closer to the truth: this regards the {8|9} chorus alternately as wholly dramatis persona, voice of the author, and “ideal audience.” [23] In contrast to this communis opinio I present a dynamic, open, and transversal model: the dramatic chorus can spread from the inner plot to external communication levels without entirely relinquishing the dimension of the fictional. [24] Conversely, it is never completely anchored in the plot as a fellow player because, as a result of the origins of theater, it always carries with it the ritual, real-life dimension. The dramatic chorus is thus a bearer of several juxtaposed voices or aspects, among which it is able to oscillate freely. These may be accentuated and activated to a greater or lesser degree, as needed, without the relation to the plot ever becoming lost. The development of drama from the ritual chorus with the resulting integration of the choral element, which is actually a hindrance to linear action, leads, in comparison to the naturalistic and closed concept of action, to the particularly rich possibility of expression of ancient drama. It is precisely through this that the poet obtains a highly flexible instrument with which he is able to have an effect on the play, the public, and the real world. The chorus functions both as transmitter and receiver of messages; both in the dimension of space and of time it can transcend the boundaries of the fictional into the here and now, without really breaking the so-called illusion. In this encroachment, which takes place mostly via the ritual and performative, the synaesthetic spectacle is not diminished in its impression, nor broken off in the sense of Brecht’s epic theater for the purposes of reflection; rather, the emotional effect of the performance as Gesamtkunstwerk is intensified. [25] The members of the chorus act both as fellow players within the plot as well as ritual actors in the external frame of reference. The performative constitutes the hinge between the systems of communication, combining the fictional action on stage, decked out with all its theatrical signs, [26] with the action of speech and ritual into an emotionally effective spectacle. [27] Roman Jakobson’s linguistic model of shifters, a category of doubly structured words that as conventional symbols simultaneously carry with them an indexical and deictic component and thus actually refer {9|10} to the object to be represented, i.e. the external communications situation, and to the actual expression or énonciation, is thereby transferred to the realm of the performative. For here too, reference is made both to the narrated or fictional event (procès de l’énoncé) and to the process of expression (procès de l’énonciation). [28]

To understand the comic chorus better, one must also keep in mind the situation in its tragic counterpart, particularly since the phenomenon of the chorus has been far more thoroughly investigated in the area of tragedy. The dramatic chorus represents both a common, not particularly serious, and hypothetical preliminary stage (cf. Arist. Poet. 1449a19–21), out of which the separate genres crystalized and the common intersection of genres related to each other. This study will therefore examine the comic chorus in the diachronic dimension, i.e. with respect to its origin in choral poetry and lyric, and synchronically, in relation to the two other theatrical genres and in the context of a living choral culture that played a decisive role in the real world.

Performativity and Ritual: Theoretical Premises

To what extent, then, is the dramatic chorus ritual? Before a reply can be given to this question, we must first cast a brief glance at the overall theoretical background to this work and at the problem of ritual.

This model proves to be of the utmost use for our topic, especially since its different aspects come together in the phenomenon of the Greek chorus. Generally, and on countless occasions, choruses, in relation to which the theatrical chorus represents a secondary and further development, were performed in society. It is precisely religious activity and the initiation of the youth into the world of adults that furnish a central Sitz im Leben for the type of ritual dances that were spectacularly performed as social drama in a still living choral culture. Elements of this type of initiation are also reflected in dramatic choruses. My analysis of Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae (chapter 1) is strongly determined by these ritual and performative moments in the plot. Furthermore, textual references to these choruses can also be analyzed and interpreted from a performative point of view, using speech act theory and ethnological studies of ritual. Time and time again reference is made to the chorus’ own action of singing and dancing. Thus we will see that choral self-reference must ultimately be traced back to rituality. But above all, precisely in the realm of Attic drama, which is anchored so strongly in the pragmatic and ritual reality of the polis and which symbolically reworks the everyday world, the performative not only represents a central metaphor that one may use to approach the phenomenon, but the members of the chorus also act directly in their own right and performatively (in the narrower sense of the term) even in the theatrical performance. In sum, the concept represents an intersection of stage, orchestra, and cultural, real-life practice. It is in the chorus in particular that the most diverse theatrical signs of different media are brought together in a comprehensive synaesthetic and spectacular presentation.

According to Stanley Tambiah’s extremely useful definition, ritual is equally performative in three senses:

Here we should rely less on Julian Huxley’s biological and ethological definition of ritual, which Walter Burkert takes as his starting point, since it is not quite extensive enough for cultural and aesthetic achievements. For human ritual forms are never simply conventionalized, stereotyped, and standardized behavior patterns. The aesthetic components, the expressive representation of ritual forms of expression, the symbolic, the element of play, the context of the festival, and the fact that it is an end in itself should be emphasized in particular here. The elements of the performative and theatrical, which are simultaneously conveyed through different media, are essential for ritual. Over the course of human history, simple, ritualized patterns of behavior were {14|15} clearly further developed into artistic, expressive forms. Burkert has also of course wholly incorporated these communicative aspects into his theories. [

Ritual is above all a program of actions that is set into action by speech, among other things. The performative approach enjoys a certain popularity in ethnological research into ritual, especially in the field of magic, since here word and action stand in a particularly close relationship to each other. The idea of performativity was introduced into the field of ethnology and anthropology by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s criticism of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Bronislaw Malinowski, who viewed speech utterances in magic as equiva- {15|16} lent to actions in a practical context, opened the way to this approach at the time through several observations. [41] Obviously the complex problem of ritual cannot be completely explained simply by using the performative as explanatory metaphor. Yet it is precisely in the realm of the chorus, the performative par excellence, which in the theater becomes part of the drama, that this approach finds more than simply superficial analogies. The singing and dancing members of the chorus are theatrical sign-bearers and consequently are connected particularly to the speech act, to action in words. To be sure, Austin’s linguistic theory, which was purely directed at the pragmatics of everyday communication, has now been built up into a more adaptable instrument, since in the theater we are clearly dealing with two systems of communication. Myth, the existing cosmology, and the system of belief are equally considered as context in choral ritual, especially since in their action the members of the chorus confirm precisely these values and norms. [42]

To what extent can we now connect these results from the study of ritual with dramatic choral dance? Let us first give by way of summary a cursory list of possible parallels:

  1. In a manner characteristic of ritual, a beautifully arrayed group presents itself demonstratively to an audience using dance steps performed to the accompaniment of the aulos and song. [44] Of decisive importance are the extent of its elaborate arrangement, the self-consciousness of its staged stylization, the festive context, separated from everyday experience, and the development of actions that are completed using simple, stereotypical, and repetitive patterns. For Walter Burkert the combination of choral dance and ritual is fixed in an exemplary fashion: “Rhythmically repeated movement, directed to no end and performed together as a group, is, as it were, ritual crystalized in its purest form.” [45] At the same time the songs that are sung involve myths, that is to say traditional narratives that are relevant for the unity of the community. As authoritative speech acts they thematize shared norms and values in marked form. At the same time myth generally has a close connection to the ritual framework, so that in traditional societies myth is often re-actualized in ritual and translated into action.
  2. Apart from myths the members of the chorus also refer in their speech to their own activity in the orchestra. As a result of this, an arrangement typical of ritual arises: in its purest form ritual is completed through its own implementation.
  3. The chorus represents a selected group of the entire community and itself portrays this as microcosm of the polis. Despite the separation into audience and performers, the differentiation in this complex formation is at the same time removed. The transition between ritual and theater consequently becomes fluid.

I shall explain my thesis of the extensively ritual character of the comic chorus on quite different levels, ranging from the macrostructure of the prag- {17|18} matic context to the microstructure of the transmitted text, and drawing on current research, particularly on the tragic chorus. It is important to realize here that comedy as a genre does not strive for a specific development of a myth or literary rendering, that is, the development of a closed narrative of a unified act, but that the syntagmatic element takes second place to the ritual sense.

As a result of this new perspective, typical characteristics of the comic chorus, in particular its frequent self-referentiality, become understandable. They do not appear as innovations of the comic playwrights but can be explained on the basis of the tradition of choral lyric and from the religious choruses and hymns of a living choral culture with its definite Sitz im Leben.

The Current State of Scholarship Contrasted with the Thesis Advanced Here

  1. As a stereotyped behavior for the sake of demonstration that permanently repeats itself, the choral dance is in an exemplary fashion ritual par excellence. The intensive rhythm, the movement of feet together, and the expression of the religious and ideological foundation of the human group simultaneously communicated in song contribute to its cohesion. In their staged theatricality choral performances come closest of all to a ritual game. As an essential part of education, khoreia is a means of social control and furthers the handing down of the society’s values and norms. One could summarize this view in terms of a homoeostatic social theory as the social stabilization function of dance.
  2. Following Victor Turner’s theory of communitas and anti-structure, choral performances resemble a ritual drama that temporarily reverses the world. [48]
  3. Collective dance rises autogenetically to an emotional highpoint that can be applied in a social fashion.
  4. Choral dance is mostly performed in an agonistic context. In the competition, members of the chorus demonstrate the limits of their skill and ability.
  5. The movements of the chorus are part of a performative, multimedia presentation in which song, visual charm, and movement are combined. Song and nonverbal communication by gesture are part of a metaphoric communication that in a marked and ritual fashion instills a behavior pattern both in the body and beyond it and perpetuates this in a public setting. [49]

It can be shown through a short overview of current scholarly theories how what has been said up till now builds on this and where the new directions of this study lie.

In his monograph Poetry into Drama John Herington draws on the important concept of song culture and in so doing brings the performative aspect of choral lyric to the fore. Moreover, he draws attention to the fact that the performance of a traditional choral composition in archaic society was normally reserved for re-performance at important, periodically repeated festivals during the course of the year.

This hypothesis of a survival of puberty initiation is of substantial heu-ristic value in considering dramatic choruses. In our consideration of individual rites in the action of Aristophanic comedies, initiation as important paradigm for the study of ritual will need to be subjected to a critical examination. But there remains the possibility that this point of view had a function in daily life in the archaic period, before the evolution of drama, and that it may help explain the existence of choruses of youths and maidens. In addition, the round dance forms part of the repertoire of cultic action in the polis during new year and fertility festivals. The ritual character of dramatic choruses is thus not exhausted by initiation alone. For ritual character can be seen not only in reflexes of cultic forms, but also in the structure of choral dance lyric. It is also in this sense that the tradition of choral lyric and customary hymns may be invoked. {23|24}

Self-Referentiality and Speech Act in Performative Context

In what follows I intend to construct a methodological instrument with which the ritual nature of the comic chorus can be understood more completely, using as background theoretical discussions of choral lyric and tragedy.

From a diachronic perspective and using modern narratology and semiotics as a foundation, Claude Calame shows how in the case of tragic choruses a second level of story or dramatic plot (énoncé) is layered over the purely ritual anchoring in the festive occasion, that is, over the frame of the actual communications situation (énonciation). [63] The members of the dramatic chorus {24|25} thus have a double identity: they dance as a ritual group in the here and now, specifically in Athens at the time of the performance in honor of the theater-god, Dionysus; on the other hand, they also undertake a dramatic role within the structure of the plot. All in all the chorus is given the role of intermediary between the heroes of the then and there and the audience of the here and now. It truly possesses, in the sense of August Wilhelm Schlegel, the features of an “idealized spectator,” or rather an inner, double spectator. [64] On the one hand the dancers in the orchestra react as if they were themselves the audience in the theater of Dionysus; on the other, in their rather marginal roles—in tragedy they generally represent old men or young girls and slave women— they react to the actions of the heroes as a kind of external spectator and commentator, as if they were their contemporaries from the heroic age and were also “taking part” in the action on the stage. [65] Calame shows how the chorus, by means of fading in and fading out of the utterance situation and the frame of the plot—that is, by the accentuation of elements that refer respectively either clearly to the here and now or to the action on stage—is able to float freely between both worlds. In particular, deictic words and use of tense, mood, and person play a critical role in this regard. “Here,” “now,” the present tense and the “I”/“we” of the speaker and the second person of the addressee emphasize the performative present, for example; “there,” “then,” the past tense and the “he”/“she” of the third person tend to bring the plot of the action of the play to the foreground. Yet the text, or utterance, through the linguistic category of shifters (embrayeurs) (“now,” “here,” “I”/“we”), can also change the focus from the uttered/narrated dimension of mimesis {25|26} (énoncé) to the event of utterance (énonciation). References to one’s own performance can be taken as instances in which the speakers are able to “switch” freely between levels of communication as if between gears. In the case of the chorus, one may especially point to expressions of its own activity in song and dance, particularly in the first person, and talk of ritual occasion as indicative of “gear changing” (embrayage). For the ritual chorus, which sings and dances at different festive occasions, the essential element is its limited role identity and its quality of being a hinge between mimesis and the actual communications situation. Regardless of whether one sees the chorus’ dressing up as ghosts, spirits, and animals in terms of the three great religious and social paradigms of fertility, the new year, or initiation, these actors always function as shifters and a bridge to the audience. In the multimedia performance spectators are thereby drawn into a vortex of interconnected means of perception. In so doing they become participants in the action, and as a result a closeness between actor and spectator, characteristic of ritual, comes into being. [66]

Aristotle’s requirement that the chorus “play/act/compete alongside” (συναγωνίζεσθαι, Arist. Poet. 1456a25–27) may clearly be explained from its historical evolution. In the case of tragedy, aspects of plot, descriptive narrative, and explanatory interpretation increasingly overshadowed the occasion of the ritual. This had developed to such an extent by the fourth century BCE that a poetological commandment arose to the effect that a stage production should not be interrupted by excessively obvious references to its own performance.

Relying in part on my studies of self-referentiality and metatheater, Henrichs is able to show how individual tragic playwrights managed to overcome the split that arose during the course of the transformation of theater into literature between choral dance, rooted in ritual and mainly concerned with translating cheerful vitality into bodily motion, and the tragic events of the plot. The festive mood arises either from a mistaken assessment by the chorus or when the members of the chorus project their dancing onto other positive choruses of myth and ritual, thereby being able to talk about their own ritual activity in an oblique fashion, but nevertheless remaining within the dramatic action and in harmony with their dramatic character.

The following argument is often made against self-referentiality from various sides: the concept of choral self-referentiality in drama is a non sequitur, because it is the poet and the poet alone who puts words and actions into the mouth of the chorus in the plot and it is not in the power of the dramatic chorus to determine its own utterances and movements. This also holds true, {29|30} naturally, for the passages in which the tragic or comic chorus refers to its own activity in the orchestra. To this kind of skepticism one may reply that these choruses are indeed created by an author, a poet who, following the principle of ancient mimesis, imitates ritual choruses, of which the theatrical chorus is a direct descendant. The dramatic role of the chorus evolved only gradually in a historical process, supplementing its performative role. The poet ultimately fashions his dance groups on this model and integrates them into a plot. Considered from the perspective of performance, the members of the chorus reenact other ritual dance groups through mimesis. Even though embedded in a mythic plot, from the spectator’s point of view they resemble at the same time many other traditional choruses that dance and sing. It is precisely through self-referential signs that the poet is able to make the chorus appear as a mediating body between the action of the play and ritual, and between the fictional heroes of the then and there and the audience of the here and now.

Self-referentiality should be distinguished conceptually from metatheater to a greater extent than has so far been the case. While we understand dramatic self-referentiality as an expression by which one refers to one’s own activity in the performance happening in the here and now, that is, to one’s ritual action, metatheater has to do with problematizing and reflective speech in the theater about the aesthetic phenomenon of the theater. [78] Since the borders between ritual and theater are fluid, the two concepts overlap. Depending on whether one looks at choral dance, mask, and costume from the perspective of ritual and carrying out a performance or from the vantage point of theater as aesthetic event, either the term “self-referentiality” or the term “metatheater” is more appropriate. [79] Both are popular in the current literature. Yet it must be emphasized that the examination of the self-referential phenomena in this work is not an anachronistic transferral of contemporary (poststructuralist) theory to ancient texts, but that self-referentiality represents a characteristic of ancient dramatic poetry. This is connected with its specific closeness to ritual and to the oral nature of the medium. Eric Csapo’s attempt to trace the still quite frequent references to the chorus’ own dancing in tragedy (and comedy) back to the increasing influence of the new dithyramb, because these statements occur there with considerable frequency, is thus probably only partially correct. [80] Although the mutual influence of individual Dionysiac genres certainly cannot be denied, in my opinion the essence {30|31} of these frequent self-referential passages lies quite simply in the ritual nature of these genres themselves.

After the obligatory, almost completely lost mythical narratio, [85] the members of this female chorus refer again and again to their current ritual activity of dancing and singing in a choral dance song. [86] The girls refer repeatedly to their own chorus, and in one passage they may even name their own names (64–77). They sing about their magnificent get-up and their ritual activity that is contained both in dance and in performance. They sing about their own choral leader, who interestingly bears the speaking name Hagesikhora ‘chorus {32|33} leader,’ and about Agido, a second exceptional figure, whose name similarly plays on the idea of “leading.” In their ritual activity the girls of Sparta simultaneously complete the ritual act of honoring the goddess Aotis.

ἐγὼν δ’ ἀείδω
Ἀγιδῶς τὸ φῶς· ὁρῶ  40
ϝ’ ὥτ’ ἄλιον, ὅνπερ ἇμιν
Ἀγιδὼ μαρτύρεται
φαίνην· ἐμὲ δ’ οὔτ’ ἐπαινῆν
οὔτε μωμήσθαι νιν ἁ κλεννὰ χοραγὸς
οὐδ’ ἁμῶς ἐῇ· . . .  45
. . .
ταὶ Πεληάδες γὰρ ἇμιν 60
Ὀρθρίᾳ φᾶρος φεροίσαις
νύκτα δι’ ἀμβροσίαν ἅτε σήριον
ἄστρον ἀυηρομέναι μάχονται.
. . .
ϝείποιμί κ’, [ἐ]γὼν μὲν αὐτὰ 85
παρσένος μάταν ἀπὸ θράνω λέλακα
γλαύξ· ἐγὼ[ν] δὲ τᾷ μὲν Ἀώτι μάλιστα
ϝ ανδάνην ἐρῶ· πόνων γὰρ
ἇμιν ἰάτωρ ἔγεντο·
ἐξ Ἁγησιχόρ[ας] δὲ νεάνιδες 90
ἰρ]ήνας ἐρατ[ᾶ]ς ἐπέβαν.

(Alcman fr. 1 Davies, lines 39–45, 60–63, and 84–91)

But I sing of the light of Agido: I look upon her as the sun, which Agido calls to appear as witness for us. That I either praise or blame her the famous chorus leader (Hagesikhora?) forbids me utterly.

For they, the “Pleiades” (or “Doves”), compete with us, because we bring Orthria a garment (a plough), while they rise up (dance gliding) through the ambrosial night like Seireios, the Dog Star.

Chorus leader, I would say, I alone a maiden, in vain I screech from the rafter, an owl. But I long to please Aotis especially, for she is our healer of troubles. Because of Hagesikhora the maidens have reached lovely peace. {33|34}

The clear references to the chorus’ own performance have been underlined in the text. In the foreground stand the “I” and “we” of the maidens, whose perspective lies completely in the here and now of the choral performance of the moment. In typical fashion, number switches between singular and plural. In the singular, the collective speaks as one group; in the plural, it regards itself as an association of several individuals. The maidens emphasize their singing (ἀείδω, 39), address themselves to their renowned chorus leader, possibly to Hagesikhora, and to Agido. Their activity arises entirely in the present of the performance. They underscore the situation of dance competition (μάχονται, 63), [
87] in which both choral leaders whirl with them, and the ritual occasion, in which young girls, that is to say, the performers themselves, are contrasted with already ripe, beautiful, and adult dancers, who possibly lead them along the symbolic road of festive transition from childhood to womanhood. “Flying up” in dance (ἀυηρομέναι, 63) provides the staging point from which the maidens in a metaphorical and metonymical movement playfully transfer their maidenly identity of being “themselves” in the here and now (ἐ]γὼν μὲν αὐτὰ | παρσένος, 85–86) to birds and project their ritual activity onto the feathered creatures. [88] The collective of speaking and dancing performers competes with the two “primadonnas.” The metaphoric mention of birds, who are likewise distinguished for their rhythmic movement, song, and their marginal position in the animal world, helps them express their subordinate position to the chorus leaders. In a direct comparison, they feel like an ugly owl on a rafter (86–87) compared to beautiful doves. [89] The goddess of the dawn, Aotis, {34|35} in whose honor the ritual activity takes place, overcomes the exhaustion of agonistic dance (πόνων, 88). From the use of the aorist aspect in the final verses one can infer the reperformance of such songs. The goddess Aotis (and perhaps also Orthria) “becomes” their “healer” (ἰάτωρ, 89), because through Hagesikhora’s (and/or Agido’s) intercession, who following the model of the divine chorus leader presents herself as her human incarnation year after year, she gave meaning to the effort of other girls (νεάνιδες, 90) at this same festival. As always, the girls find “longed for peace” (ἰρ]ήνας ἐρατ[ᾶ]ς, 91) on this occasion too. [90] The completion of the dance ritual is consequently equated with their change of status. After a marginal phase, realized in a nocturnal dance under the educational direction of their chorus leader using symbolic movements partially resembling those of birds, the girls come to rest in the {35|36} traditional society of Sparta after their successful initiation in the fulfillment of their role as adult women.

The chorus’ self-referentiality and self-description thus stand in the foreground of the remaining extract of the Louvre fragment. A similar picture presents itself in other purely ritual choruses. I suggest, therefore, that choral self-referentiality of this type in drama and dithyramb stems primarily from the dramatic chorus’ ritual connections and only secondarily from the tradition of choral lyric, which is itself firmly embedded in the reality of ritual activity.

