FEATURES:Crossing the Ancient Stage

Female Choruses in Greek Tragedy

Mary deForest
University of Colorado
E-mail: crypto@ecentral.com

In the orchestra, between the seats and the stage, the chorus of Greek drama is ideally placed to mediate between poet and audience (1). The music, song and dance, the lofty language and the Doric dialect, all carry the words outside the range of normal discourse into the eternal, from a mythological event to a living audience. The choral interludes give the poet an opportunity to comment on the action, to guide the audience into an appropriate response. When the chorus was not performing, it sat in the orchestra, continuing the line of the audience, observing the action on the stage(2). Therefore, the chorus might reasonably be expected to present the views of the poet and of his ideal audience. Female choruses, however, cannot. For fifth-century Athenians, a woman's perspective was automatically warped. An Athenian audience would no more identify with a female chorus than it would attend a play by a female playwright.

In making the chorus female, the poet gave up the option taken by the epic poets to include an audience within the text whose approval might have some authority. Homer's Phaeacians, the internal audience of the Odysssey, enjoyed wealth and civilized pursuits. They listened to the hero's narrative with intense pleasure and lavishly rewarded him (3). The poet, as he flattered his listeners by implicitly likening them to the successful Phaeacians, also instructed them to emulate the behavior of the mythological audience by loading him with praise and gifts (4). In Athens, however, the women chorus had no authority to represent poet or audience. Despite this impediment, however, there are many female choruses: 24 out of 43 extant tragedies and comedies.

Female choruses served one useful dramatic purpose. The chorus is often an embarrassment. Terrible acts of violence are witnessed by fifteen people who do nothing to prevent it. Eric