In the fields of anthropology, ethnology, and the study of religion, only a few scholars so far have connected the concept of ritual with Austin’s speech act theory. [96] As has been said above, ritual is a stereotyped, aesthetically and theatrically staged, and conventionalized action in an emotionally colored, multimedia, and symbolic performance used to communicate within a group. [97] Through reperformance this kind of activity may be continually renewed and reactualized independently of its original context. Socially accepted procedures, especially repetitive and formulaic utterances, are what make ritual possible. Performative action is successful because it continually recites fixed meanings or illocutionary roles over again. What has always possessed validity and consequently been codified in a traditional society in a marked form can be called upon at seasonally reoccurring festive occasions. It is not so much the intention of the participants [98] that is important for the success of this staged {37|38} communication as the context and the authoritative convention of the group. This social agreement determines both the delivery (the utterance itself, locution) and the simultaneously occurring action of the address (illocution), which triggers a characteristic state of awareness necessary for reaction, and the effect of the action, i.e. its reception by those who receive the message. Let us take, for example, the chorus in Alcman’s great Partheneion (fr. 1 Davies): when the girls make the statement “ἐγὼν δ’ ἀείδω | Ἀγιδῶς τὸ φῶς” (39–40), they do more than simply articulate these words. They sing and, in addition, perform rhythmic movements that underscore their song. With the purely locutionary act “I sing” comes an illocutionary act. The actors describe their own activity, report on it, and give a retrospective guarantee of their piety. The manner of ritual speech, supported by its multimedia expression, and marked by rhythmic dance, obtains thereby a specific illocutionary form. Through utterance comes an effect, a perlocutionary act: the performers complete a ritual act—they honor Aotis. Or, viewed from the recipients’ side: the maidens bring it about that members of the community watching and participating are convinced that honor has been shown to the goddess through song and that all come into contact with her because of this. The result of the communication process is additionally ensured through the maidens’ emphasis of their intention and desire to please her: ἐγὼ[ν] δὲ τᾷ μὲν Ἀώτι μάλιστα | ϝανδάνην ἐρῶ (87–88).

Self-reflexivity is also of central importance for the deconstructionist and poststructuralist study of literature. [101] This type of literary theory is admittedly of relatively small value for the understanding of ancient texts, since Jacques Derrida, for example, does not consider the situational context, and consciously wants to expand into the infinite and indeterminate. While Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, and Jacques Derrida take a strong position against the present and the privileging of speech over writing in Western philosophy, archaic literature, because of its particular grounding in the everyday world, is founded on the present, on the orality of communication, and on the concrete background of the occasion. Even though Derrida derives much inspiration for his philosophy from Austin’s evocation of the opposites word and deed and proves himself to be an Austinian in many ways, he problematizes the speech act as having immanence purely in its locution, its mere utterance, while Austin considers in addition illocution and perlocution as activities in the social context outside of speech. According to Derrida, every text stands at a distance from itself (différance). The alleged absence of the present on the level of signs and the total removal of limits from the context hinder, in his opinion, an unambiguous determination of meaning. Each reading rests on interpretative assumptions, and the text continually presents evidence that subverts these preconceived ideas and ruptures the given meaning. [102] For this reason, every text, according to Derrida, finds its meaning for the recipient in its own staging, i.e. in self-reference. [103]

Austin’s theory is far better adapted for explaining self-referentiality in archaic Greek choruses because ordinary speech and ritual hymns and early Greek lyric, as well as in part Greek drama (and, in particular, Old Comedy), have in common the fact that they are completely bound up in the actual complex of actions in daily life and are carried out in an oral communication process. The self-referential utterance is created with performative verbs not, as in Derrida’s theory, exclusively in the phatic act of locution; instead the self-referential part functions also in the illocutionary act as a necessary addition, {39|40} in order to ensure the execution of an action on a practical level. By means of reference to its own action (“I sing”) Alcman’s chorus of maidens seeks to bring about a desired consequence. [104] With the help of self-referential signals, the senders direct attention to themselves, and in so doing aim to ensure the receiver’s comprehension (“securing uptake”) and attempt to trigger the desired reaction (“inviting a response”). Nonverbal means of expression with specific referential character, such as dance movements, mimicry, and gesture, may additionally strengthen the appeal. [105] Through long-standing convention these illocutionary elements become effective as speech-action and produce results (“taking effect”), since both senders and receivers have a preexisting understanding. By means of the performative utterance of its self-reference, the chorus finally achieves the perlocutionary result they strive for: actors and spectators complete the act of worship in speech. [106]

Ritual acts are thus characterized by self-performative traits, since every ritual arises in one’s own activity and comes into being therein. Admittedly, the goal here is not placing oneself on the stage, but demonstration and communication, which rest on the common agreement of the group and stand at the center of the performed action.

With the help of Austin’s speech act theory the interconnection of self-referentiality, actual performance, and ritual can be more deeply understood. But using this as a foundation, how can one now apply such conclusions to the chorus of ancient theater, even if Austin expressly excludes the phenomenon of the theater and representation on stage as an object of research?

As has been seen, the situation in ancient drama is all the more complicated, because each dramatic chorus not only becomes absorbed into the utterance of the actual context of action, but further also undertakes a role in the fictional plot. The closeness of ritual and theater provide the point of depar- {40|41} ture. Ancient theater is based in large part on ritual conditions and is thus, as stated above, not fundamentally different from ritual. Historically speaking, drama seems to have developed out of this. Moreover, it is performed in a cultic environment and also relies in its narrative structure on ritual models. Mimetic representation of ritual sequences is identical with ritual. The difference from pure ritual is only one of degree, and so the points of transition are fluid. On the one hand, in ritual, too, one also brings the theatrical element of a staging to the fore for the sake of effect. On the other hand, rites do not always depend on the simple presence of reality, but many ceremonies contain disguise and masking. Both are based on repeatable practices. Like a ritual, theater works as a speech act only on the basis of conventions set up in the everyday world. It is only because of the fact that theater presents fiction as reality in a performative fashion that the event becomes able to be experienced in the first place.

The communicative situation is, as I have emphasized, more complex for dramatic choruses insofar as ritual, and therefore the pragmatic dimension, and plot are simultaneously present. Choruses are thus, like other ritual activities, much more connected to the present than other literature.

In Old Comedy mechanisms for distancing participants from the action of the plot and their dramatic role, as well as opportunities for participating in the action on stage, are much more frequent than in tragedy. The borders between the citizenry taking part in celebrating the festival, the entire pragmatic context, and the stage are consciously kept open. Moreover, in comedy there arises in particular the phenomenon of “ritual in ritual,” that is, the performance anchored in the cult of Dionysus will also imitate rituals in its fictional action.

By way of example, the following performative words indicating action may be brought under this expanded form of the performative, which includes ritual and drama: a) in ritual: “I pray,” “I cry,” “I sacrifice,” “I pour,” “I heal,” “I celebrate,” “I march”—in short, “I undertake” any form of ritual; b) in choral dance theater: “I sing,” “I dance,” “I go,” “I jump,” “I leap,” “I stamp”—in short, “I carry out” any action that is an essential element of the performance of a chorus in the theater. But commands in the second-person singular and plural, as well as hortatory forms in the first-person plural, also fall into this category. In the realm of performative utterances the chorus frequently switches between the first-person singular and plural, [111] whether in the present or future tense. The speaker in the first person gives the impression, in a purely notional sense, that there is brief lapse of time between utterance and fulfilment. He may thus even place the announcement of his intention to transfer his speech into immediate action in the future tense, even when he is already performing the action for the observer in the present. The term “performative future” has recently been coined to describe this phenomenon. It is found chiefly in ritual texts, particularly in the field of magic, but also in self-references in every kind of performative action. [112] Here one speaks of one’s own {43|44} ritual action, which one is in fact already in the process of implementing, in the future. A performative command comes very close to this use of the future tense, because the intention is that action result from speech. [113]

In sum, the performative, as has already been seen, is supported by the “I” of the speaker of the utterance by means of a string of deictic (“here,” “this”) and self-referential references and signals indicative of urgency (“now,” “immediately” etc.), by which the actual frame of the utterance in the hic et nunc (énonciation) is brought to the fore. [117] The further the process of narrative distancing from the pragmatic situation advances, the more complex the identification and attribution of these signals becomes. [118] The choral “I,” so important for speech acts, can in one and the same poem or dramatic extract assume quite different functions. The “I”/“we” of the singing chorus in its function as shifter can thus refer to the person of the performers, of the community, of the fictional dramatic characters, or even of the poet, and can fluctuate between these roles continually. In the case of Pindar, this unstable confusion of voices is particularly problematic, so that a considerable battle has blazed up in the scholarly literature about whether the “I” in the Epinicians can also refer to the chorus that is performing at the moment as speaker, or whether, in contrast to the more ritual forms of the paean and partheneion, the “I” should be limited solely to the epinician “I” of the poet in his laudatory function or to the autobiographical “I” of the historical Pindar. [119] In the {45|46} case of comedy, as we shall see, the multiplicity of choral roles is similarly complicated.

The real world, the ritual connections of mythical drama in the festivals of Dionysus, but above all the particular conventions and repeatable procedures of the spectators define the norms of a particular genre through which they become speech acts. The atmosphere that is supposed to obtain in a particular context creates time and space for particular types of plays. It is entirely the same with rituals. On the basis of particular rules developed by the community, the sacrifice offered to the Olympian gods, for example, is different from practices directed toward to the chthonic gods, and there are both festivals of unrestrained joy and festivals of mourning.


To summarize: the dramatic chorus occupies a dynamically mediating position between performing purely cultic activity and playing a consciously fictional role as dramatis persona. When one considers the chorus from the point of view of performance, it becomes clear that the two functions, the dramatic and the ritual, are analytically not easily separable, but are fused together through a rather lengthy historical process into an ambivalent unity. Both are there at the same time, yet one aspect appears more clearly than the other, depending on genre and perspective. In genres in which narrative and myth stand in the foreground, the ritual and performative side retreats further into the background. Choral self-referentiality does not occur in order to interrupt the action consciously but from the desire to integrate the ritual act, namely dance in the orchestra in honor of Dionysus, into the play. An important reason for this appears to lie in the long tradition of ritual choral song and dance: for illocutionary strengthening, the ritual moment clearly needs self-referentiality in order to be understood as such and to proceed successfully.

The Comic Chorus in Comparison with Tragedy and Satyr Play

What follows proceeds on the hypothesis that the chorus of the satyr play and of comedy, in comparison to the related genre of tragedy, is much more directed toward ritual. This has above all to do with its different practice with respect to the narrative structure of the genres. Tragedy, as has been shown, rests on fixed and repeatedly performed myths, while the comic playwrights construct their plots on the actualities of the real world, to which the realm of festival, religion, and the entire culture of ritual also belongs. The clumsy narrative confinement of many Aristophanic comedies, often criticized, is no shortcoming when viewed this way, but rather the expression of a specific relationship between the genre and its ritual function. The comic chorus should therefore not be considered solely from the viewpoint of tragedy, but as an autonomous, cultic form of polis discourse. Because of an extensive lack of “mythic” narrative material—in comedy, myth functions as plot only when it makes fun of myth—comedy has a fundamentally different poetics and aesthetic constitution. The openness of the borders of the stage to its “real life” context is an important characteristic. It is a convention of the genre that the comic chorus frequently and quite explicitly leaves the plot for the external and actual context of the play.


More recent studies mostly deal with the relationship of the comic chorus to the action on stage either within the typical structure of an individual comedy or in relation to the historical development of the genre. Thomas Gelzer sees the chorus in a plot structure that can be shaped in various ways, so that the chorus has a key role in the first part (from prologue to agôn) in the establishment of the desired new state of affairs. The actors involved, according to Gelzer, define their position according to their attitude to the chorus, which is largely responsible for the fantastic element of the plot: that is, they may act either as partisans or only as representatives of similar interests or as opponents of the dance collective in the orchestra. Gelzer maintains that the fierce confrontation is mainly about the achievement or exercise of power and control. In the parabasis the chorus then steps aside and out of the frame of the plot; in the second part, the participation of the chorus in the action and its significance decline drastically, and the fantastic situation, now that it has been achieved, is only safeguarded and defended in the remaining episodic scenes. Here the chorus in its intermittent songs is for the most part assigned only its traditional mocking function (often in the second parabasis) or the role of commentator and interpreter, and finally in the exodos helps shape the end in the form of a traditional celebra- {49|50} tion. [130] In a quite similar fashion, Bernhard Zimmermann treats the dramatic role of the comic chorus extensively from the viewpoint of whether it has a “plot-carrying” (handlungstragend) or “plot-interrupting” (handlungsunterbrechend) function. He sees “active participation in events on stage” and accompaniment of plot as subcategories of its “plot-carrying” function, while he distinguishes between explanation and preparation in the case of plot-interruption. [131]

Because there is no ongoing and continuous illusion in comedy, as the best (in my opinion) analysis of the comic chorus, by G. M. Sifakis, shows, it is questionable to evaluate the chorus solely according to the degree of the coherency of plot. [134] Sifakis has made it clear that one cannot speak of any real consistent division of plot and role identity of the chorus in any Aristophanic comedy. Because of the lesser importance of closed mythical narrative, [135] the constative, descriptive-narrative function does not really supersede the performative function of the here and now in this genre. In the simple plot sequences of Aristophanes that are based on ritual models, the chorus is chiefly a ritual actor; the dramatic role and the theatrical function are extensively fused together, so that now one, now the other aspect comes more clearly to the fore at different times, depending on the point of view. According to Sifakis, the boundaries of foreground within the plot are consciously kept open to the background of the external communicative frame of reference. Depending on the situation, the chorus fluctuates dynamically between being strictly rooted in the drama and expansion into the here and now. Just as the eye constantly adapts to given light conditions by expansion or contraction of the pupil, so the comic chorus is able from verse to verse to retract its specific connection to the action and broaden its standpoint, or conversely, to tune out the here and now and become more involved in its fictional role. [136] Sifakis {51|52} already emphasized the particular function of the chorus as mediator between players, performing citizens, and the public. [137]

On the other hand, scholars have long recognized the clearly ritual and pragmatic dimension of the comic chorus. Due to a one-sided view of dramaturgy that privileged the concept of a unified plot even for comedy, this characteristic could only be explained as a survival of predramatic and ritual elements. [138] This interpretation was widespread up to and including the time of Gelzer’s dissertation (1960). Scholars made extrapolations back to comedy’s origin on the basis of the conventional structure of its fixed constitutive elements. Typical of this tendency is Hans Herter’s influential study Vom dionysischen Tanz zum komischen Spiel [“From Dionysiac dance to comic play”]. He argues for an organic development from Dionysiac phallic choral dances to Old Comedy. Comedy finally emerged from outgrowths of these, which attached themselves to original choral occasions and kômoi of traditional phallus singers, so that the actors developed as opposite numbers out of the chorus leader. [139] He considered the mocking, joking, and abusive speech of the chorus as a “relic of ritual.” [140] In the case of the parabasis, in which deviation from the context of the plot is especially striking, and cult songs, dance, rebuke, laughter, and invective in a direct dialogue with the audience stand at the center, it was easy to find an explanation in the form of unassimilated remnants of ritual. The formulation of Gilbert Murray, an Oxford representative of the Cambridge ritualists, is well known: “The Parabasis is a nugget of unassimilated ritual embedded in the structure of the play.” [141] Gelzer also sees the parabasis as a ritual remnant that is neither functionally adapted nor integrated into the plot. All in all, he views conventional elements as survivals whose real meaning has long since been forgotten. [142] In the course of the present study we will see that the style of the parabasis, because of its open- {52|53} ness to the audience and to énonciation, is to a large extent typical of the comic chorus’ ritual and transversal manner of speech, and is not only limited to the actual parabasis itself.

These two directions in scholarship, the one focused on the evolution and history of comedy, and the other on plot, have without doubt contributed much to the understanding of Old Comedy. The parts of the chorus that contribute to plot and those that are independent of plot are admittedly not as neatly separable as was originally assumed. Those choruses that cannot be fully and completely integrated into a fictional context should not be rejected as unimportant remnants of prehistory, but ought to be considered in connection with the performative viewpoints I have presented here of the blending in and out of énonciation. It is important here to recognize the ritual component of the performance in the here and now as well as the ritual make-up of the plot. The comic chorus thus not only reflects an original, conventional substrate of rituals that could certainly no longer be understood in the fifth century BCE, but to a large extent actually is ritual in the sense of the term we have established here.

Sifakis’ study comes the closest to my analysis. Yet he too understands ritual rather as a primitive element from which comedy may have developed, while in my work the sociocultural context and elements that constitute the form and content of the extant comedies of Aristophanes are additionally classified as ritual in nature.

By way of a starting point one may accordingly summarize the ritual character of the comic chorus as follows:

  1. The members of the chorus carry out a performative act, in which the performative should be understood as a speech act in the sense of a mimetic performance. In choral songs an activity generally stands in the foreground. By speaking, the members of the chorus bring about an action. They frequently refer to their own activity, that is, to their singing and to their ritual dance. Demonstrative self-presentation is at the center of this, corresponding to the ritual practice of self-display. Form and content form a unity. Redundancy, repetition, and compression are important elements of expression. The performance takes place using several media: speech, dance movement, gesture, music, and mask and costume—which emphasize the chorus’ flashy exterior—all work together synaesthetically. The expressive quality of its speech, the sensory quality of the objects carried, and the clothing, together with the instrumental quality of its actions, combine to form a spectacular and aesthetically embellished complex of {53|54} artistic staging. Moreover, its words convey ideological value. Through associations, metaphors, and metonymy, speech moves objects and persons predicatively in a qualitative space. By means of mimetic actions and movements, these expressive impressions are fixed on a real level.
  2. Because of its self-contained nature and its self-referential emphasis on the completion of the chorus’ own action, other types of descriptions and constative utterances are reduced to a minimum.
  3. In numerous choral songs contact is established with the gods in the here and now. [143] Hymns and prayers are prominent cultic forms. Choral lyric is incorporated in a way that is only partly parodic, and is equally characterized by its pragmatic-ritual function. [144] Beside the self-referential references to its own singing and dancing, the action of the chorus takes place at a festival. Ritual festive events are of great importance both in the fictional carrying out of action and in the here and now. In the social and cultural context of society choruses dance during initiation, at fertility festivals, and at new year’s festivals. The ritual activity of the choral dance clearly is connected to the symbolic and dramatic enhancement of critical transitions. This social function is reflected in the dramatic integration of the chorus.
  4. The ritual scheme of pompê, agôn, and kômos in the context of Dionysiac festival is copied in the course of the comedy. In the parodos, the chorus enters in a marching rhythm and is often engaged in a ritual acts. The agôn is often in the interest of the chorus and reflects the external competition of the comic playwrights and producers of the chorus for the victory prize. After completion of the actual plot, the ritual chorus often presents itself in the parabasis to the crowd. In the concluding exodos, the result of the comic experiment in thought is celebrated. Here the chorus anticipates the kômos {54|55} procession of the victory celebration and thus makes a transition into the external context. [145]


Wherein, then, does the difference between the comic and tragic chorus lie? In part its difference with respect to its aesthetic is fundamental, and in part this difference is also one of degree.

Contrary to tragedy, where the chorus tends to be made up of inconspicuous participants in the plot, such as old men or female bystanders, and is therefore rather straightfoward and predictable in terms of its role, the choruses of Old Comedy represent a considerable surprise and the central performative event for the audience. The financial expenditure for the rich decoration of the costumes and masks of this fantastic entity was far greater. Its conspicuously spectacular exterior is meant to be displayed and is directly connected to the development of the comic plot. While the rules of the tragic genre largely mask the framework of énonciation and attempt to embed the chorus in the action on stage, the chorus of Old Comedy tends to describe its role and its costume at first hand and to enter into contact with the audience. In tragedy one has a chorus that operates in a rather colorless fashion and that is far removed from the actual activity of the heroes. It interprets and comments on the events on stage from a different observation point while possessing a relatively stable role identity, and in its moralizing insistence on taking middle-of-the-road positions largely corresponds to the audience. Without completely obviously transgressing the boundaries between the here and now and the action on stage, in this role as inner or idealized spectator it remains palpably connected with the actual context. In comedy, on the other hand, the chorus determines action, and the distance from the everyday world of the spectator is immense because of the grotesque surroundings of the plot. But the distance is overcome by entering into direct contact with the audience. The role identity of the chorus members becomes so thin as a result of explicit references to the performance context that on the side of the recipient the boundary between it and the chorus appears equally transparent. In tragedy, the audience is thus drawn into the undertow of sorrow and lament on the stage through its implicit similarity to the chorus, while in comedy, by contrast, it assimilates itself to the viewpoint of the fantastic world, and it is through this that the desired {55|56} reactions of compassion (Mit-Leiden) or laughter (Mit-Lachen) respectively arise. [146]

While the tragic chorus, being for the most part only a marginal group and connected to the figures and the action only through an external relationship, reflects in its songs experiences that largely pass it by or introduces {56|57} mythical narratives as background information, the comic chorus is a ritual actant to a far greater degree.

Nevertheless, one should not draw as sharp a distinction between the two genres as is usually done. Choruses that participate in the action can also be found in tragedy, particularly in the early plays of Aeschylus, for example the Suppliants and the Eumenides. Both of these choral groups stand at the center of the action and act in a largely ritual and performative fashion. [149] The entry of the Erinyes in particular is just as surprising and spectacular as a choral entrance in comedy. [150] But fundamentally they largely retain their role identity, and their pragmatic function is only visible at the edges, chiefly in the final procession, which is in many ways reminiscent of the Panathenaia. [151] There are many other tragic choruses that enact ritual as speech act. [152] This occurs primarily by means of the integration of cultic forms that are embedded in the tragic plot. Either this action happens autonomously and unannounced, or a dramatic announcement is followed by the performance of ritual in song. [153] In this context one may mention hymns, prayers, processions, sacrificial and {57|58} wedding rites, summoning of ghosts, laments, and blessings. Whether or not these cultic elements are in Rode’s words “an original and necessary part of choral songs in general or tragedy” is, as Walther Kranz writes, hardly something that can be established, since this implies an overly fixed opinion about the question of origin. [154] Kranz does seem more likely to be right than Rode inasmuch as every chorus carries out a ritual action. It is of course important that in this case the tragic chorus, which in its narrative and descriptive parts is clearly anchored, just as comedy is, in the ritual of Dionysus, incorporates further ritual from the everyday world. Drama is simultaneously theater and ritual, and depending on one’s point of view, emphasis may fall on one aspect at one time and on another at a different moment. Tragedy also employs parts of ritual that make up the mythos, that is the action of the plot. [155]


Satyr choruses in particular—like the comic chorus before the parabasis, especially in the comic parodos—are often presented in actions or imitate actions in pantomime fashion with wild dance-like movements. [157] In the Cyclops the chorus refers in self-referential fashion to its own activity in the orchestra, just as is the case in the two other dramatic genres. In the parodos, while singing and dancing, it drives its flock to the cave of the Cyclops, and Silenos at the end of the prologue comments on the satyrs’ activity and prepares the way for their actual entrance:

What’s all this? Is your stamping of the sikinnis now like it was when as fellow shield bearers to Bakkhos you came in kômoi to the house of Althaia, shaking yourselves about to the song of the lyre?

In the mimetic song action is completed through words: in the short, astrophic interchange, the animals are herded (49–54) in a similarly gesture-filled fashion as in comedy, and here, in addition to this action, the movements of the chorus clearly imitate the sikinnis, the dance of the satyr play. Just as in tragedy, here Euripides knows how to combine choral self-reference with choral projection. The stamping of the sikinnis of the énonciation in the hic et nunc is connected with dancing in the Dionysiac kômos once upon a time when the satyrs and Bakkhos, carrying weapons, marched to Kalydon, where the god fell in love with Althaia, the wife of his guest-friend Oineus. The ritual of the current performance cites and in so doing makes present the mythical event of the past.

In the same parodos the satyrs give a typically negative choral projection that nevertheless functions as self-reference to their own dance, singing, and music-making. While the bacchic dance is not shown on the grass in front of the Cyclops’ cave, it is performed in the Dionysiac orchestra with the utterance of the following verses:

οὐ τάδε Βρόμιος, οὐ τάδε χοροὶ
Βάκχαι τε θυρσοφόροι, {59|60}
οὐ τυμπάνων ἀλαλαγμοὶ65
κρήναις παρ’ ὑδροχύτοις,
οὐκ οἴνου χλωραὶ σταγόνες·
οὐδ’ ἐν Νύσᾳ μετὰ Νυμφᾶν
ἴακχον ἴακχον ᾠδὰν
μέλπω πρὸς τὰν Ἀφροδίταν,70
ἃν θηρεύων πετόμαν
Βάκχαις σὺν λευκόποσιν.

Eur. Cyc. 63–72

Here there is no Bromios, here are no choruses and thyrsos-bearing Bakkhai, no thumping of the drums next to the water-pouring sources, no sparkling drops of wine: nor in Nysa with the Nymphs do I sing the song Iakkhos Iakkhos to Aphrodite, whom I flew after, hunting with the white-footed Bakkhai.

The negated deictic reference is ambiguous in terms of the performance situation, since the chorus really dances in the hic et nunc and Dionysus Eleuthereus is thereby imagined as being present. Even within the action of the plot the pronouncement represents an irony, since Dionysus, who throughout the Cyclops is equated with the drink sacred to him, is de facto right there in the next scene, namely as the wine of Maron, even though the Satyrs cannot taste it. One might compare the words with which the Cyclops upbraids the members of the chorus after Silenos together with Odysseus has traded the fabulous wine for food: ἄνεχε· πάρεχε· τί τάδε; τίς ἡ ῥαθυμία; | τί βακχιάζετ’; οὐχὶ Διόνυσος τάδε, | οὐ κρόταλα χαλκοῦ τυμπάνων τ’ ἀράγματα (“Stop! Make room! What’s all this here, what’s the meaning of this laziness? Why this Bacchic dancing? This is not Dionysus here, there are no bronze castanets and beatings of drums!” Cyc. 203–205). The Cyclops takes up the just-cited description given by the Satyrs and at the same time exposes it as false.

On the surface a gap, as it were, emerges in verses 63–72 between the actual performance of the chorus and the plot that slowly closes over the course of the piece. As far as the intrafictional setting of the play is concerned it can be fiercely negated, yet at the moment of the performance the sound of the drums resounds clearly, the members of the chorus raise the ritual shout in the Athenian theater of Dionysus, they sing and make wild movements. The central god, in whose honor the play takes place in the first place, through ritual self-referentiality establishes a bridge between the here and now and {60|61} the there and then. Through his name both levels can be present alongside each other in the simplest fashion and be fused together.

Such examples of pure action in connection with self-referential utterances that relate to the carrying out of a simple action and simultaneously to the chorus’ own ritual occupation of dancing and singing are commonly found in comedy. The relatively uncomplicated action of the plot is carried by the chorus and supported in an illocutionary fashion by references to itself.

A defining factor here is the participation of the choral “I,” which may be split by the introduction of references to the song and the dance into a performer in the here and now and a role-player integrated into the plot.

The famous “binding song” of the Erinyes in Aeschylus’ Eumenides (321–396) is also comparable. Magical practices lie behind this: through their words, the chorus attempt to actually bind Orestes. The chorus’ formation and its primitive diction aim at the desired effect of psychic binding. The chorus incites itself to join hands (ἄγε δὴ καὶ χορὸν ἅψωμεν, Eum. 307), and thereupon makes a magic circle around the victim at the altar. As phatic locutionary act, the ephymnion resembles an actual magical incantation that unleashes enormous illocutionary energy using assonance, alliteration, and the intense {62|63} staccato rhythm of the “running” trochaics interrupted by a pherecratean. Repetition, redundancy, and the concentration of impressions give the song its insistency. The victim is, so to speak, put under hypnosis. [167]

ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ τεθυμένῳ
τόδε μέλος, παρακοπά,
παραφορὰ φρενοδαλής,
ὕμνος ἐξ Ἐρινύων,
δέσμιος φρενῶν, ἀφόρ-
μικτος, αὑονὰ βροτοῖς.

Aesch. Eum. 328–333 (= 341–346)

Over our victim this is our song: the blow of madness, mind-destroying frenzy, a hymn of the Erinyes, mind-binding, lyreless, withering for mortals.

In both examples the members of the chorus carry out a ritual with self-reference to the singing and dancing of the performance. In the refrain quoted above, this song (τόδε μέλος) is referred to deictically. The key concept of the ὕμνος δέσμιος is initially expressed briefly and in a pithy fashion (Eum. 306), to be then repeated in emphatic form in the magic formula. The chorus arranges its linear dance formation performatively (Eum. 307), using the hortative first-person plural form to order itself. The song’s negative aspect as magic used to invoke and harness chthonic powers is emphasized in the plot, although as spectacular performance the hymn “binds” and enchants on the level of énonciation. The singers describe their song as “lyreless” (ἀφόρμικτος, Eum. 332–333 = 345–346) and “hated muse” (μοῦσαν στυγεράν, Eum. 308). Similarly, the chorus of the Persians refers to its own ritual activity as performer and talks of its own songs as ὕμνοι. [

The next two refrains testify in particular to the “I” of the speakers who complete the speech act. Throughout the whole song the “I”/“we” is emphasized. At the moment they utter their destructive words, the actors stamp on the ground and assert that the greatest glory of men will be struck down “by {63|64} our dark-clothed attacks and the hate-filled dancing of our foot” (ἁμετέραις ἐφόδοις μελανείμοσιν, ὀρχη- | σμοῖς τ’ ἐπιφθόνοις ποδός, Eum. 370–371). Again, the general self-reference to the “dance” of the énonciation prepares the way for the actual ritual practice of sympathetic magic, which is of significance for the progress of the plot.

Negative incantation can also be compared with positive blessing (εὐχὰς ἀγαθάς, Aesch. Supp. 626) in the Suppliants of Aeschylus (630–709), which is connected to the action on stage. This song is likewise a ritual speech act that attempts to influence reality through the illocutionary force and role of the wish. Even if the choral “I” retreats into the background in the wish expressed in the optative of the third person, the chorus is nevertheless present on both its levels through projections of a negative and positive nature. Twice the abhorrent Ares is degraded in lively dochmiacs as the negation of the choral dancing that is now taking place (τὸν ἄχορον βοὰν . . . μάχλον Ἄρη [“wild Ares, the shout hostile to the chorus”] and ἄχορον ἀκίθαριν δακρυογόνον Ἄρη [“Ares, hostile to the chorus and the lyre, source of tears”], Aesch. Supp. 635 and 682) and contrasted with the positive and desired state of Dionysiac harmony and festivity, which is identical with the present situation of the dancing chorus members in the orchestra (εὔφημον δ’ ἐπὶ βωμοῖς | μοῦσαν θείατ’ ἀοιδοί· | ἁγνῶν τ’ ἐκ στομάτων φερέ- | σθω φήμα φιλοφόρμιγξ [“May the singers perform their work of the muse attentively at the altars; and from their pure mouths let a lyre-loving song stream out!”], Supp. 694–697). [171] Many other pointed oppositions may be explained on the basis of this constantly sought self-reference to the chorus’ own performance for the sake of illocutionary intensification. Expressions such as “paean for the dead” (παιᾶνα τοῦ θανόντος, Aesch. Cho. 151) should not simply be dismissed as consciously sought after paradoxical figures of speech and oxymoronic periphrasis, or as theatrical genre-mixing. [172] Rather, attention is being drawn to the implicit contrast and opposing tension between tragic role and cultic function. The chorus tends to present its song in the orchestra as cheerful and exuberant, while within the frame of the plot it equally needs to assume severe aspects as well. Finally, by means of these dispositions the tragic poet is able to imitate the characteristic ambivalence of the Dionysiac mood and to incorporate it dramaturgically into the build-up of tension. {65|66}

In tragedy, dance and direct énonciation gradually take a back seat to the course of events in the plot, gnomic utterance, reflection, and commentary or mythical description. Only now and then does its ritual and performative function surface next to the dramatic role. Here reference to actual activity is mostly also linked to ritual self-reference, that is, to the mention of Dionysus. {66|67}

The Comic Chorus

Play and Dance

Modern play theory in the context of cultural anthropology and child pyschology can be remarkably well combined with these ancient views. Ritual play marks and dramatizes the transition of the collective conditions and so furthers group cohesion in the rite de passage. In the marginal phase all rankings and categories thus become blurred. All hierarchies and temporal and spatial boundaries are suspended, to be confirmed anew in the reintegration {69|70} phase. The chorus as microcosm and a group representative of certain gender-specific age classes has a special connection in initiations among traditional societies with these kind of staged passages from one state to another in which the foundation of a new identity is symbolically achieved. After the merging of self and other in the reintegration phase the changed self now emerges strengthened.

In connection with research on individual ontogenous construction of the subject, the British psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott developed the concept of the “intermediate area,” which he saw as being of great importance for the infant’s incipient capacity to distinguish between “I” and “not-I.” According to this theory, during play the child makes use of so-called transitional objects such as a soft blanket or a toy that belong neither to the “I” nor the “other” of the mother. The field of play as phenomenon of transition or boundary becomes filled with images enriched by the child’s perception of self and other that are neither completely “I” nor completely “not-I” and that simultaneously construct and deconstruct the “I”-boundary that may be developed from them. A positivistic boundary between true and false cannot be drawn; what is important here is rather the paradoxical nature of the transitory condition.

Drawing on Winnicott, Schechner applies these discoveries to the phenomenon of the theater. Here the role of a third figure is important, that of the mother in the case of the infant, and that of the spectator in the case of the theater. A precondition for this playful and creative process of representation is the suppression of skeptical questions. [188] Schechner considers the playful movement, the transition from presenter as “I” and represented as “not-I” into the paradoxical relation between “not-I” and “not not-I,” and the typical double present, or “double negativity,” as fundamental for the functioning of theater and ritual.

During workshop-rehearsals performers play with words, things, and actions, some of which are “me” and some “not me.” By the end {70|71} of the process the “dance goes into the body.” So Olivier is not Hamlet, but he is also not not Hamlet. The reverse is also true: in this production of the play, Hamlet is not Olivier, but he is also not not Olivier. Within this field or frame of double negativity choice and virtuality remain activated.

The famous definition of Johan Huizinga makes an extremely close structural connection between play and festival, and thus also with ritual.

Play is thus a creative and at the same time destabilizing activity. Huizinga in fact transferred his concept of play from ritual to poetry and to musical forms of expression. [
191] Art, ritual, and performance are all in all barely distinguishable from play. Play represents not only an interruption of everyday life, but also an attitude with which one may again and again overcome the gravity and seriousness of civilization.

The comic chorus cancels the historic split into choral leader, khorodidaskalos, poet, actor, and spectator at short notice in its performance; it always plays and dances in a role that is open to the pragmatic context. Thus when the members of the chorus appear as birds in Aristophanes’ comedy of the same name, they take on, like children in a game or in ritual begging-processions, parts of the “not-I” (the bird) by means of costume and mask, without completely losing their “I.” The performed bird becomes partly “I,” and the performer speaks in this voice in the choral “I,” but in so doing never quite gives up the “not-I” quality. The bird is thus simultaneously “not-I” and “not not-I,” since behind the role of the bird the voice of the actually performing “I” filters through. This complex and paradoxical process of restaging a phylogenetically and ontogenetically early phase distinguishes the comic choral group. Like a child, each individual dances and plays while being conscious that he is at the same time someone else. Every playground, the orchestra or the χορός, where children or ritual choruses perform, is thus a place where the individual or collective identity is put into question and is continually created anew. The chorus of ritual, which dances at particular festivals, is in a certain sense the cultural institutionalization of child’s play. From playful choral movements there finally arises the large-scale play of drama, which is founded wholly on an original mimesis and in its turn incorporates ritual elements from the real world.

To put it pithily, and to adapt the famous titles of the works of Johan Huizinga and Walter Burkert: in comedy, man is homo ludens, and in tragedy homo necans. The character of play and the dissolution of all temporal and spatial relations is really much more observable in comedy than in tragedy. [196] The {73|74} most important and original element for play is the chorus, which as it dances and plays constantly enters into contact with the audience, involves it in its game, and thus makes it become a potential fellow-player. Often the comic chorus refers quite explicitly to its own exuberant activity. This occurs most clearly in Aristophanes in the parodos of the chorus of initiates in the Frogs. Constant references are made to παίζειν and χορεύειν. It is in a certain sense the chorus’ fundamental job to dance joyfully. The chorus’ references to itself happen in a wonderful blending of two levels, that of the “player” in its function as ritual dancer in the orchestra, and that of the fictional performer in its role. They cannot be as neatly separated as Kenneth Dover in exemplary fashion tried to do. [197] It is the property of play to dynamize ways of perception and to make them become one. Fusion is ultimately achieved by the double ritual dimension; the ritual of the choruses of initiates in the plot in honor of the dance gods Demeter and Iakkhos is reflected in the Dionysiac chorus of the here and now. Both gods are called upon to watch over the dance and the choral performance (παῖσαί τε καὶ χορεῦσαι, Frogs 388; and παίζειν τε καὶ χορεύειν, Frogs 407b), both in the here and in the there. [198]

The practice of comedy in the fifth century is in contravention of Plato’s moral and educational thought: the citizens put on a comic and grotesque chorus in which they often take on the shape of primitive and uncivilized creatures. The entire polis enters into a state of the ridiculous and the other and takes part in the ritual of inversion staged by fellow citizens, subsequently finding their way back to civilization in a somewhat purified state. Nevertheless, it emerges from the following discussion of the Thesmophoriazusae that the comic chorus not only constructs an anti-structure, but also in large part integrates the polis’ cult of the gods and thereby has a simultaneously stabilizing effect. This happens among other reasons because positive dances, like the pyrrhikhê, that belong to the polis order are embedded as social reality in the chorus. Comic dissolution lies not outside but within the polis and its ritual practices, because these dances represent the marginal period of the youth during initiation.

Ritual Role

Finally, the comic chorus is especially comprehensible as ritual because of its structure. It usually devises metaphors against the background of which a plot can be expanded. In the time of Aristophanes, comedy is such a thematically rich field that it cannot be reduced to one fundamental scheme. One should {75|76} remember here its political, fantastic, and myth-parodying form. Even in political comedy, so important for Aristophanes, the chorus often comprises assemblages that either explicitly represent a ritual community or can be associated with such, such as groups of primeval gods and heroes or the famous animal choruses. First of all, one should recall comedies like Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae or Frogs, in which the action is set in a ritual context, namely the festival of the Thesmophoria and the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries. Both the women who withdraw to the Pnyx from the men during the Thesmophoria and the initiates in the underworld show the ritual background on which the comic plot builds. Wherever sacred ceremonies are encountered in Greece there is most often dancing. [201] With the help of such ritual roles the chorus can thus very easily link reflexive references to its own performative action. The coincidence of role and function is thus guaranteed. Depending on the perspective, either of the two dimensions can move into the field of view to a greater or lesser extent. The festival creates an occasion, a “ritual within ritual” so to speak, on which the obligatory dances in honor of Dionysus can be held. Joyful and ecstatic choruses especially lend themselves to this, in honor of Dionysus first and foremost, but also Demeter and other gods who are associated with boisterous, chiefly agrarian festivals. [202]

Animal choruses are particularly characteristic of Old Comedy. [205] Nume-rous cultures have rites in which humans theatrically change into animals and perform choral dances. As lifeforms fundamentally different from humans, but which at the same time because of their close coexistence are quite near, animals are particularly well suited to reflect in playful fashion on important ideological relations in society, such as hierarchies and cosmogonies, and to stage them symbolically and expressively. [206] By means of projection onto the completely “other”—in Attic drama, as is well known, Dionysus himself represents this on the divine level—the polis is thus able to reflect on its values and norms. With the appearance of the animal other, which however at the same time confusingly resembles the self, namely the citizens of Attica, an inverted world comes to power for the duration of the comic play within the context of the festival of inversion. Significantly, the Dionysiac satyrs, Cratinus’ Cheirones (Χείρωνες, PCG IV, 245ff.), Apollophanes’ Centaurs (Κένταυροι, PCG II, 520), the {77|78} Sirens (Σειρῆνες) of Theopompos (PCG VII, 732–733) and Nikophon (PCG VII, 70–71), the Titanopanes (Τιτανόπανες) of Myrtilos (PCG VII, 30–31), or the Ant Men (Μυρμηκάνθρωποι) of Pherekrates (PCG VII, 161ff.) all present hybrid creatures that transcend the important categorical boundaries between god, human, and animal. It is precisely with the help of their ritual dance that the Attic audience is able to experience the distorted world order and the return of primitive conditions in an extremely lively fashion and on a nonverbal level. Against this background of the inverted world the use of barbarians, even women, for the comic choral role becomes understandable. [207]

Animal choruses appear quite early on vase paintings, and it is therefore likely that these choruses may already be connected at a very early stage with the evolution of Old Comedy. [208] Animals, like the comic chorus composed of twenty-four members, often represent a kind of social formation and so serve as metaphors for the communal life of humans in society. Their vital energy, which they also share with Dionysus and his retinue and other creatures from a primitive past—not coincidentally, wild animals such as panthers, deer, and goats are also found in his circle—expresses itself in wild jumps. On the comic stage this energy is artistically transformed into choral dance. Their group and herd formations and coordinated movements make many animals ideal projection surfaces onto which the human chorus can transfer its ritual activity. Fish and birds are prominent in this respect. In particular, the formation of accompanying dolphins is a favorite image in choral culture, as also in dithyrambs. Here one may recall the myth of the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, in which the {78|79} pirates, who want to kidnap the god, are transformed into dolphins and then like a chorus follow the ship, as is shown on the Exekias cup (Munich 2044). The chorus of Euripides’ Helen, for example, in the final, propemptikon-like song (Hel. 1451–1511) project their dancing successively onto dolphins and birds. On early vases armed warriors or Amazons are depicted riding on dolphins and peacocks. Dolphins as well as birds are closely connected with the Dionysiac and the musical and choral sphere. Both animals are equipped with a musical voice; a leader coordinates their group. In exactly the same way the chorus also pays attention to the lead dancer and the chorus leader and keeps in step with the music of the aulos player. The wings of the bird represent a metaphor for the lively and ecstatic dance in honor of Dionysus.

Comic soldiers of this type often appear as effeminate comasts; or conversely, women reach for weapons, like the mythical Amazons, to threaten the male order. The notion of the inverted world is expressed in this inbetween stage in which gender roles and other identity-bestowing characteristics are found next to each other without any distinction. This marginal counterworld can also be symbolically underscored by connecting it, for example, with a grotesque animal world. Young people who are not yet completely initiated are often connected with animals. They still jump around, wild and free, before being tamed and taken into the adult class. All comic distortions aside, a real-life dimension continues to be preserved in these dramatic roles too. The notion of the inbetween is thus also reflected in the combination of the communicative levels of plot and énonciation. In the example of the dolphin and peacock riders, despite all the reversals, the warrior component refers to the polis and its military institutions. The chorus and the performance in the chorus represent the element that connects them. It is the public place for social transitions. Here the two modes of communication are fused into their ambivalent and shifting unity. Beside the staging of a counterworld in the fictional role, which in its turn assimilates social practices, a new role identity as full citizens is created at the same time through dance and song in the transition. In the theater the chorus also dances and sings in its function as representative of its polis in honor of the gods, who ensure life in the city. The dissolution and the foundation of order stand dialectically side by side both in the plot and in the real-world context, and characterize the bewildering comic play.

The real-world chorus is thus the privileged locus of initiates. On a physical level, in the ritual dance and play they experience a social shaping that expresses itself in particular in gender role identity. Comedy assimilates in a joking form these critical transitions in particular. Naturally the paradigms of agricultural and new year festivals, at which choral dancing likewise takes place, are also transferable to comic choruses. The brief approach toward the other and the temporary dissolution of order make the world appear all the more stable when the period of reversal comes to an end. In the comic leap back to primordial days, the members of the chorus and the polis celebrating alongside them represent diverse phenomena of marginality; particularly in the reexperience of archaic initiation rituals, the polis gives expression to its tensions under the auspices of Dionysus, examines the current order, and after dissolving it, mentally reconstructs it.

This barely plot-related, transversal form of discourse that transgresses the boundaries of the plot in the direction of the actual performance and the here and now is characteristic of ritual. We will likewise clarify the connotations of the highly mimetic weapon dance in the comic reflexes of initation rituals. In chapter 1, these connections will be examined using the Thesmo-phoriazusae as example. In chapter 2, our examination of choral culture will be expanded in a discussion of the Hellenistic songs of the Ithyphalloi and Phallophoroi, which are often referred to for questions of origin. All in all, the aim is to illustrate the clear rituality of these texts in as many different shades as possible with reference their linguistic structure as well. {82|}


[ back ] 1. It is almost impossible to survey all the literature on the question of origin. Here we can only cover, using a few selected voices, the communis opinio, which sees the essence of drama as lying in the chorus. Aristotle’s reflections in the Poetics (esp. 1449a9–24), which one should not however trust blindly, constitute the point of departure for nearly all studies. Cf. Lesky 19713:260–278, esp. 273 (“In der Tat steht der Chor für die Komödie ebenso am Anfange wie für die Tragödie” [ = Engl. trans. 1966:223–240, esp. 235 “In fact comedy begins with the chorus just as much as tragedy does”]). At the beginning of both genres were processions, ritual celebrations with dances and singing. For tragedy, cf. Latacz 1993:54: “Der Chor—so muß man schließen, wenn man diese Entwicklung über die ältesten Aischylosstücke hinaus rückwärts weiterverlängert—war offenbar ursprünglich der alleinige Träger jenes ‘Gesangs,’ den wir als Keimzelle der Tragödie aus dem Terminus ‘trag-odia’ herausschälten. Das heißt: die Urform der Tragödie war offenbar ein Chorgesang” [“The chorus—so one must conclude if this development is projected further back beyond the earliest plays of Aeschylus—was clearly at the beginning the only vehicle of the ‘song’ which we extract as the nucleus of tragedy from the term ‘trag-odia.’ That is: the original form of tragedy was clearly a choral song”]. Cf. among others Szemerényi 1975:325, Flashar 1991:23, Henrichs 1994/95:56, and Henrichs 1996:24–25. Cf. in particular Athenaeus 630c (perhaps quoted from Aristokles’ On Choruses [cf. ibid., 630b]); he thinks that the satyr play as well as tragedy originally consisted solely of choruses. Themistios (Or. 26.316d) credits Aristotle with the view that the chorus sang alone initially, and that Thespis came up with the prologue and speech. On the organic origin of comedy from kômos processions, cf. esp. Herter 1947 and Giangrande 1963. Against this view of a characteristic link between comedy and chorus cf. now the hyper-sociological approach of Stark 2004, esp. 97–99, 322–323. On the origin of comedies cf. also my observations in chap. 2.

[ back ] 2. Cf. Cratin. fr. 17, 1 K.-A. on the archon to whom the poet would apply: ὃς οὐκ ἔδωκ’ αἰτοῦντι Σοφοκλέει χορόν; on χορὸν αἰτεῖν cf. Ar. Equ. 513; on χορὸν διδόναι cf. Plat. Rep. 383c2, Leg. 817d7, and Arist. Poet. 1449b1–2; on χορὸν λαμβάνειν cf. e.g. Ar. Ran. 94; χορὸν εἰσάγειν means “to begin the play” in Ar. Ach. 11; cf. Thesm. 390–391 ὅπουπερ ἔμβραχυ | εἰσὶν θεαταὶ καὶ τραγῳδοὶ καὶ χοροί (Mika complains: Euripides makes fun of us women, wherever there is an audience, actors, and choruses, i.e. in every tragedy). Here χοροί appears in a technical sense: tragedy consists of the three bodies audience, actors, and chorus; the expression χοροί often simply means “drama” or “dramatic performance” in a synecdotic sense; cf. Ar. Ach. 628, Equ. 521, Eccl. 1160, and Men. Sam. 737 (comedy), Ar. Av. 787, and Ran. 1419 (tragedy).

[ back ] 3. Cf. Winkler 1990. He proceeds on the assumption that the tragic chorus represents a kind of military formation of ephebes. The members of the chorus symbolically transform themselves, in his opinion, into goats whose voices are breaking (τραγίζειν) (ibid., esp. 58–62). On the initiation thesis, cf. already the negative attitude of Pickard-Cambridge 1927:159 and 172 (both passages were significantly left out of the second edition, Pickard-Cambridge 1962) and the suspicions of Thomson 1956:101–136. Winkler’s theses have recently enjoyed the support of Graf (1998:25–27). On the concept of initiation in the study of religion, cf. the general overview in Grohs 1993. On initiation as a modern interpretative paradigm in the field of classics, cf. below, n61.

[ back ] 4. Cf. MacDowell 1989 and Csapo/Slater 1995:139–157. On the prestige of the khorêgia cf. Wilson 1997, on the khorêgia in general see Wilson 2000.

[ back ] 5. In connection with the study in classical philology of extratextual frame, occasion, and performance, Bruno Gentili’s research group on Greek lyric in Urbino, Wolfgang Rösler, and, in a narrower mythical-ritual connection, Claude Calame should be mentioned here as methodological examples of this work. Cf. among others Gentili 1984, Gentili 1990, Rösler 1980, and Calame 1977 (Engl. trans. vol. I, Calame 1997). Cf. also Kannicht 1989, Krummen 1990, esp. 1–9 (general), 10–30 (on Pindar), Käppel 1992, esp. 17–21 (on the paean), and Stehle 1997, esp. 3–25 (general introduction) and 26–169 (“public” poetry of male and female choruses).

[ back ] 6. Cf. Flashar 1991:7, 22–24, 126–128, 148–152, 221, 234, 242, 248, 250–251, 261–262, 269–270, 298–302 and Henrichs 1996:61. The chorus does not fit in with most modern producers’ plans; for this reason it is often drastically cut and split up into individual figures. For modern actors a role in the chorus is relatively thankless, because they are as a result unable to stand out and make their mark; for practical reasons resulting from specialized training actors also have problems with the presentation of song and dance. A corresponding realization of this on stage needs a lot of rehearsal time. Only in the best stagings of an ancient drama is the dimension of the chorus not neglected. In such productions the chorus sings and dances naturally; Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1992 Atreid tetralogy was felt to be an outstanding event precisely because of the realization of the chorus; cf. Bierl 1996:54–77, esp. 62n122.

[ back ] 7. On the re-ritualization of avant garde theater, cf. Friedrich 1983:203–209; on corresponding tendencies in productions of ancient tragedy on the modern stage, see Flashar 1991:228–260. On postmodern theater in general, see A. de Toro 1995.

[ back ] 8. Cf. Lehmann 1991:2, 47–50 and Baur 1997:26–28. On the choral in contemporary theater, cf. the contribution of Baur (1999), who presents a summary of his 1998 dissertation (= Baur 1999a) on this topic written with G. Erken (Munich). Cf. also Erken 1997:381–382 and Bierl 2004:157–183, esp. 164–167. On the continuities between melic choral lyric and dramatic choral songs, cf. among others Webster 1970:110–132, Herington 1985:103–124, Stoessl 1987:116–141, Nagy 1990:382–413, and the references to the latest literature below, n62.

[ back ] 9. Cf. Helbo/Johansen/Pavis/Ubersfeld 1991, and esp. Helbo 1991 and Ruffini 1991. On theater anthropology, cf. also Barba/Savarese 1991.

[ back ] 10. Cf. among others Schechner 1977, Schechner 1985 (for theater), and Turner 1982 (for ritual). On Jane Harrison’s evolutionism and cult of origin, cf. Schlesier 1991:196–199 (in William M. Calder’s excellent volume on the Cambridge ritualists [Calder 1991]). While the communis opinio continues to stick to a development from ritual to theater, theater anthropology emphasizes the structural commonalities. Both approaches have some truth to them; it is largely a matter of perspective. The connection between both categories is already acknowledged in the traditional approach; I am here mainly concerned with describing the ritual nature of the (comic) chorus from the most differing points of view. On the relation between drama and ritual, see now also Graf 1998:19–25 and Köpping 2003. On the relation between drama, myth, and ritual in a performative perspective see now also Wiles 2000:5–47, Bierl 2002, and Bierl 2007.

[ back ] 11. Cf. Schechner 1977:63–98 (“From Ritual to Theatre and Back: The Structure/Process of Efficacy-Entertainment Dyad”), 108–139 (“Towards a Poetics of Performance”), Schechner 1985.

[ back ] 12. Cf. States 1996; for a critique of Schechner, ibid., 13–20. For a detailed criticism of the theses of Turner and Schechner, as well as of the performance approach in ethnology, which masks the fundamental differences between theater and social, ritual action, see Köpping 1998, esp. 65–71. This useful contribution correctly points out the problematic points of the fashionable equation of ritual and theater. To a large part one can agree with him; yet like Turner and Schechner, he relies heavily on an Aristotelian concept of theater. He sums up (67): “Die klare Unterscheidung zwischen Theater und sozialem wie rituellem Handeln muß aufrecht erhalten werden, sonst bleibt uns nichts ‘Apartes’ mehr für das Theater übrig” [“The clear distinction between theater and social as well as ritual activity must be maintained, otherwise we are left with nothing that is ‘separate’ for the theater”]. With regard to the picture of the chorus that results from traditional ideas of a theater of illusion (one-sidedly understood as “mimetic”) with meta-reference, the present study shows that this kind of separation of categories impairs understanding of the phenomenon. Furthermore, both ritual and theater may here usefully be connected with the linguistic category of the performative, connections that Köpping does not pursue. But cf. now Köpping 2003.

[ back ] 13. States 1996:25. Cf. also Schechner 1985:14–16, 117–150 and Gadamer 1992:415 (ritual), 425 (art). In connection with ritual, cf. also Friedrich 1983:186 and Morgan/Brask 1988:191, in connection with avantgarde theater Friedrich 1983:208. I cite Gadamer 1992:415 for purposes of clarification: “Die Kultgemeinde darf sich durchaus nicht als Zuschauer fühlen. Sie gehört zu der Handlung. Sie kann mithandeln, etwa im Gesang, in den alle einstimmen, auch wenn es vielleicht nur geheimnisvolle, liedähnliche Texte sind, die am Ende gar einer fremden Sprache angehören, von der man kein Wort versteht. Oder man denke an die Tänze, die die heilige Hand-lung umkränzen. Selbst wenn es am Ende mimische Darbietungen sind, werden sie nicht eigentlich einer Zuschauerschaft angeboten, sondern der Gottheit selber” [“The cultic community never regards itself as spectator. It belongs to the action. It can also take part in the singing, for example, in which all join, even if these are only mysterious, song-like texts that are ultimately like some foreign language of which one understands not a single word. Or consider the dances that surround the sacred activity. Even though these are ultimately mimetic performances, they are not in fact performed for an audience, but for the deity himself”]. These remarks fit the performative and ritual passages of Old Comedy extremely well; cf. in particular chap. 1 below. Even Köpping (1998:66) has to concede that theater “becomes ritual” if the performance is carried out “for the gods.” Of course this is usually the case for the Greek chorus even within the drama.

[ back ] 14. Cf. the definition in Arist. Poet. 1450a4–5.: λέγω γὰρ μῦθον τοῦτον τὴν σύνθεσιν τῶν πραγμάτων. Cf. inter alia 1450a32–33 and 1451a16–19.

[ back ] 15. On the distinction between μῦθος as fable and as plot, and between histoire and discours (using the terminology and interpretation of Benveniste 1966:237–250) cf. Kraus 1994:292–296. Kraus rightly refers to the action of the play, which is central for drama and which is found on two levels in Aristotle (289–290): “Tragödie ist für Aristoteles wesentlich Nachahmung von Handlung (μίμησις πράξεως) und durch Handelnde (δρώντων). Handlung ist Gegenstand und Mittel der Mimesis; Handelnde (πράττοντες, δρῶντες) sind sowohl die Schauspieler auf der Bühne als auch die dargestellten Figuren im Rahmen ihrer Geschichte” [“For Aristotle, tragedy is essentially the imitation of action (μίμησις πράξεως) and by means of those acting/doing (δρώντων). Action is the object and the means of mimesis; both the actors on the stage and the figures presented in the context of their story are agents (πράττοντες, δρῶντες)”]. Among other real-life actions, speech actions and speech acts occur frequently in drama: the locutionary act is actually completed on stage, while the illocutionary act is simulated. On the multidimensional nature of speech signs in theater, cf. Fischer-Lichte 1983:31–36. Flashar 1976:356 (= Eidola 175) and Flashar 1977:123–124 (= Eidola 60–61) already refer to speech actions, or speech acts in the sense of Austin 1994 in the Oedipus Tyrannus (threats, curses, apologies, laments, condemnations). For speech act theory in connection with the concept of the chorus see pp. 36–47 below. Both types of action mentioned here will be of particular importance in this study.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Leach 1982:5–6. Cf. Gregory Nagy’s concise expression in the introduction to Martin 1989:xi: “The mûthos is not just any speech-act reported by poetry: it is also the speech-act of poetry itself. Viewed in this light, myth implies ritual in the very performance of myth. And that performance is the essence of poetics.”

[ back ] 17. This account reflects current reconstructions of the genesis of tragedy. Cf. among others Lesky 19713:265–266 [= Engl. trans. 1966:223–232].

[ back ] 18. Cf. Baur 1997, esp. 44–47 and now Baur 1999a:15–29, esp. 26–28. Baur and Käppel (1999:61–69) come to quite similar conclusions with regard to tragedy.

[ back ] 19. Cf. Lohr 1986:78–79, Schechner 1985:4–10 and Calame 1995:97–115 (on the tragic mask), Calame 1989 (on the comic mask). On the convergence of drama and ritual in the mask (in its function as shifter), whose divinity Dionysus represents, cf. Henrichs 1994/95:70.

[ back ] 20. Cf. Jakobson 1984. On the chorus in the interchange between intra- and extradiscursive function, cf. in the more recent scholarship Gould 1996 and the reply of Goldhill 1996.

[ back ] 21. This opinion is based on Arist. Poet. 1456a25–27. Cf. with regard to tragedy Müller 1967, esp. 230, Rösler 1983, esp. 107–110 (Sophocles’ Antigone), 123 (Sophocles), Gardiner 1987, esp. 1–9 (Sophocles), Paulsen 1989 (Sophocles’ late tragedies), and in extreme form Thiel 1993, esp. 1–9, 441–456 (Aeschylus’ Agamemnon). Hose II (1990/91:413) agrees with this conclusion with respect to Aeschylus and Sophocles. Paulsen (1998:77–81) has recently confirmed his results for all of Sophocles.

[ back ] 22. Cf. Schlegel 1846:76–77, Wilamowitz 1921:517, and Kranz 1933:170–171 and 222, on directing reception, ibid. 207–215, esp. 213; on deflection into the general ibid., 215–220.

[ back ] 23. Kranz 1933:170–171 and 220–225. He talks of the “triple nature” (171) of the chorus; in his opinion “contradictions” may arise from the variety of aspects. Kranz 1933:171 and Rode 1971:85 make a fundamental distinction between the chorus’ function in dialogue and in actual songs. Rode 1971:99–103 also sees its inclusion in the action of the play as secondary. Hose 1990/91 similarly treats Euripides’ extremely heterogeneous chorus more along the lines of a broken model; cf. esp. the summarizing remarks of Hose I 1990/91:308–312 and Hose II 1990/91:404–413. Cf. also recently Paulsen 1998 (Aeschylus: fellow player, mouthpiece, and instrument [esp. 77]; Sophocles: fellow player [esp. 81]; Euripides: differentiated fellow player [esp. 82], not mouthpiece [85–86], not filler between acts [81–82]).

[ back ] 24. Cf. also Käppel 1999:61–69, esp. 66–69. Cf. already Bierl 1991, inter alia 83–84, 106–107, 114, 117–118, and 45–49 (on the tension between inner and outer). Cf. now similarly Calame 1999, esp. 148–153.

[ back ] 25. Cf. Bierl 1991:114–118.

[ back ] 26. Cf. Fischer-Lichte 1983, esp. 25–179; she views theater as a semiotic system that consists of various signs; she speaks of verbal, linguistic, paralinguistic, kinesic, mimetic, gestural, and proxemic signs, the appearance of the actor as sign, the sign of space, and nonverbal acoustic signs. These separate levels of signification are particularly important for the choral analysis in chap. 2. On theater semiotics cf. inter alia also F. de Toro 1995, esp. 63–96 (with further literature), who treats signs using the categories of Peirce 1983, esp. 64–67 (icon, index, symbol).

[ back ] 27. In my dissertation I looked at Dionysus as doubly located shifter in his specific connection with performance and theater; see Bierl 1991.

[ back ] 28. These connections with the performative in the speech act theory of Austin 1994 were already perceived by Johnson (1980:56): “The performative, then, acts like a ‘shifter’ in that it takes on meaning only by referring to the instance of its utterance.” On the connection with the discourse of theater in general cf. F. de Toro 1995:5–33, esp. 24–28. Moreover, Johnson (1980:56–57) also refers to the self-referential nature of the performative utterance, to which I will also refer in what follows.

[ back ] 29. According to Warning (1976:283–287) the purposeful plot or sujet is, using terminology borrowed from a distinction made by E. v. Hartmann, an ulterior plot (anderweitige Handlung) on which paradigmatic comic elements or actions (komische Handlungen, Hartmann 1887:334) operate, so to speak, in a “parasitic” fashion (Warning 1976:287).

[ back ] 30. Cf. Bowie 1993. Riu 1999 has similarly suggested a ritual interpretation of Old Comedy that confines itself largely to Dionysus and the Dionysian; the monographis a slightly revised version in English of his 1989 Barcelona dissertation. See my critical review in Gnomon 74 (2002):196–203. On the connection of the plot structure of the Plutus to the Anthesteria see Bierl 1994. Generally, in scholarship on Greek drama one can see a recent boom in the discovery of ritual subtexts. For a performative-ritual interpretation of the Ecclesiazusae see Zeitlin 1999. On the interaction between religion and literature and on the mytho-ritual poetics of Greek texts, cf. Bierl 2002 and Bierl 2007 (with special emphasis on drama), Yatromanolakis/Roilos 2004, and Bierl/Lämmle/Wesselmann 2007. On the use of the interpretative paradigm of the ephêbeia, initiation, and rite de passage as definitive for structure in the construction of plot in tragedy and Old Comedy, see below, chap. 1, n481.

[ back ] 31. Cf. Seaford 1984:14. On the Cambridge ritualists see the extremely informative volume edited by Calder (1991).

[ back ] 32. As further development of the theories of Lord 1960 see among others Havelock 1963, esp. 145–164, Havelock 1986, esp. 93, Gentili 1984, and Aloni 1998. The concept of performance has recently enjoyed a great vogue in countless publications in our field, especially in the English-speaking world. In the U.S. this has been particularly employed by Gregory Nagy as a framework for interpretation, chiefly in the areas of epic and lyric. See Nagy 1990, Nagy 1996, Stehle 1997, and Edmunds/Wallace 1997. On performance criticism as a trend in work on ancient drama, see Slater 1993 for a good overview. See now Wiles 1997 and Wiles 2000. On Aristophanes and performance in a political sense, see now Slater 2002 (with my critical review in Gnomon 78 [2006]:385–390); in general on comedy in a performative perspective, see now Revermann 2006 (who ignores the original German publication of this book).

[ back ] 33. Cf. Austin 1994 and the restrictions of Benveniste 1966:267–276. Cf. among others Turner 1974, Bakhtin 1984, Bakhtin 1984a, Goffman 1959, Butler 1988, and Schechner 1985. Quite independently from me, while I was writing this book, Erika Fische-Lichte brought this paradigm to the fore, particularly in theater studies. This “performative turn” in humanities has a great impact on the interpretation of drama. See Fischer-Lichte 1998, Fischer-Lichte 1998a, Fischer-Lichte 1999. In this new approach Geisteswissenschaft focuses less on the reference and fixed significance of texts and other artifacts than on the process of synaesthetic performance. Body movements, dance, lighting, costumes, and all other semiotic signs yield to an effect of intense transformation. In such a highly stimulating event meaning is not prestabilized and fixed, but emergent in the actualization. On the performative see now Fischer-Lichte/Wulf 2001, Wirth 2002, Fischer-Lichte 2004.

[ back ] 34. Johnson 1980:52–66 (“Poetry and Performative Language: Mallarmé and Austin”) successfully applies Austin’s theory of the performative and the speech act to lyric and dramatic poetry and to the problem of self-referentiality. On its use in classical philology cf. among others Martin 1989 (in the Iliad), Nagy 1990, and Nagy 1996.

[ back ] 35. Cf. Kuhn 1968. Cf. the remarks of Versnel 1993:11–12 on this; in the field of anthropology different paradigms are not mutually exclusive. In particular, a broadly applied concept like performance and ritual combines various approaches. The attempt of Bell (1992, esp. 69–168), to understand ritual as social praxis in Pierre Bourdieu’s sense (Bourdieu 1977, esp. 72–158) seems promising. On the concept of performance and its application to fifth-century BCE Athens see now also the excellent observations of Goldhill 1999 (esp. his overview of modern performance studies, 10–20), which introduce the collected volume Goldhill/Osborne 1999.

[ back ] 36. For criticism of the metaphor of performance and the difficulties of the concept, see States 1996. On the impossibility of a definition of performance see 1996:3; States maintains that the concept of ritual has lately expanded from religious actions to all manner of social everyday actions, which he believes makes it simultaneously increasingly more imprecise. The literature on ritual is practically impossible to survey; for a good general, theoretical view, see Bell 1992 and Bell 1997. For the field of classical antiquity see Versnel 1993:15–88 (esp. on the relation between myth and ritual) and Morris 1993.

[ back ] 37. Tambiah 1985:128 and generally 123–166 (“A Performative Approach to Ritual,” originally in Proceedings of the British Academy 65 [1979]:113–169). Tambiah relies here on Charles Sanders Peirce’s well-known division of signs into icon, index, and symbol; see Peirce 1983, esp. 64–67.

[ back ] 38. See Burkert 1979:37: “In other words, ritual is action redirected for demonstration. Characteristic features of ritual in this perspective are: the stereotyped pattern of action, independent of the actual situation and emotion; repetition and exaggeration to make up a kind of theatrical effect; and the function of communication.” On Burkert’s socio-biological concept of ritual see Versnel 1993:74–88. See also Burkert 1996. Bell (1992:73 [with 146n31]) rightly sees, along with Meyer Fortes, the danger of expanding the concept of ritual too far if one confines ritual, as Richard Schechner does for example, only to formalized communicative functions. As she pointedly remarks: “It is a short step from the proposition that everything is ritual to the practical reality that nothing is ritual.” I meet this methodological objection by limiting the subject of my investigation to the chorus, which according to previous and current theories is undeniably connected with ritual and is strongly performative.

[ back ] 39. See Braungart 1996, esp. 139–253, specifically on theater 159–161. On theater from a cultural-anthropological perspective, see also Bachmann-Medick 1988.

[ back ] 40. See among others Connor 1987, Morris 1993 (on the social function of ritual, with a good overview of various theories), and Osborne 1994. On ritual as an instrument of power, see Bell 1992:169–238.

[ back ] 41. See Wittgenstein 1975 and Malinowski 1935:1–74, esp. 8–10, 45–60 (on the pragmatic context and potential of words), 211–250, esp. 231–240 (on 234–235 he lists alongside magic and sacral utterances typically Austinian speech acts: legal formulae, promises, agreements, oaths). I cite here a few passages straight from Malinowski because they will be of relevance in the course of this work for the connection between the ritual chorus and the speech act; see Malinowski 1935:8 (on the utterance of sacred words in a ritual): “Words, . . . the proper names of a field, path or garden plot, are used as significant actions side by side with bodily movements. Speech is here equivalent to gesture and to motion. It does not function as an expression of thought or communication of ideas but as a part of concerted activity.” Equally 1935:9: “Words which cross from one actor to another do not serve primarily to communicate thought: they connect work and correlate manual and bodily movements. Words are part of action and they are equivalents to actions.” See finally his concluding remark 1935:52: “All our considerations have led us to the conclusion that words in their primary and essential sense do, act, produce and achieve.” On Malinowski see also Firth 1957 (on Malinowski’s linguistic background), Tambiah 1985:30–34, and Adam 1990 (on the ritual effect of speech). The impetus for this theory came ultimately from James Frazer. On performativity and magic see Graf 1996:185–186. Austin was then received by Finnegan (1969) and Bloch (1974) into the field of ethnological reseach on ritual. In the study of everyday ritual Knuf/Schmitz 1980:7–11 (“Ritual als Handlung”) are favorably inclined to performativity and the application of Austin.

[ back ] 42. The stimulating criticism in Gardner 1983, which includes the actors’ frame of belief as a central factor in more complex rituals, thus making the perlocutionary act not automatically, causally, and constitutively connected to locution, is not quite fair to Tambiah’s complex idea, which does in fact address the interplay of belief and ritual (Tambiah 1985:130). Austin’s model, which is directed purely at the pragmatic communication situation in a rather mechanistic and formal way, does not of course work in every ritual context. For an evaluation and critique of performative ritual theory, see Bell 1992:37–43. On the generally too restrictive and institutional concept of ritual and on the as-yet unclear assumptions behind the performative approach in the study of everyday ritual, see Rauch 1992:31–32.

[ back ] 43. Bell 1992, esp. 69–168. Cf. her definition (81): “Practice is (1) situational; (2) strategic; (3) embedded in a misrecognition of what it is in fact doing; and (4) able to reproduce or reconfigure a vision of the order of power in the world, or what I will call ‘redemptive hegemony.’ ” Cf. Bourdieu 1977, esp. 72–158; on Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and the relationship to ritual see Braungart 1996:48–57, esp. 49–51.

[ back ] 44. On demonstration as constitutive element of ritual, see Burkert 1979:37 and Braungart 1996:45.

[ back ] 45. Burkert 1985:102. On music and dance as ritual, see also Braungart 1996:246–248.

[ back ] 46. On the agonistic principle, which appears also in the texts of the tragedies as a literary competition see Seidensticker 1996. On choral dance in agonistic context see also Henrichs 1996:28–34.

[ back ] 47. See in particular des Bouvrie 1990 and des Bouvrie 1993.

[ back ] 48. On communitas and “anti-structure” cf. Turner 1974:44–57, 201–202, esp. 272–274 and Turner/Turner 1982:205–206.

[ back ] 49. In compiling the above-mentioned five characteristics I rely among others on the conclusions of Lonsdale 1993, esp. 19; cf. also Tambiah 1985:123–166, 382–389, esp. 124, 149–150, 154–155, 164, and Ceccarelli 1998:10–12.

[ back ] 50. Radcliffe-Brown 1964:246–254 and 334–335. On the social-anthropological functions of dance cf. Hanna 1979, Spencer 1985, and Cowan 1990 (on modern Greece). Naerebout (1997:293–409) erects a comprehensive theoretical framework, which takes into account findings from the field of dance and communication study as well as from anthropology and the sociology of religion.

[ back ] 51. Evans-Pritchard 1928, esp. 460. Because of the Marxist perspective of Bloch 1974, which attempts to show ritual as the opium of the people, the latter views dance as a restricted code. This does not, however, fit in with the conclusions I have presented.

[ back ] 52. Originally published in Proceedings of the British Academy 65 (1979):113–169 (= Tambiah 1985:123–166 and 382–389).

[ back ] 53. Lonsdale 1993. Cf. the overly negative criticism of D. Sansone (BMCR 5.3 [1994]:230–233). Cf. also the review by F. G. Naerebout, Mnemosyne 49 (1996):366–369.

[ back ] 54. Kinzl 1980:180, relying on Szemerényi 1975:319–330, esp. 326–330, in fact proposes an etymological connection between τραγικός and the Hittite root tarkw-/ tarw-, “dance,” “rave,” which implies that the tragic chorus originally represented only dance. According to Kinzl’s reconstruction (180–184) based on Hdt. 5.67 and 6.129, Dionysiac and orgiastic choral dance came to the area of the Isthmos from western Asia Minor and was there hellenized and domesticated (i.e. it took on a solemn character) by Kleisthenes of Sikyon.

[ back ] 55. On “song culture” cf. Herington 1985. On Greek song culture in general from a dramatic, artistic, and cultural perspective see among others Warnecke 1932, Pickard-Cambridge 1968:246–257 (on the chorus 232–262), Koller 1963, Dale 1969, Webster 1970, Fitton 1973, and Kachler 1974. On individual dances and dance formations (choreographic studies of images and texts) cf. inter alia Weege 1926, Lawler 1964, Prudhommeau 1965, Stoessl 1987:23–47, and Brommer 1989. Mullen 1982, Henrichs 1996, and Ceccarelli 1998 are examples of more recent studies. See the detailed overview of the field by Naerebout 1997:1–113, esp. on trends since 1925 (72–101). For a supplement to the titles cited above see the detailed bibliography therein (114–145).

[ back ] 56. Cf. inter alia Gentili 1984, Gentili 1984/85, Gentili 1990, Gentili 1990a, Rösler 1980, and Rösler 1983a; they emphasize the concrete nature of the discourse, myth as connecting link in oral culture, deixis ad oculos (in the sense of Bühler 1934, esp. 79–80, 105, 108, 125), and its direct reception and influence in early Greek lyric; Latacz 1985 rejects the narrow focus on concrete and pragmatic context and postulates the presence of imagination and fictionality even in lyric; Latacz 1985:69 correctly includes comedy among the genres influenced by actual everyday communication. On the discussion between Latacz and Rösler and an attempt to reconcile the two approaches, see Gentili 1990a:15–16; according to him, the cause of the difference lies in a misunderstanding of the term “fictionality,” which should not be understood in the modern sense of the word.

[ back ] 57. Calame 1977. On the connection between festival and choral poetry cf. also Kannicht 1989. In eneral studies of Greek dance there has also been something of a paradigm shift toward anhropological, ritual, and performative questions, which Calame’s groundbreaking study introduced. After twenty years the first volume has now received an English translation, which the author has provided with updated references (Calame 1997). Cf. e.g. Lonsdale 1993 and Ceccarelli 1998 (esp. on the pyrrhikhê; cf. E. Stehle’s review in BMCR 00.03.17), which emphasize inter alia the anthropological connection to initiation. On the chorus in Greek life cf. also Bacon 1994/95.

[ back ] 58. Winkler 1990. The institution of the Attic ephêbeia is first attested only in the fourth century BCE (Arist. Ath. Pol. 42) and even the term ephêbos is a comparatively late usage; the earliest inscription concerning the ephebic class comes from 334/33 (Lycurgan military reforms). It remains controversial whether the fourth-century institution was something completely new or went back to very similar fifth-century antecedents. The detailed study by Pélékidis (1962:7–79, esp. 51–79 [on its history]) argues for the latter; in particular see 33 and 78–79. The question is also handled by Winkler (1990:26–27).

[ back ] 59. Herington 1985 and Nagy 1994/95. My summary of current theories largely follows their presentation of the most important milestones, which range from Calame 1977 through Herington 1985, Burkert 1987a, and Winkler 1990 to Nagy 1990.

[ back ] 60. Nagy 1990, esp. 42–45, 339–413, in particular 346, 349, 373–375; the reactualization of myth in ritual is thus fundamental; on this idea cf. Leach 1982:5–6; on mimesis in this sense cf. Koller 1954 (his thesis, that mimesis has its origin in dance, was for a long time not generally accepted), Gentili 1984:67–68 (20064:87–88), De Angeli 1988, and Gentili 1990a:12–13. On the understanding of the term during the Second Sophistic, cf. Flashar 1979, which, relying on a different evaluation, defines mimesis in the fifth century BCE as “presentation on another level” (79–81, esp. 80 [= Eidola 201–203, esp. 202]).

[ back ] 61. In a piece on choral performance traditions in Stesichorus, who is generally placed in the field of lyric monody by modern scholarship, Burkert 1987a, relying on a passage from the “Old Oligarch,” Ps. Xenophon Ath. Pol. 1.13, in which the loss of the rich song culture in Athens of the archaic period is lamented, emphasizes the separation in choral culture of an aristocratic phase from a democratic one. It is of course significant that, contrary to Burkert’s assumption of the professionalization in Stesichorus’ time of the members of the chorus as well, the amateur status of choral participants continued in the classical period, even as the choral poet-producer now concentrated on this as his main activity. That professionalization did not take place should be regarded as evidence for a former initiation of the youth. It was not professional dancers, who might also be foreigners or slaves, but representative groups or age groups that on a cyclical basis formed the chorus, in which the polis as a whole clearly had a fundamental interest. On the religious concept of initiation see the general overview in Grohs 1993. As rite de passage it always requires symbolic dramatization; on this see van Gennep 1909 and Turner 1967:93–111. For discussion of initiation as puberty ritual see among others the following important works: Harrison 19272, Jeanmaire 1939, Burkert 1966, Vidal-Naquet 1968, Brelich 1969, Calame I 1977 (Engl. trans. Calame 1997); see also inter alia Bremmer 1978, Bremmer 1980, Vidal-Naquet 1986, Winkler 1990, Moreau 1992, Graf 1998:25–27, Baudy 1998:57–64, Calame 1999b, Bierl 2002:674–675. In particular on the Greek chorus as initiatory training institution see Calame I 1977 (Engl. trans. Calame 1997), Winkler 1990, and Calame 1999b:299–307. On the history of scholarship in this regard and for a critical survey of this paradigm (with extensive bibliography) see Versnel 1993:48–74, Bierl 2002:674–675, Dodd/Faraone 2003, and Bierl 2007:18–21, 23–25. On the application of the interpretative categories of ephêbeia, initiation, and rite de passage as structural determinant in the construction of plot in tragedy and Old Comedy cf. below, chap. 1, n481.

[ back ] 62. There is now an impressive synthesis on the chorus in Attic tragedy in the form of a collective volume. The contributions stem from a conference on the chorus in Greek culture, held in the spring of 1992 as a cooperative effort between Harvard and Boston Universities. The first part focuses on the transition from choral lyric to tragic chorus; here the contributors reflect in exemplary fashion contemporary interest in choral performativity, self-referentiality, and ritual behavior. The second part, consisting mainly of contributions on the choruses of individual tragedians, is also published in the journal Arion; see Arion 3rd ser., 3.1 (fall 1994/winter 1995) and 4.1 (spring 1996):1–114. Finally, on the tragic chorus see inter alia Segal 1995, esp. 180–181, Henrichs 1996, Henrichs 1996a, Baur 1997, Wiles 1997, esp. 63–113, Paulsen 1998, Käppel 1999, esp. 61–69, and Calame 1999, who for the most part consider archaic choral lyric as well. See now also Foley 2003 and Calame 2005. Baur 1999a:15–29 in his general characterization of the ancient chorus represents a notable exception, in that he includes the comic chorus in order to illustrate the phenomenon on the twentieth-century stage. Cf. also his “Überblick über die Forschungslage,” ibid., 10–12. At a conference held in Potsdam (“Der Chor im antiken und modernen Drama,” 15–17 Oct. 1997) (= Riemer/Zimmermann 1999) comedy received its due alongside tragedy; see Zimmermann 1999 and Bierl 1999. See now also Perusino/Colantonio 2007, the acta of the conference “Dalla lirica corale alla poesia drammatica. Forme e funzioni del canto corale nella tragedia e nella commedia greca” (Urbino, 21–23 Sept. 2005). On the Aristophanic chorus, particularly on the exodoi of Lys., Pax, Av., Eccl., Vesp., and Ran., see now Calame 2004.

[ back ] 63. Calame 1995, esp. 3–26, 98–100, and 106–111. On shifters see Jakobson 1984. On énonciation see Ducrot/Todorov 1972:405–410, Greimas/Courtés I 1979/86:125–128, and Greimas/Courtés II 1979/86:75–77; on the énoncé (i.e. the result of the act of utterance) cf. Greimas/Courtés I 1979/86:123–125 and Greimas/Courtés II 1979/86:74–75. A text as énoncé normally blends out references to its énonciation. Bühler’s deixis ad oculos (on deixis see Bühler 1934:79–148, on deixis ad oculos 79–120, esp. 79–80, 105, 108, 125) is to some extent comparable to indexical reference to the énonciation, while anaphoric deixis, focused on the speech context, and deixis of the imaginary (am Phantasma) (Bühler 1934:121–140) are distinct from this; cf. Ducrot/Todorov 1972:405–406. On these connections cf. also F. de Toro 1995:11–28, specifically on deixis 13–22. Even in a concrete, oral communication situation, as was also the case in Old Comedy, not every direct reference has to relate to the act of utterance, but may in accordance with its pivotal function also relate to the level of mimesis. Cf. the reply of Latacz 1985 to Rösler 1983a. On shifting in/out or embrayage/débrayage cf. Greimas/Courtés I 1979/86, 119–121 and 79–82, Greimas/Courtés II 1979/86, 73–74 and 61; on the nature of personal pronouns as shifters between énonciation and énoncé cf. Benveniste 1966:251–257. On the “I” in énonciation see Benveniste 1966:260: “Est «ego» qui dit «ego»” [“Whoever says ego is ego”]. On the status of “I” as shifter see Jakobson 1984:43–44 (= Selected Writings II, 132–133). The problem of the fluctuation between “I” and “we” is of central interest particularly in the chorus; the “I” as shifter here may also assume different voices: the speaker in the énonciation, the actor or narrator in the mimesis, and the collective voice of the “we,” which also includes the audience and the author.

[ back ] 64. Cf. Schlegel 1846:76–77. Arnott 1989:3–43 emphasizes from a spatial perspective that the orchestra, where the chorus performs, is closer to the audience than the stage on which the actors perform. On the ideal spectator cf. also Hose I 1990/91:32–37, on the question of space, 33.

[ back ] 65. On συναγωνίζεσθαι (Arist. Poet. 1456a25–27) see inter alia Rode 1971:115n100 and Gentili 1984/85:33–35.

[ back ] 66. Turner 1982:112 states: “Ritual, unlike theatre, does not distinguish between audience and performers.” Cf. also the sound observations in Segal 1989:340–349 and Henrichs 1994/95:90 (on the cult of Dionysus in the orchestra and the connection with the audience).

[ back ] 67. Calame 1994/95, esp. 142–146. Similarly, Segal 1995:180 stresses in the case of tragedy the extent of embedding in the plot and the distance from actual ritual. Cf. however the much more complicated model in Calame 1999, esp. 148–153 (with sketch, 152).

[ back ] 68. Cf. Taplin 1986 and Möllendorff 1995:103–104.

[ back ] 69. Calame 1989 successfully applies the model of a mimesis of distance to comedy as well. Even the comic mask, according to Calame, helps to fade out and conceal the performative “I” behind the “he” of the action, though the presence of the speaker’s “I” continues to show through. He sees the distorting Dionysiac clothing of the potbelly and phallus as a kind of play that reveals the utopia of the stage; masking enables the umasking of social reality and also facilitates a distancing effect. Cf. also the remarks on the comic mask in Lohr 1986:78–79: “Das mangelhafte Trennungsvermögen von realem Schauspieler-Ich und darzustellender Rolle kann durch den Gebrauch einer Maske aufgehoben werden. Die Maske stellt einen ‘Mehrwert,’ einen ‘mimetischen Zuschuß,’ des agierenden Individuums dar, . . . Aber die Maske ist nicht nur Signifikant, darstellender Träger eines Anderen, sondern auch Signifikat, Dargestelltes ihres Trägers. . . . Die Maske wird zu einem Medium der Distanz, . . . Zugleich spaltete sich die Kultgemeinde in Darsteller und Zuschauer auf” [“The difficulty in distinguishing between the actual actor’s ‘I’ and the dramatic role being performed can be done away with by the use of a mask. The mask represents an ‘added value,’ a mimetic ‘subsidy’ of the person carrying out the activity, . . . but the mask is not only a signifier, a sign-bearer that represents another, but also a signified, that represented by the sign-bearer. . . . The mask becomes a means of distancing . . . at the same time the cultic community is split into performer and spectator”]. But the chorus’ mask also presents a possible transition from play to cult, thereby reducing the distance between it and the spectator; Henrichs 1994/95:70 draws attention to this.

[ back ] 70. See inter alia Segal 1982:215–271, Goldhill 1986:244–264, Bierl 1991:111–226, Henrichs 1994/95, Batchelder 1995, Ringer 1998, and Dobrov 2001.

[ back ] 71. See Möllendorff 1995. On the distinction between tragedy and comedy see also Seidensticker 1982:249–160 (“Appendix A: Zur Trennung von Tragödie und Komödie in der antiken Dramen-theorie”; characteristically, this does not deal with the chorus).

[ back ] 72. Cf. Henrichs 1994/95, Henrichs 1996, esp. 44–50, and Henrichs 1996a; Henrichs 1994/95:58–59 even refers in passing to the concept of ritual self-referentiality and calls for further study of this phenomenon, something which would however go beyond the limits of his less ambitiously defined project. Yet he defines the area of ritual too narrowly when he refers solely to the embedded rituals of lament, prayer, supplication, and summoning up of the dead.

[ back ] 73. Cf. Bierl 1991:35–36, 83–84, 99, 106–107, 129, 155, 164, 190–191, 224, and references to choral dance in connection with Dionysus (242–243). On the performative as shifter cf. Johnson 1980:56.

[ back ] 74. On choral self-reference in Euripides cf. Henrichs, “Dancing for Dionysos: Choral Performance and Dionysiac Ritual,” currently in preparation for publication, extract in Henrichs 1996a.

[ back ] 75. Henrichs 1994/95:68, 73, 75, 78, 88, 90 and 1996a talks of “choral projection.”

[ back ] 76. Cf. Kullmann 1993, Latacz 1993:294–295, 299–300 (critical appreciation), and Taplin 1986 in English. Taplin has now revised his opinion in the case of the Oresteia; cf. Wilson/Taplin 1993. Studies of the metatheatrical dimension, in particular of the Bacchae, despite their many excesses, cannot simply be dismissed as postmodern or poststructuralist, as skeptics are wont to do (Seaford 1996:32). Contrary to current opinion, there is no breaking of the illusion in this type of self-reference, rather it enables the audience with the help of references to ritual activity in the theater to identify itself with the ritual activity on the stage; cf. Bierl 1991:111–119. Kullmann 1993 unfortunately does not take these important qualifications into account. For the current state of scholarly discussion of metatheater, see Segal’s lucid handling of the question in the new afterword (369–378, esp. 370–375) to the second and expanded edition (1997) of Segal 1982 and his excellent response (BMCR 98.5.26) to Seaford’s critical review (BMCR 98.3.10). The recent harsh criticism in Radke 2003 is not convincing.

[ back ] 77. See inter alia Taplin 1986, esp. 164n10 (with references), Bierl 1990, esp. 358–359, 370–76, 384–86, Bierl 1991:27–44, 172–176, Goldhill 1991:167–222, esp. 196–222, Dover, Frogs, 58–60, and Taplin 1993:67–78, 105–110.

[ back ] 78. For this reason it is often equated with the concept of self-reflexivity.

[ back ] 79. In my dissertation (Bierl 1991:190–191) I talk about the fact that when Dionysus is referred to, the cultic and ritual perspective tends to overwhelm the purely metatheatrical.

[ back ] 80. Cf. Csapo 1999/2000, esp. 417–425 and, to a lesser degree, Csapo 2003.

[ back ] 81. Braungart (1996:91–101) equally stresses the self-referentiality and self-contained nature of rituals. He focuses mainly on their performance and demonstration. He quite rightly asserts (91), in contradistinction to Frits Staal’s thesis of the meaninglessness of rituals (Staal 1979): “Selbstbezüglichkeit schließt auch die Kommunikativität und Symbolizität des Rituals nicht aus” [“Self-referentiality does not exclude the communicative and symbolic nature of ritual”]. A little further on he adds (92–93): “Rituale sind nicht primär poietisch und zweckhaft, sondern »praktisch«. Sie zielen nicht primär auf ein faßbares Ergebnis. Insofern machen Rituale keinen Sinn, sie haben ihn” [“Rituals are not primarily poetic and directed towards an end. To the extent that rituals make no sense, they possess it”]. Braungart does not however make the connection with speech act theory. Furthermore, he does not investigate specific self-references in the performance of rituals, particularly on the verbal level.

[ back ] 82. P. Louvre E 3320. Calame II 1977 is fundamental for the interpretation of the song in the context of an initiation ritual. From the substantial bibliography I mention here only the most important recent work: Page 1951, West 1965a, Puelma 1977, Calame 1977, Calame 1983:28–49 (text of fr. 3 Calame) and 311–349 (commentary), Segal 1983, Clay 1991, Pavese 1992, Robbins 1994, Clark 1996, Stehle 1997:30–39, 73–88, and Too 1997. Further bibliography in Gerber 1994:16–32.

[ back ] 83. The ritual anchoring also remains controversial: Calame I 1977 argues for initiation, esp. 439–449 (Engl. trans., Calame 1997, esp. 258–263); Calame II 1977, esp. 138–146 (on the internal plot level Agido is leaving the choral group after the conclusion of her education), Calame 1983:312–313, Carter 1988, Nagy 1990:340, Nagy 1996:53, and Clark 1996; Griffiths 1972, Gentili 1976 (= Gentili 1984:101–109 [20064:138–145]), and Gentili 1991 (homosexual initiatory wedding of Hagesikhora and Agido in a women’s thiasos) read the Partheneion as an epithalamion or wedding song. These two theories are not mutually exclusive, since marriage is the goal of the initiation. Because of the poem’s all-too concrete and immediate embedding in its pragmatic context the precise circumstances can no longer be reconstructed. The common denominator of most interpretations remains a female puberty initiation ritual, which can be combined with two other central paradigms in the study of religion, that of fertility (cf. the polysemy of pharos, ‘plough’ in line 61: φάρος [schol. A] or ‘cloak,’ ‘garment’: φᾶρος) and the annual festival (cf. the pannykhis). Cf. also Stehle 1997:73–88, interpreting the poem as a ritual model, in which the entire population of Sparta is prepared, through the exemplary Hagesikhora, for the harvest and for marriage. Here she rightly opposes Calame’s overly narrow (in parts) interpretation of initiation, which means that the chorus is involved primarily with itself. For a much wider, new cosmic reading cf. Ferrari (2008). Clark’s thesis (1996), which builds on Cowan 1990—which asserts that in choral line dance gender role is socially constructed on the female body—overlaps substantially with my observations on the chorus of the Thesmophoriazusae (chap. 1). On the construction of the female gender role see now also Stehle 1997:78–88, esp. 85–87 (the strategy of alienation of the girls from their bodies by means of emphasis of their inferiority compared to their beautiful leader creates a double message in accordance with the taste of the male audience, namely that they are sexually desirable without being aware of it themselves).

[ back ] 84. Cf. Kannicht 1989:47–51, esp. 50.

[ back ] 85. The myth of the Hippokoontidai perhaps forms an aetiology for the ritual and is at least closely connected with it. Cf. Robbins 1994, who thinks that the eleven sons of Hippokoon correspond to the eleven members of the female chorus; Castor and Polydeuces, who along with Heracles attack the sons of Hippokoon, also compete with them as suitors over the same women, the Leukippidai Phoebe and Hilaeira (schol. Clem. Alex. Protr. 27, 11 [p. 308, 3ff. Stählin] = Euphorion fr. 29 Powell . . . μέμνηται καὶ Εὐφορίων ἐν Θρᾳκὶ τῶν Ἱπποκόωντος παίδων τῶν ἀντιμνηστήρων τῶν Διοσκούρων), who may correspond in turn with the two leaders of the chorus, Hagesikhora and Agido. According to Nagy 1990:346, in the ritual the two girls by means of mimesis reactualize the Leukippidai, whose priestesses have the same name and are also called πῶλοι. In the dance ritual the girls/“fillies” are tamed for the male order. The Leitmotiv of eros and the correct marriage ceremony (γαμῆν, 17) clearly connect the myth of the first part (lines 1–39a) with the detailed self-description in the second part of the poem (lines 39b–101). On khoreia as expression of the order of the Spartan polis, see Too 1997, who interprets the myth as the working out of chaos and inner discontent and as a contrast to this.

[ back ] 86. Puelma 1977 is fundamental for this aspect of self-description. On deixis and the chorus’ reference to its own performance in this song see Clay 1991:63–67 and Peponi 2004.

[ back ] 87. The verb form μάχονται (line 63) has not only erotic but also choral-agonistic connotations; see Puelma 1977:36n66, Clay 1991:58–63, esp. 60, and Henrichs 1994/95:83 with 108n117.

[ back ] 88. See below chap. 1, n512. In ritual animals are a welcome level of projection that effects the cognitive transformation of the actors. Cf. Tambiah 1985:169–211 (“Animals Are Good to Think and Good to Prohibit”). Bowra (1934:41), followed by West (1965a:200), in fact suggests that the members of the chorus wore bird costumes.

[ back ] 89. “Pleiades” (Πεληάδες, 60) can equally mean “doves” (schol. A, lines 60ff.) and the constellation of the same name; stars also lend themselves well to choral projection: cf. Soph. Ant. 1146–1147, Eur. Ion 1078–1080, El. 467. Most interpreters see a second, rival chorus in the Pleiades; I, however, in company with schol. A, connect this expression with Agido and Hagesikhora (cf. among others Puelma 1977:34; Pavese 1992:71–76 connects this description of the choral leaders with a personal name derived from Peleus or Peleia that expresses local or genealogical origin; Clay 1991:61 by contrast sees a divine projection and mythical model of dancing girls). Astymeloisa, the chorus leader in the other Partheneion fragment of Alcman, is compared to “a star falling through the shining heavens” (ὥ] τις αἰγλά[ε]ντος ἀστήρ | ὠρανῶ διαιπετής, fr. 3, 66–67 Davies). It is interesting that the Pleiades are in fact credited with the invention of choral dance (Callim. fr. 693 Pfeiffer = schol. [K] Theocr. Id. 13.25): . . . φησὶ Καλλίμαχος, ὅτι τῆς βασιλίσσης τῶν Ἀμαζόνων ἦσαν θυγατέρες αἱ Πλειάδες, αἳ Πελειάδες προσηγορεύθησαν. πρῶτον δ’ αὗται χορείαν καὶ παννυχίδα συνέστησαν παρθενεύουσαι. Their virginity is thus brought to the fore (παρθενεύουσαι). In the catalogue of the group of seven maidens that follows, one is called Parthenia; another is named Lampado, which refers to the star’s luminescence, associated with the radiant beauty of the maiden and the torchlight of the night festival. Their mother, who is described in the scholium as an Amazon queen, is probably Hippo (Callim. Hymn. 3.239–247), and as “horse” is thus semantically related to the “fillies.” On the Amazons as mythical model of girls in initiation see Dowden 1997 and below chap. 1, nn284 and 369. The once widely circulated theory of the semi-chorus (with Agido and Hagesikhora as leaders of each chorus repectively) has lost some of its plausibility since Puelma 1977. At the center are cultic activity, social and performative context, and self-representation. The rivalry and competition appear to take place within the chorus.

[ back ] 90. The identification of Aotis and/or Orthria is also controversial. Many interpreters identify Aotis with Orthria and Orthria with Artemis Orthia; Calame (II 1977:119–128), however, identifies her with Helen (associating the ritual with the festival of Helen in Platanistas; he sees Hagesikhora as representative of the goddess Helen); Griffiths (1972:24–27) identifies Hagesikhora as substitute for the marriage goddess Helen, who stands in opposition to Aotis-Artemis, the goddess of young girls. Gentili 1976:64–65 (= Gentili 1984:105–106 [20064:141–142]) equates Orthria-Aotis with Aphrodite and points out that the “doves” (line 60; cf. above, n89) were regarded as her sacred animals (Gentili 1976:62–63 [= Gentili 1984:103n6 (20064:139n6)]) and that the description thus expressions the connection of the choral leaders with their goddess. According to Garvie 1965 the reference is to Phoebe, one of the two Leukippidai, who is to be equated with the dawn goddess Eos (cf. Aotis). On the performative self-reference in the sentence πόνων γὰρ | ἇμιν ἰάτωρ ἔγεντο (lines 88–89) cf. Calame II 1977:116–117, Clay 1991:57, and Henrichs 1994/95:84. Calame (II 1977:118), however, connects the πόνοι with the “toils” of the initiation rite that manifest themselves in the activity of the chorus. Too 1997:27–28, in line with his overall interpretation, refers the πόνοι to the human concern to avert the threatening chaos in the myth by means of pious worship of the gods and correct completion of ritual, which also includes the present dance. On the connection of “peace” (εἰρήνη) with the status of the Spartan εἴρην, who has passed through the rite of initiation, cf. below chap. 1, n447. On εἰρήνη, Calame II 1977:118–119 with n141 and Clark 1996:166. Calame II 1977:102–103 compares the position of the choral leaders of the two partheneia (Alcm. fr. 1 and 3 Davies), Hagesi-khora and Astymeloisa, with that of the εἴρην, who has already reached the goal behind the toils. The girls say that “perfection and completion” lie with the gods ([σι]ῶν γὰρ ἄνα | καὶ τέλος, 83–84). This τέλος is also connected with the “goal” or “end” of the initiation ritual and with the conclusion of its performance. On the word τέλος as expression of an initiation ritual see Nagy 1990:245–246.

[ back ] 91. Cf. Austin 1975. The series of lectures How to Do Things with Words was given in 1955 as the William James Lectures at Harvard University and were published for the first time in 1962, after Austin’s death. See inter alia Iser 1976:87–101, Johnson 1980:52–66, Culler 1982:110–128, and Petrey 1990. Classical philologists have only recently applied Austin’s speech act theory; see inter alia Martin 1989, Nagy 1990, Prins 1991, Calame 1994/95, Nagy 1996, Calame 1999, and Schmitz 1999.

[ back ] 92. Austin 1975:6.

[ back ] 93. On “illocutionary force,” “force of utterance,” “force of locution,” or simply “force” see Austin 1975:33, 72–73, 100, 104, 117, and 148.

[ back ] 94. On convention and conventional action see Austin 1975:8, 14, 19, 81, 105, 107, 109, 119, 122, and 128. On conventional procedure as a criterion for reaching a conventional result, see Austin 1975:26–32.

[ back ] 95. See Austin 1975:19. With the expressions “ritual,” “ceremonial,” “ritual act,” or “ceremonial act” Austin presupposes a negative, exclusively heteronomous concept of ritual as compulsion. On ceremony and the ceremonial, which in distinction to ritual and custom are mostly confined to the secular sphere, see Braungart 1996:57–67, esp. 64–66.

[ back ] 96. See Finnegan 1969, Bloch 1974, and Tambiah 1985:123–166; see above pp. 15–16 with nn41–42.

[ back ] 97. The definition of ritual is built on the formulation of Burkert 1985:8 and Burkert 1979:37, also taking into consideration the modifications of Braungart 1996, esp. 74–118 and Tambiah 1985:123–166 (cf. his definition above, p. 14).

[ back ] 98. Searle 1970 interprets Austin’s speech act rather in the intentional sense and views it from the perspective of a regulatory system whose rules may also consitute the speech act; on regulatory and constitutive rules see Searle 1970:33–42. On the comparison of Austin and Searle see Petrey 1990:59–69 and 82–83. Intention as criterion for a successful speech act was already allowed for in Austin 1975:21, 40–45, 101, and 106. For criticism of intentionality cf. Culler 1982, 122–123; as Austin repeatedly underscores, what is decisive for the success of a speech act is its social context, not intentionality.

[ back ] 99. Cf. Henrichs 1994/95:73–75. The expression with μέλει is here identical to a performative future; cf. below, chap. 2, n77.

[ back ] 100. On the connection between performative utterance and self-referentiality, see also Johnson 1980:56–58.

[ back ] 101. In classical philology this trend mostly represents a point of departure for its application to antiquity. See e.g. Goldhill 1984, Gellrich 1995, esp. 50 (where she opposes the predominant tendency in literary criticism to consider the cultural context purely as an influence that lends meaning to the literary text). Cf. by contrast the balanced remarks of Segal 1992:444–450; he is of the opinion that deconstruction also has it positive sides; yet he is right to warn against completely neglecting the social and historical context.

[ back ] 102. See Derrida 1976, esp. 101 and Culler 1982:214.

[ back ] 103. On the comparison of Derrida and Austin and on the polemical exchange between Searle and Derrida, see Petrey 1990:132–165 and Culler 1982:117–128. On the philosophical backgrounds see also Frank 1984:476–519.

[ back ] 104. Cf. Petrey 1990:147–151; Austin thus considers external reference as part of self-referentiality and performativity; Derrida and poststructuralism look at the performative exclusively from the isolated text, without taking the context into consideration. For our perspective the example discussed in Petrey 1990:148 is extremely conclusive: following Roland Barthes, who highlights the “I sing” of ancient poets as example par exellence of the performative (Barthes 1977), she interprets Virgil’s arma virumque cano in this context. According to her, the speech act is only successful because of the naming of the action of singing; following Barthes, “I sing” thus only refers to the locution in an internal sense, and not additionally to the external context. Cf. the summary in Petrey 1990:148: “In Austinian analysis, speech acts always perform themselves and something else as well. In deconstructive criticism, the concern has been with self-performativity alone.”

[ back ] 105. In Plutarch’s symposium Ammonios, one of his guests, suggests “speaking dance” as a definition of poetry (Plut. Quaest. conv. 9.748a).

[ back ] 106. On the three functions of the illocutionary act, “securing uptake,” “taking effect,” and “inviting a response,” see Austin 1975:116–118.

[ back ] 107. Austin 1975:21–22: “Secondly, as utterances our performatives are also heir to certain other kinds of ills which infect all utterances. And these likewise, though again they might be brought into a more general account, we are deliberately at present excluding. I mean, for example, the following: a performative utterance will, for example, be in a peculiar way hollow or void if said by an actor on the stage, or if introduced in a poem, or spoken in soliloquy. This applies in a similar manner to any and every utterance—a sea-change in special circumstances. Language in such circumstances is in special ways—intelligibly—used not seriously, but in ways parasitic upon its normal use—ways which fall under the doctrine of the etiolations of language. All this we are excluding from consideration. Our performative utterances, felicitous or not, are to be understood as issued in ordinary circumstances.” Nagy rightly sees that the reason behind Austin’s negative attitude toward poetry lies in his connection of poetry exclusively with writing, following modern assumptions (“for Austin, poetry is a matter of writing, not speaking” [1994/95a:12]).

[ back ] 108. The infinitives “to perform” and “to act” in English normally refer to theater; see Johnson 1980:65.

[ back ] 109. Before Plato, in a traditional society that relied solely on orality, mimesis had the meaning of continually reincorporating and reenacting a given model; see above, n60; Nagy (1996:55–56) thinks that the concept developed the sense of mere copying, as a result of a later destabilization of the absolute model. Iser 1976:96–101 (according to whom the convention changed in a horizontal fashion in the theater and literature, which led to a detachment from pragmatic context; in his opinion, the illocutionary role lies in its breaking of expectations [Erwartungsdurchbrechung, 101]), Johnson 1980:59–66, Culler 1982:116–123, Petrey 1990:86–110, and Nagy 1990:8–9 all argue against the exclusion of art and theater. Ohmann, for example, argues almost in Austin’s sense that literature is only a “quasi–speech-act” (1971:13–14), which lacks an illocutionary role because it is only mimetic.

[ back ] 110. On these lists see Austin’s twelfth lecture, in Austin 1975:148–164. Austin himself says (1975:150) that the list of possible verbs lies in the order of magnitude of 10 to the power of 3. Austin 1975:56–57 and 150 refers to the first person singular indicative present active.

[ back ] 111. On the fluctuation of the choral “I” between singular and plural see Calame I 1977:436–439 (Engl. trans. Calame 1997:255–258), Calame II 1977:45–46, and Calame 1995:21n28, 39–40. According to Austin 1975:57 the “we” form is also performative.

[ back ] 112. Austin (1975:55–66) talks extensively about grammatical features in his fifth lecture. Here the usual categories of first-person singular indicative present active are modified and expanded. Both commands (58, 59–60) as well as the second- and third-person are included (58–59), similarly “hereby” (57–58, 60–61). Cf. by contrast the clear distinction made by Benveniste 1966:267–276, esp. 274: “Un énoncé est performatif en ce qu’il dénomme l’acte performé, du fait qu’Ego prononce une formule contenant le verbe à la première personne du présent” [“An utterance is performative in that it names the performed act, on account of the fact that Ego pronounces a formula containing a verb in the first person of the present tense”]. On the performative future, which often appears in Pindar in the first person of verbs of singing, praising, and showing, but which clearly comes from the ritual tradition, cf. Faraone 1995 (with numerous examples), Henrichs 1994/95:80 (with 104n97), 87 (on tragedy), and Calame 1994/95:144 (with 152n25) (on ritual choruses); see now also D’Alessio 2004. On the model of the performative in magical texts cf. Poccetti 1991:194 (with reference to the illocutionary power of speech) and 198–204; cf. esp. the reference to the self-referentiality of magical and ritual speech (199): “L’enunciato performativo, in quanto costituisce in sé l’atto di ciò che si enuncia, è sui-referenziale, crea cioè da solo il proprio contesto di riferimento, dà implicitamente indicazione del canale comunicativo, che è contemporaneamente anche il canale e la forma della stessa praxis magica (in questo caso, la varietà dei verba defigendi del tipo καταδέω, καταγράφω, κατατίθημι, καταδίδωμι, defigo, deligo, ecc.) e fornisce, infine, mediante le categorie del tempo e della persona le coordinate del soggetto identificandolo automaticamente con l’agente magico” [“The performative utterance, inasmuch as it contains within itself the act to which the utterance refers, is self-referential, that is, it creates by itself its own referential context, gives an implicit indication of the communicative channel, which is simultaneously the channel and the form of the same magical praxis (in this case, the various verba defigendi such as καταδέω, καταγράφω, κατατίθημι, καταδίδωμι, defigo, deligo, etc.), and finally by means of the categories of time and person provides the coordinates of the subject, identifying it automatically with the magical agent”]. Cf. also Graf 1996:184–207, esp. 185–186.

[ back ] 113. On ritual commands also in comedy cf. Kaimio 1970:121–129.

[ back ] 114. Austin 1975:133–147, esp. 145.

[ back ] 115. Cf. also Calame 1995:10–12 (“Enunciation as Action”), esp. 11, where he explores the imprecise boundary between the illocutionary and perlocutionary act of performative self-reference and refers to Oswald Ducrot’s distinction between “self-referential acts of language that utilize the rules of discourse and those which introduce the causality of the ‘exterior’ world.” A little later he continues: “This distinction is particularly pertinent for early Greek poetry in which the act of enunciation manifests itself in the utterance by way of performance verbs such as to sing, to praise, to invoke; it leads us again to those complex relationships which link the linguistic domain marked out by the utterance of the enunciation to the empirical domain corresponding to the enunciation/communication situation and its psychosocial protagonists.”

[ back ] 116. For the chorus the kinesic signs of performance—such as gesture, proxemics, and cheironomy—in combination with the level of linguistic signs are of importance; Fischer-Lichte 1983:31–93.

[ back ] 117. For deixis cf. Rösler 1983a, Danielewicz 1990, F. de Toro 1995:13–22, and Felson 2004; for temporal indication with νῦν see Danielewicz 1990:11–12, Calame 1994/95:144–146, Calame 1995:41–42, and D’Alessio 2004:270–271; for “markers of urgency” (Calame) see Henrichs 1994/95:102n82.

[ back ] 118. See Calame 1994/95 and Calame 1995:3–26 and 27–57, where he traces the development of a ritual chorus into the choruses of tragedy, which are embedded in the plot, and of simple addresses to narratively complex texts; the “I” and “you” assume in this process the authority of the speaker/author (narrator) and addressee/reader (narratee) in a fictional narrative. Cf. also Calame 1999.

[ back ] 119. For the problem of the “I,” see Rösler 1985, Gentili 1990:11–15, and Gentili 1990a:20–22. The theory of the clear distinction between paeans, dithyrambs, partheneia on the one side and epinicians on the other is advocated in Lefkowitz 1988 (= Lefkowitz 1991:191–201), Heath 1988, and Lefkowitz 1995. This schematic separation does not stand up to closer scrutiny; the opposite position to Lefkowitz and Heath is held by Carey 1991; Morgan 1993 and D’Alessio 1994 give a nuanced and balanced judgment; cf. also Krummen 1990:136–141, Nagy 1994/95a:20–25, and Calame 1997:228n78. Gentili 1990:15 characterizes the polyvalent role of the Pindaric chorus as follows: “Also eine mehrdeutige semiotische Verfassung, analog der des tragischen Chors, der bald die mimetische Darstellung einer dramatis persona übernimmt, wenn er die Funktion eines in die Dramenhandlung integrierten Akteurs ausübt, bald, in den strophischen Chorliedern, die Rolle des auf die Bühne projizierten Auditoriums annimmt oder auch die des inneren Zuschauers, der intellektuell und emotional am dramatischen Geschehen teilnimmt. Das ist ein Eintreten in und ein Heraustreten aus der szenischen Fiktion, das sich auf der gleichen Ebene wie das «Ich» der Chorlyrik vollzieht, welches sich nicht auf ein allgemeines einheitliches «Ich» reduzieren läßt, sondern von Fall zu Fall, in Beziehung auf den Kontext des Liedes, neu zu beurteilen ist” [“It is thus a polyvalent semiotic construction, analogous to that of the tragic chorus, that sometimes undertakes the mimetic representation of a dramatis persona when it exercises the function of an actor integrated into the plot of the drama, and sometimes in strophic choral songs takes on the role of the audience projected onto the stage, or even that of the inner spectator that participates in the dramatic event intellectually and emotionally. It represents an entry into and departure from the plot on stage that occurs on the same level as the ‘I’ of choral lyric, and that cannot be reduced to an overall unified ‘I,’ but must be reevaluated on a case-by-case basis with reference to the context of the song”]. The same is true of the comic chorus, which Gentili ignores. Gentili (see also Gentili 1984/85, esp. 33–35) sees the hybrid creation of the dramatic chorus in its double function as a narrative and gnomic group and a mimetic group that takes part in the action; in the light of scholarship on performance I focus in addition on its performative and ritual function.

[ back ] 120. Cf. Henkel 1988:513–525, esp. 519–520.

[ back ] 121. Cf. Nagy 1990:9 and 362–363. and Nagy 1994/95a, esp. 11–14. According to Nagy’s pregnant formulation (Nagy 1990:362), “The occasion is the genre.” Thus the genre of the thrênos originally coincides with the occasion and act of lament.

[ back ] 122. Nagy 1990:9 sees literary genre as compensation for the disappearance of the performative occasion. See Nagy 1990:362n127 on Hellenistic poems. Nagy 1994/95a:18–25 expands on the theory of the connection between genre and embedding in ritual and occasion by demonstrating in the case of Pindar’s epinician odes that “genre can even absolutize the occasion” (18), which then becomes stylized as an exemplary and prototypical framework. Accordingly Old Comedy could also have transcended its ritual embedment into the idealized model of the comastic in order to allow the Dionysiac mood as moment to be experienced in its totality.

[ back ] 123. The comic chorus has however been the subject of much research in the formal aspects of stucture and meter; see the survey of Zimmermann 1994; also, among others, Gelzer 1970, Zimmermann 1985, and Parker 1997. Just about all of the more recent studies that invesitgate the development from choral lyric to drama using performative or narratological perspectives generally look at tragedy alone. Comedy and satyr play remain almost entirely neglected; cf. above, n62; cf. also Gentili 1984/85, Segal 1989, Gentili 1990, Nagy 1990, Calame 1995, Baur 1997, and Calame 1999. For an exploration of Aristophanes’ exodoi using these insights, see now Calame 2004. Ritual self-reference to Dionysus, which has received so much attention in scholarship on tragedy, has remained almost untouched in scholarship on comedy; see however Bierl 1990, Bierl 1991 (on Ar. Ran. and Thesm., see brief remarks on 27–44 and 172–176), and most recently Riu 1999; it is noteworthy that at the excellent conference on Dionysus held in Virginia in 1991 (Carpenter/Faraone 1993 with review by Bierl, Gnomon 69 [1997]:389–398) there was space given to three papers on Dionysus and tragedy, while comedy received no treatment.

[ back ] 124. Cf. Dover 1993 and Dover, Frogs, 58–60; the division of many passages is sometimes overly schematic; often both levels are involved simultaneously.

[ back ] 125. See above, n77. Self-referentiality was here understood in particular as metatheatrical play with theatrical conventions and as the conscious breaking of the “illusion”; see the literature cited in Taplin 1986:164n10 and Bonanno 1987, esp. 150–167. On the self-awareness of the poet see in particular Hubbard 1991 and Müller 1992:135–141.

[ back ] 126. Cf. among others Muff 1872 and Arnoldt 1873.

[ back ] 127. For a long time many investigations pursued both goals at the same time.

[ back ] 128. While earlier the ritual rigidity of the structure of the plot was emphasized (up to and including Gelzer 1960), today scholars are more disposed to see the poet’s individual freedom and ability to circumvent these structural elements; see for example Gelzer 1993.

[ back ] 129. Zimmermann 1994:1; for an overview of the scholarship, see 1–10 therein.

[ back ] 130. On the agôn see Gelzer 1960, on the desire for control ibid. 196–197, and on the typical progression of the plot Gelzer 1970:1524–1527. On the structural elements see ibid. 1518–1524 and Dover 1972:66–72. Gelzer 1970:1520 sketches out a heterogenous evolutionary and historical recon-struction of comedy: “In der Komödie wurden wohl Elemente verschiedener Herkunft von verschiedenen anderen Festen zusammengestellt, als die beiden Theaterfeste in historischer Zeit neu organisiert wurden. Ihre jeweilige eigene ältere Tradition läßt sich nicht weit zurück verfolgen, und über den kultischen oder profanen ‘Ursprung’ dieser verschiedenartigen dramatischen und undramatischen Elemente wissen wir darüber hinaus nichts” [“In comedy elements of various origin and from various other festivals were probably assembled together when the two theater festivals were reorganized on a new basis in the historical period. Its own particular and more ancient tradition cannot be traced very far back, and we know nothing further about the cultic or profane ‘origin’ of these different dramatic and nondramatic elements”]. See also Gelzer 1966:55–70.

[ back ] 131. See Zimmermann I 1985 (esp. his summary 242–261, particularly 242) and Zimmermann II 1985 (esp. the summary 221–234 [“Chor und Handlung”]); for parodoi see Zimmermann I 1985:6–149, amoiboia 150–241, for monody see Zimmermann II 1985:1–49, duets 50–72, and pure choral odes 74–220, which he again divides into handlungstragend (75–107) and handlungs-unterbrechend (108–220) (paraineseis, songs influenced by tragedy, songs of ridicule, encomia, prayers and hymns, parabasis odes). See now also Zimmermann 1999. Parker’s (1997) monograph on the Aristophanic chorus provides a metrical analysis of all the lyric parts and gives brief critical remarks on the state of text without going into these questions. On recent scholarship on single parts see Totaro 1999 (second parabasis) and Imperio 2004 (on some parabaseis). On aggressive derision and Aristophanic choruses see Treu 1999 and in general Saetta Cottone 2005.

[ back ] 132. Koch 1968:94–98, esp. 94–96.

[ back ] 133. Koch’s scheme of “critical idea” to “comic theme” is ultimately valid only for political comedy. The theory does not apply well to parodic comedy, travesty of myth, Märchen-like comedy, or simple fantasy. Koch unequivocally denies the ritual dimension of the chorus; this attitude is among other things due to the fact that writing as he is in the 1960s he is predisposed to exclude any ritual explanations, since, as he sees it, the audience is no longer a cultic community (Kultgemeinde) but exclusively a theater audience (Theaterpublikum; 63), and the plays should be understood purely in terms of their contemporary reality—as if ritual would not have been part of contemporary existence at the time of Aristophanes. The ritual dimension can be undertaken even by a chorus that is less embedded in the plot. A lesser degree of integration is not necessarily equivalent to a development toward redundancy; the openness to the spectator is rather part of the genre’s mode of play. As has already been said, in comedy a complete embedding is not desirable; a view of the here and now is always simultaneously attached.

[ back ] 134. Sifakis (1971:7–14) is against the use of the concept of illusion, while Chapman (1983) continues to rely on this: metatheater is for him a conscious playing with illusion and the rupturing thereof.

[ back ] 135. Cf. Warning 1976:283–294.

[ back ] 136. Despite this in principle transgressive openness, the comic chorus is nevertheless, according to Gelzer’s analysis, more of a fellow actor or player in the first half of the play up until the parabasis, while in the second half it is more of a mediator and go-between for the audience. Sifakis (1971) recognized this slipping back and forth between both levels years before the semiotic analysis of the tragic chorus by Calame (Calame 1994/95 and Calame 1999), who terms this the fading in and out of the énonciation framework. Calame nowhere refers to this important study of the comic chorus.

[ back ] 137. Möllendorff 1995a gives a brief interpretation of the role of the Aristophanic chorus. In his survey of modern scholarship he emphasizes the inclusion of the auditorium and intervention in the real world, but does not address the ritual dimension.

[ back ] 138. On the survival theory of the Cambridge ritualists, see for example Cornford 19612. Anything that contradicted the preconceived notion of an organic, closed plot could simply be explained away by the hypothesis of remnants of ritual.

[ back ] 139. Herter 1947:38–42.

[ back ] 140. Herter 1947:27.

[ back ] 141. Murray 1933:12. The parabasis was accordingly seen for a long time as the actual core of comedy: see among others on this Herter 1947:31 and Sifakis 1971:15–20; see also below, chap. 2 n116.

[ back ] 142. On the theory of survivals see Gelzer 1960:189n1; on the parabasis see Gelzer 1960:203–212; on the ritual popular substrate cf. also Gelzer 1966.

[ back ] 143. While the tragic chorus can talk about its own performance only by resorting to the occasional device of projection onto other mythical or ritual choruses, the comic chorus has it easier in this respect as well. Of course, it can also act in this fashion. But its bearing is itself still largely ritual. The simple comic plot is arranged mainly about this chorus, whose actual identity continues to shine through the intermittent identity of its dramatic role. The masked members of the chorus form a representative cross-section of the community as a whole, and to a certain extent a microcosm of Athens. Through their activity they perform ritual practices and ceremonies of the polis as a whole, and in particular they honor the gods of their polis.

[ back ] 144. On assimilation of the lyric tradition, see Kugelmeier 1996.

[ back ] 145. For an interpretation of the exodoi involving an anthropological approach and the aesthetics of reception, see Pappas 1987. He thinks that the final structural element concludes the progression of ritual activity from νόσος to σωτηρία and achieves a catharsis in the ritual context of fertility festivals.

[ back ] 146. On the comparison of comic and tragic choruses see the excellent observations in Taplin 1996:191–194. On the social marginality of the tragic chorus in its dramatic role, see Gould 1996. In his response Goldhill (1996, esp. 250–255) correctly notes that the chorus in its ritual role in the énonciation is anything but a marginal phenomenon, but possesses the authority of a mythic speech act of privileged fellow citizens.

[ back ] 147. For the concepts icon, index, and symbol, see Peirce 1983:64–67; in connection with the semio-tics of theater, see F. de Toro 1995:73–86. On the nature of Old Comedy as conventionalized and expressive-symbolic theater, see also Sifakis 1971:7–14, esp. 11: “Any conventional type of drama—or art for that matter—is by definition unrealistic and, in consequence, anti-illusionistic. It makes no demands on the credulity of the spectators, and no effort to appear true to everyday life. Thus conventional drama, be it Chinese opera, Noh drama, European ballet, or Greek comedy, is free to show in a symbolic way virtually anything the dramatist likes: tales of unlimited fantasy such as journeys to the underworld through lakes and strange landscapes, men riding beetles to heaven or building cities in the Birdland suspended between heaven and earth, and animals talking like men.” On Kabuki see for example Pronko 1982. On the comic chorus’ function of integrating and involving the audience in the comic plot, see also Möllendorff 1995a. On audience participation in ritual drama, see Turner 1982:31, 112, and Turner 1984.

[ back ] 148. Rode 1971; the structural description is certainly correct. It is nevertheless worth considering whether choral lyric might not also have developed out of ritual songs, to which gnomic elements and description were attached only secondarily.

[ back ] 149. See the sound analysis of the Eumenides in Prins 1991, in which Austin’s speech act theory is also applied.

[ back ] 150. Taplin 1996:197–199 treats the Eumenides as an exception to the rule that there is a fundamental difference between tragedy and comedy, because the Oresteia in his opinion represents as kind of “aetiology for tragedy”; cf. Wilson/Taplin 1993. It remains questionable whether the Eumenides and the Bacchae are really fundamentally different from the other tragedies. On the unusual role of the chorus in the Bacchae, see Segal 1997; without going into the performative aspect, he describes among other things the loss of the function as authoritative voice of the citizenry in the light of the political transformation at the end of the fifth century BCE.

[ back ] 151. Cf. Headlam 1906, Bowie 1993a (with further bibliography, 27), and Weaver 1996.

[ back ] 152. On the integration of hymns and other cultic elements, see Kranz 1933:127–137. Supplication, sacrifice, prayer, invocation, the casting of spells, blessing, and marching to a song in a procession give rise to corresponding ritual actions through speech. On hymns in tragedy, see also Adami 1901 and Dorsch 1983.

[ back ] 153. Rode (1971:101–103 and 111–113) somewhat schematically terms this form Programmlieder [“programmatic songs”], thus underplaying the amount of genuinely cultic material in tragic choral songs; see also 1971:114.

[ back ] 154. Rode (1971:114) considers these elements, contra Kranz 1933:127–137, to be merely secondary. On these ritual elements in tragedy, see the excellent contribution by Easterling (1988), who like me emphasizes the connection of ritual and tragedy. See now Easterling 1997, Seaford 2005, and Sourvinou-Inwood 2005.

[ back ] 155. See for example Foley 1992, Zeitlin 1992, and the exemplary study in Wolff 1992.

[ back ] 156. Cf. e.g. Soph. Ichn. (fr. 314 Radt) 64–78, 100–123, 176–202, Eur. Rhes. 675–721 (satyr play); Aesch. Eum. 254–275, Soph. Ai. 866–878 (tragedy) and Ar. Ach. 204–236, Thesm. 655–688 (comedy). See also Pöhlmann 1995.

[ back ] 157. For the chorus in satyr plays see the excellent remarks of Seidensticker in 1979:236–238 (= Seidensticker 1989:338–340) and 1999:17–25, esp. 19–21. On choral self-referentiality in satyr plays see now also Easterling 1997:42–44, Kaimio 2001, and Bierl 2006, esp. 118–134.

[ back ] 158. The performative shifters have been emphasized here as well as in the passage of Alcman cited above (p. 33) and in the further examples. With their help reference is made from the there and then of the plot to the here and now of the current communication situation. Ludwig Koenen has kindly sent me a copy of his unpublished lecture “Lustiges Spiel mit Theater-Konventionen in Euripides’ Kyklops,” which he gave in the spring of 1999 at the colloquium in Basel in honor of Joachim Latacz and from which I have profited. I have come to similar conclusions independently of Koenen. Interestingly, he characterizes the shouts of the Satyrs to Odysseus’ men (Eur. Cyc. 654–662), who are blinding the Cyclops inside (i.e. offstage), as speech acts. Nevertheless, the chorus exhorts itself here, in contrast to others songs in satyr plays and comedies (cf. e.g. the searching song, below chap. 1, n261 and Ar. Thesm. 655–688, or the work song in Pax 459–519), not to act, but with a shout of encouragement it informs the audience about what is happening behind the stage. At most one could suggest that the Satyrs are transforming their demands for action into dancelike movement in a dramatic fashion. See now also Bierl 2006:130–134.

[ back ] 159. See Rode 1971:92–94 on this.

[ back ] 160. Aesch. Prom. 687–695, Eur. Supp. 918–924, and Eur. Ion 1229–1243 represent brief laments without subsequent kommos.

[ back ] 161. See Bierl 1991:135–137 and Henrichs 1994/95:79–84 on this; the self-referential, excited, and orgiastic choral language (esp. Soph. Trach. 216–221) is reminiscent of other hyporchemes. Cf. De Falco 1958, esp. 60–63; for Sophoclean hyporchemes see also Bierl 1991:126–127. On the question of the genre of Soph. Trach. 205–224, see Grandolini 1995 (with references to older scholarship).

[ back ] 162. For iambics see below, chap. 2, n44.

[ back ] 163. Iambic and cretic meters are especially typical of hyporchemes. Cretics and paeons are also characteristic of the paean and the hyporcheme; see Gentili 1952:139–149 and Gentili/Lomiento 2003:220–229.

[ back ] 164. In the fifth stasimon of the Antigone (1115–1154) the combination of choral projection and self-reference also occurs; see Henrichs 1994/95:77–79 and already Bierl 1991:127–132; see also Scullion 1998, who interprets the song as a Dionysiac and cathartic dance to free Thebes of its “illness.” For further ritual prayers, cf. OC 1556–1578 and Eur. Hipp. 61–72.

[ back ] 165. In the parodoi of Soph. OT 209–215 and Ant. 147–154 Dionysus is invoked last. Once again Dionysus functions as a kind of shifter.

[ back ] 166. Consider the opinion of Rode 1971:102n57 on the song in Aesch. Pers. 633–680: “Dies ist eines der wenigen Lieder, die man auch als ‘echte’ Kultlieder verstehen könnte, die also keine dem Kultlied fremden Elemente aufweisen” [“This is one of the few songs that could also be understood as ‘real’ cultic songs and that thus exhibit no elements that are foreign to cult song”]. For ἀείρων as a choral self-reference cf. Soph. Trach. 216 and the references in Henrichs 1994/95:106n105.

[ back ] 167. On the connection with magical practice see Faraone 1985. On the Eumenides from the perspective of choral self-reference, see also Henrichs 1994/95:60–65. For interpretation of the chorus of Erinyes in connection with Austin’s speech act theory, see Prins 1991.

[ back ] 168. Aesch. Pers. 625; Atossa does this already in her request for performance, Pers. 620. Cf. also Aesch. Cho. 475 (ὅδ᾿ ὕμνος). For the mention of song and dance (as self-referential illocutionary intensification), see Kranz 1933:135 (with many other examples).

[ back ] 169. See Henrichs 1994/95:64: “The feet of the Erinyes thus epitomize their choral identity as performers of the dance; at the same time, their feet function as instruments of destruction that physically perform the incantation in an act of sympathetic magic.”

[ back ] 170. Prins 1991:188–189 also emphasizes the relation of these lines to the performance going on in the present: she notes that the body of the dancer corresponds to the song, whose rhythmic properties are also called “feet” (πόδες) and “cola” (lit. “limbs, members,” κῶλα). She refers (1991:188n14) to Svenbro 1984 (esp. 221) and the double meaning of μέλος as “song” and “limb.” Dance is a ritual enacted on the body. At the same time as it is executed a transformation takes place. Svenbro 1984:220–224 refers in addition to the homology of sacrificial portions and rhythmic units. In a kind of sympathetic magic the attackers thus “dismember” their body and song into πόδες and κῶλα, which dancing by themselves are supposed in a gruesome sacrificial ritual to perform sparagmos on Orestes, rendered in turn into πόδες and κῶλα.

[ back ] 171. On the paradoxical association of Ares and Dionysus see e.g. Eur. Phoen. 784–800; Bierl 1991:154–157.

[ back ] 172. Kranz (1933:135) proceeds from a fundamental opposition between the forms of the paean and the kommos, and thinks “es ist daher als Vereinigung des eigentlich Unvereinbaren zu deuten, wenn die Tragödie auch spricht vom παιὰν τοῦ θανόντος (vom Scholiasten getadelt)” [“This should accordingly be explained as the union of the essentially irreconcilable, even if tragedy speaks of the παιὰν τοῦ θανόντος, Cho. 151 (condemned by the scholiast)”]. He lists Aesch. Sept. 867, Eur. Alc. 424, Supp. 75, Hel. 175ff., and Hipp. 1373 among others as comparable passages. For the explanation in terms of a potpourri of genres in Plato’s sense (Leg. 700d), see Rutherford 1994/95:122–124.

[ back ] 173. See Kranz 1933:127–137. With regard to the sacred form of the integrated cultic song, Kranz lists as Aeschylean formal aspects religious formulaic language, repetitions, the repetition of sounds, refrains, alliteration, assonance, and the use of triadic structures. For thrênoi in Aeschylus, see Aesch. Cho. 306–478 (the long kommos at the tomb of Agamemnon; cf. the term γόος, Cho. 321, ἐπιτύμβιος θρῆνος, Cho. 334–335 [cf. θρήνων ἐπιτυμβιδίων, Cho. 342], and ἐφυμνῆσαι . . . ὀλολυγμὸν, Cho. 386–387 and in general Sier 1988:66–179) and Sept. 861–960 (cf. again the generic term θρῆνον, Sept. 863 and the contrast with the joyful paean, Sept. 866–970 [like Cho. 340–344]).

[ back ] 174. Henrichs 1994/95, esp. 73. He rightly considers choral projection as a means of overcoming this gap.

[ back ] 175. See Henrichs 1996:18 and 54–55, where the tension is viewed within the cultic framework.

[ back ] 176. In comedy, the performative function is largely subordinated to the comic plot, at least up until the parabasis, with the distinction that the verbal utterances and nonverbal gestures and movements themselves generally indicate a ritual action and, in contrast to tragedy, have no descriptive, narrative, or declaratory function.

[ back ] 177. Cf. Cole 1993 and Peirce 1993.

[ back ] 178. In tragedy this occurs mainly in the so-called hyporchemes; these are songs of a joy that is deceptive. They function as a way of controlling reception within the drama, in order to heighten the contrast with the catastrophe that is to follow. Cf. above, p. 61 and below, 81–82.

[ back ] 179. Cf. Leg. 654a; the gods gave morals choruses and by way of (folk) etymology named them χορούς, from χαρά (‘joy’): . . . χορούς τε ὠνομακέναι παρὰ τῆς χαρᾶς ἔμφυτον ὄνομα.

[ back ] 180. From the graceful ball-playing of the Phaeacian maidens, reminiscent of a dance, to the choral songs of drama, παίζειν is used as a verb indicating dance. See among others Hom. Od. 6.100, 8.251, 23.134 and 147; Hom. Hymn. 2.425 and 5.120; Hes. Scut. 277; Pind. Ol. 1.16 and 13.86; Ion fr. 27, 7–8 W.; Ar. Av. 660, Thesm. 947, 983, 1227–1228, Lys. 1313, Ran. 318–320, 333, 388, 392, 407b, 415, 452; Autocrates fr. 1, 1ff. K.-A.; for συμπαίζειν see Soph. OT 1109, Ar. Pax 816–817, Av. 1098, Thesm. 975 and Men. Epitr. 478. See Hommel 1949 (on Homer), Calame I 1977:165–166 (Engl. trans. Calame 1997:87–88), Burkert 1982, esp. 336–337, Dover 1993:173–179, Dover, Frogs, 57–59, 61, 236–237, Lonsdale 1993:1, 33–43, 67, 71, 80, 251, and Henrichs 1996:35–38. For play, dance, and satyr play see Bierl 2006.

[ back ] 181. Athens, National Museum 192. For the inscription, see IG I2 919 = CEG 432 (pp. 239–240 Hansen, with scholarly literature; IG I3, p. 984 considers IG I2 919 as “fictile”). For reading and dating cf. Powell 1988 and Powell 1991:158–163; cf. Henrichs 1996:32–34 with table I.

[ back ] 182. Cf. books 2 and 7 of Plat. Leg. and the anthropological basis derived from this by Lonsdale 1993:21–43, esp. 33–35. On παίζω, παιδεία, and παιδιά see among other passages Plat. Leg. 656c, 673a, 673d, 803e.

[ back ] 183. On the “as if” see Burkert 1979:57 and Burkert 1996:7.

[ back ] 184. For the connection of play and ritual, see Braungart 1996:216–233, on the relationship to theater, 225–233; he sees as a fundamental distinction the fact that play is fundamentally open, while ritual is not; nevertheless, he does not here consider the complete openness of comic and exceptional rituals that place openness on the stage; for the connection of mimesis, art, and ritual, see his 234–253.

[ back ] 185. Koller 1954, esp. 119–121.

[ back ] 186. On the Kipp-Phänomen applied to the comic, cf. Iser 1976a.

[ back ] 187. Plato explains choral dance on the basis of the instinct of every young creature to jump (πηδᾶν) and to romp (Leg. 673cd); children especially cannot keep still (653de). He thus sees the origin of dance in the urge to move and in the cradling of babies (even in the womb) to keep them calm. A concept of homoiostasis lies behind this: internal unrest may be overcome by movement (789e–791d). This model is applied to adults, who in ritual are viewed as the toy (παίγνιον, 803c; cf. 644de) of the gods. The gods gave mortals dance and festivals as relaxation (ἀναπαύλας) from everyday life and as compensation for inner disquiet (653cd); on the other hand, humans understood choral dance as an offering to the gods (791a); through play and dance they were able to gain the favor of the gods (803e).

[ back ] 188. Cf. Winnicott 1971, passim, esp. 1–25, on the role of illusion 10–14; cf. also the following (3): “I am here staking a claim for an intermediate state between a baby’s inability and his growing ability to recognize and accept reality. I am therefore studying the substance of illusion, that which is allowed to the infant, and which in adult life is inherent in art and religion.” Also (89): “I should like to put in a reminder here that the essential feature in the concept of transitional objects and phenomena (according to my presentation of the subject) is the paradox, and the acceptance of the paradox: the baby creates the object, but the object was there waiting to be created and to become a cathected object. I tried to draw attention to this aspect of transitional phenomena by claiming that in the rules of the game we all know that we will never challenge the baby to elicit an answer to the question: did you create that or did you find it?”

[ back ] 189. Schechner 1985:110 and 111–112. On play see also Winnicott 1971, esp. 38–52, 53–64, Turner/Turner 1982:204–205, Turner 1982:20–88, esp. 30–35, 84–85, and Schechner 1993:24–36. Bateson 1972:177–193 views play in connection with “metacommunication” (“This is play”) and for every game defines a “play frame” within which transgressions are allowed. But this sharp contrast between reality and play seems to be framed in too schematic a fashion. Bateson’s categorization is connected among other things with the pejorative value placed on play in modern Western thought. Schechner contrasts this with an Eastern way of thinking where play, just as among the Greeks, is viewed as a worthy and serious interaction between gods and humans. In his opinion the world should be viewed as a permeable net through which play always finds access to serious reality. Play should accordingly be thought of less as the context of a time of exception or inversion, but rather as a mood or possible attitude to the world.

[ back ] 190. Huizinga 1955:32. It is also important for Huizinga that the player is constantly aware of the fact that he is playing a role (32–33). For play in its connection with agôn, cult, ritual, sacred solemnity, festival, and religion, see Huizinga 1955:32–46.

[ back ] 191. Huizinga 1955:141: “Poiesis, in fact, is a play function.” On poetry see 141–158, on art 182–197, esp. on dance 188–189 (Dance is “pure play”). On the relationship between play and comic theater, see Lohr 1986:18–24 and Braungart 1996:225–233.

[ back ] 192. Möllendorff 1995:93–98. Möllendorff’s view of an aesthetic poetics of Old Comedy is in general convincing; the digression on Bakhtin is superfluous if one takes the ritual component of comedy seriously. Bakhtin essentially provides only the impulse; Möllendorff’s interesting analysis is ultimately based on the French reception of Bakhtin in the circle of Julia Kristeva and the Telqueliens (on this see Hempfer 1976, esp. 13–65), without Möllendorff being fully aware of this. Methodologically speaking, it seems naturally more advisable to explain these phenomenona in terms of their own time than to derive them from postmodern and poststructuralist paradigms. On the concept of play that is fascinating to postmodern theory because of its fundamental openness, see Braungart 1996:217–218; he emphasizes that this background gets in the way of understanding the ritual implications.

[ back ] 193. He touches on the area of ritual only in a footnote and refers only to Victor Turner; Möllendorff 1995:95n76.

[ back ] 194. Möllendorff 1995:97.

[ back ] 195. Lohr (1986:63–68) talks of the “comic fall” that he sees as characteristic of the genre, and connects this form with a regression into the state of early childhood; from the super-ego one moves rather quickly to a collective It as locale of the excluded, so that laughter is then “symbol and praxis of the earliest appropriation of the world” (65).

[ back ] 196. In tragedy, as in comedy, the world in the actual plot is distorted in a Dionysiac fashion. In tragedy the point of view tends to be from above, from the sublime. Death and suffering in a royal family determine the story. In keeping with the tragic plot, sacrifice and ritual in general are mostly perverted into the horrific. The chorus of the community is seldom, however, directly involved in these gruesome acts. For example, the external ritual that constitutes sacrifice is distorted in such a way that a human being is torn apart in horrific fashion. In comedy, by contrast, the deformation takes place when figures are drawn down into the ridiculous and the grotesque. In this the chorus also plays a distinct part, even if it does not attain the comic dimensions of the actors. See on this Brelich (1975:111–112), who follows Arist. Poet. 1448a and 1449a (cf. also Plat. Leg. 814e) in associating tragedy with the superhuman and comedy with the subhuman. For the ritual and pragmatic poetics of the comic genre see now Bierl 2002a.

[ back ] 197. Dover 1993 and Dover, Frogs, 58–60. On dance, particularly round dance and figure dance as “the purest and most perfect form of play,” see Huizinga 1955:188–189: “The connexions between playing and dancing are so close that they hardly need illustrating. It is not that dancing has something of play in it or about it, rather that is is an integral part of play: the relationship is one of direct participation, almost of essential identity. Dancing is a particular and particularly perfect form of playing.”

[ back ] 198. After the delivery of this choral Leitmotiv, Xanthias (or Dionysus; cf. Dover, Frogs, 247) also wants to παίζων χορεύειν (Ar. Ran. 415).

[ back ] 199. See above, n189. The transitional phase in van Gennep’s three-phase model, Turner’s experi-ence of liminality, and Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque correspond to this period of inversion or play. Lonsdale 1993:36–37 connects the playful and musical element in the reenactment in an agonistic context of an animal existence with the ritual activities of sacrifice and hunting.

[ back ] 200. Plato (Leg. 814e) makes a distinction in the case of dances that represent more beautiful bodies in a worthy fashion and uglier ones in a common fashion. He subdivides the first, serious group in turn into a peaceful and a warlike ὄρχησις. In the latter negative category he seems to include bacchic and other dances in which the performers undergo purifications and initiations while imitating drunken nymphs, Pans, Silenoi, and satyrs (815c). However, Plato does not explain what he means by this group, given his strict binary division. On khoreia and tribal initiation rites in Plato’s educational theory, see Calame 1999b, esp. 299–307.

[ back ] 201. See Osborne 1993, who treats festivals together with dramatic and musical competitions.

[ back ] 202. Further ritual groups are represented among others by Philippides’ Women Celebrating the Adonia (Ἀδωνιάζουσαι, PCG VII, 336–337) (the Lysistrata had this title in antiquity; see schol. Lys. 389), Aristophanes’ Banqueters (Δαιταλῆς, PCG III.2, 122ff.) and Σκηνὰς καταλαμβάνουσαι (PCG III.2, 257ff.), Cratinus’ Delian Women (Δηλιάδες, PCG IV, 134ff.) and Εὐνεῖδαι (PCG IV, 157–158), Phrynikhos’ Comasts (Κωμασταί, PCG VII, 401ff.) and Initiates (Μύσται, PCG VII, 411–412); Plato com. composed Women from the Rites (Αἱ ἀφ᾿ ἱερῶν, PCG VII, 436ff.) and Timokles the Women Celebrating the Dionysia (Διονυσιάζουσαι, PCG VII, 758–759), which may also be included in this category.

[ back ] 203. Cf. inter alia the Σάτυροι of Cratinus (PCG IV, 232) and Kallias (PCG IV, 49), the Δημοσάτυροι and the Ἰκάριοι Σάτυροι of Timokles (PCG VII, 757–758 and 766ff.) and the Βάκχαι of Diokles (PCG V, 18–19) and Lysippos (PCG V, 618ff.). Extant tragedy can only produce the Bacchae of Euripides as an example. The Erinyes also function in a similarly ritual fashion in Aeschylus’ Eumenides.

[ back ] 204. Cf. the Sirens of Theopompos (Σειρῆνες, PCG VII, 732–733) and Nikophon (PCG VII, 70–71) and the Muses of Phrynikhos (Μοῦσαι, PCG VII, 409ff.).

[ back ] 205. Cf. the following comedies with animal choruses: Magnes: Frogs (Βάτραχοι, PCG V, 628), Birds (Ὄρνιθες, PCG V, 630), Gall Wasps (Ψῆνες, PCG V, 631); Krates: Beasts (Θηρία, PCG IV, 91ff.); Krates II: Birds (Ὄρνιθες, PCG IV, 111); Pherekrates: Ant Men (Μυρμηκάνθρωποι, PCG VII, 161ff.); Eupolis: Goats (Αἶγες, PCG V, 302ff.); Aristophanes: Wasps (Σφῆκες), Birds (Ὄρνιθες), Frogs (Βάτραχοι), Storks (Πελαργοί, PCG III.2, 239ff.); Plato com.: Griffins (Γρῦπες, PCG VII, 438–439), Ants (Μύρμηκες, PCG VII, 468); Arkhippos: Fish (Ἰχθύες, PCG II, 542ff.); Kallias: Frogs (Βάτραχοι, PCG IV, 42); Kantharos: Nightingales (Ἀηδόνες, PCG IV, 57), Ants (Μύρμηκες, PCG IV, 59); Diokles: Bees (Μέλιτται, PCG V, 20ff.); according to Sifakis, Anaxilas’ Circe (Κίρκη, PCG II, 282–283) should also be counted here, the chorus of which was made up of the companions of Odysseus who were turned into pigs. Perhaps they only imitated the animals, as in the parodos of Aristophanes’ Wealth. Chorus members who ride horses or other animals played by other members of the chorus in costume in a way typical of comedy form an ambiguous unit that falls both under the category of animals as well as military formation: cf. the Knights (Ἱππεῖς) of Aristophanes and Antiphanes (PCG II, 368–369); further, the mounted Amazons (Ἀμαζόνες) of Kephisodoros (PCG IV, 63–64) and Epikrates (PCG V, 153). See in general Sifakis 1971:71–102 (“Animal Choruses”), esp. 76–77 and now Rothwell 2006.

[ back ] 206. Cf. Tambiah 1985:169–211 (“Animals are Good to Think and Good to Prohibit”) and Sperber 1996.

[ back ] 207. Particular ethnic groups are shown, for example by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Carians, and Lydians; see among others Magnes’ Lydians (Λυδοί, PCG V, 629–630), Khionides’ Persians or Assyrians (Πέρσαι ἢ Ἀσσύριοι, PCG IV, 73), Cratinus’ Thracian Women (Θρᾷτται, PCG IV, 159ff.), and the Persians (Πέρσαι) of Pherekrates (PCG VII, 167ff.). See also Pherekrates’ Wild Men (Ἄγριοι, PCG VII, 106ff.). Consider also the play on internal Greek prejudices in comedies such as Krates’ Samians (Σάμιοι, PCG IV, 101ff.) and the Spartans (Λάκωνες) of Eupolis (PCG V, 398–399), Plato com. (Λάκωνες ἢ Ποιηταί, PCG VII, 460ff.), and Nikokhares (PCG VII, 45). ¶ A subsequent stage of development could have been the transfer of the role of the comic chorus to personified objects and conditions; cf. Eupolis’ Cities (Πόλεις, PCG V, 424ff.) and Demes (Δῆμοι, PCG V, 342ff.), the Islands (Νῆσοι) of Aristophanes (PCG III.2, 220ff.) and Plato com. (Ἑλλάς ἢ Νῆσοι, PCG VII, 440ff.) and the Festivals (Ἑορταί) of Plato com. (PCG VII, 443ff.; here ritual is of particular importance; for personified objects cf. e.g. the Freighters (Ὁλκάδες) of Aristophanes (PCG III.2, 226ff.). Here too the interchange between leader and company is important.

[ back ] 208. See the overview of attempts at explaining animal choruses in Sifakis 1971:78–85; the interpretation I choose to follow here relies on ritual and symbol. For the principle of the alternate world that the different roles of the chorus present in variation, see also Seeberg 1995, who advocates the hypothesis that animals and other groups are only a secondary development and a replacement of the originally comastic choruses of potbellied dancers; they will have represented initial mimetic and plot elements in comedy (7).

[ back ] 209. The following titles with connections to military groups are attested: there are the Knights (Ἱππεῖς) of Aristophanes and Antiphanes (PCG II, 368–369); Eupolis wrote a comedy called the Squadron Leaders (Ταξίαρχοι, PCG V, 452ff.), Telekleides (PCG VII, 681) and Hermippos (PCG V, 585ff.) composed plays called the Soldiers (Στρατιῶται); Hermippos’ chorus members typically often seem to have an effeminate nature; hence his play was also possibly entitled the Female Soldiers (Στρατιώτιδες); Theopompos (PCG VII, 733ff.) also wrote a piece with the latter title; the plot seems to have been similar to that of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. The Amazons (Ἀμαζόνες) of Kephisodoros (PCG IV, 63–64) and Epikrates (PCG V, 153) also belong here.

[ back ] 210. See the black-figure skyphos in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts 20.18 (ca. 480 BCE) (dolphin riders: Sifakis 1971, fig. 2; peacock riders: Pickard-Cambridge 1962, fig. 8b, Sifakis 1971, figs. 3 and 4) and the red-figure psykter by Oltos, New York, Norbert Schimmel Collection (ca. 520–510 BCE) (dolphin riders: Sifakis 1971, fig. 5). See also the riders seated on men dressed as horses on the famous Berlin amphora, Berlin 1697, Antikensammlung (ca. 550 BCE) (Pickard-Cambridge 1962, fig. 7 and Sifakis 1971, fig. 1).

[ back ] 211. For archaic warfare as ritual activity, see Connor 1988a.

[ back ] 212. On Greek weapon dances see Delavaud-Roux 1993; on the pyrrhikhê see Ceccarelli 1998 and my discussion below, pp. 207–217. On the connection between weapon dance and war, see Ceccarelli 1998:19–20.

[ back ] 213. Athen. 628f: Σχεδὸν γὰρ ὥσπερ ἐξοπλισία τις ἦν ἡ χορεία καὶ ἐπίδειξις οὐ μόνον τῆς λοιπῆς εὐταξίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς σωμάτων ἐπιμελείας.

[ back ] 214. The verbs σκιρτάω, πηδάω, and ἄλλομαι are typically used to describe the chorus’ dance movements in comedy and satyr play. Cf. also Naerebout 1997:281–282. They are characteristic of wild animals as well as maenads and satyrs.

[ back ] 215. Aristoxenos fr. 103 Wehrli = Athen. 630c–e; cf. also Aristoxenos fr. 104–106 Wehrli. On this see Ceccarelli 1998:214 and 222–224. According to Aristoxenos (fr. 108 Wehrli) there was a kind of curriculum that led from the dances of boys in gymnopaidikê and pyrrhikhê all the way to choral dance in drama (= Athen. 631c): “Aristoxenos says that the ancients began first with the training of the gymnopaidikê, then moved to the pyrrhikhê before entering into the theater [πρὸ τοῦ εἰσιέναι εἰς τὸ θέατρον].” It comes as no surprise, then, that the two forms should be reflected in theatrical choral practice. Immediately before this passage Athenaeus reports (631b) that one should view the oskhophoric and bacchic forms as variation of gymnopaidikê. The Gymnopaidia, Oskhophoria, and the pyrrhikhê are connected everywhere in the Greek world with male puberty initiation. For dances at the Spartan Gymnopaidia in this social context, see below, chap. 1, n418; for the Athenian Oskhophoria, see Jeanmaire 1939:344–363, Brelich 1969:444–445, Calame I 1977:228–232 (Engl. trans. Calame 1997:125–128); naturally this no longer has anything to do with a classic three-phase initiation ritual (cf. Calame 1990:432–435); rather, the acceptance of youths into the society of men is celebrated in a ritual fashion and mixed with elements of fertility. As bearers of oskhoi (vine-branches) the young men display their readiness and are seen as bringers of agricultural and general welfare, symbolized in the branch. In Athenaeus (495ef) there is a fragment from Aristodemos’ commentary on Pindar (FGrHist 383 F 9) in which we find a report of an ephebic running contest of the Oskhophoroi that took place at the Skira(?), but that probably happened at this festival (cf. Proclus Chrest. ap. Phot. Bibl. 322a13–30 [= 87–92 Severyns]); the winner received the pentaploa cup with the five elementary foods and celebrated with a kômos and chorus (κωμάζει μετὰ χοροῦ). This is clearly reminiscent of the kômos processions from which comedy developed. The comic chorus thus reactualizes these kinds of initiatory rituals in dance and song.

[ back ] 216. See among others the scholia to Pind. Pyth. 2.127 and Athen. 631c.

[ back ] 217. Cf. Wehrli 1945:81–83.

[ back ] 218. For the hyporcheme see among others Diehl 1914 and Koller 1954:166–173. A precise definition of the genre is actually impossible. That which is characteristic of the hyporcheme, mimetic dance with performative verbal accompaniment as speech act, is typical of all choral genres of ritual, whether paeans, dithyrambs, or the like. Hence Wilamowitz (I 18952:77) says of the hyporcheme: “Es ist ein schlechter Name; denn Tanzlieder sind sie ja alle” [“It is a bad name, for they are all dance songs”]. The classification is thus a scholarly act post festum. Originally, however, the occasion of the performance formed the sole generic criterion; Nagy 1994/95a. The boundaries between the hyporcheme and the pyrrhikhê and the sikinnis are open, because there were many dances that represented military practices, the pursuit of the enemy, and, projected onto the animal level, the hunt from the perspective of the hunters and the hunted. Cf. the explanation for the equation of pyrrhikhê and satyr dance in Athenaeus (630d): ἀμφότεραι γὰρ διὰ τάχους. πολεμικὴ δὲ δοκεῖ εἶναι ἡ πυρρίχη· ἔνοπλοι γὰρ αὐτὴν παῖδες ὀρχοῦνται. τάχους δὲ δεῖ τῷ πολέμῳ εἰς τὸ διώκειν καὶ εἰς τὸ ἡττωμένους “φεύγειν μηδὲ μένειν μηδ᾿ αἰδεῖσθαι κακοὺς εἶναι” [“Both are fast dances. The pyrrhikhê seems to be a war dance, because youths dance it while bearing arms. Speed is needed in war for pursuit and for those defeated to ‘flee and neither hold their position nor be ashamed to be cowardly’ ”]. Athenaeus ironically quotes the response of the Delphic oracle to Kroisos that he should flee as soon as a mule becomes king of the Persians (Hdt. 1.55.2), making an implicit reference to the animal role of the chorus in satyr plays and of many other ritual choruses.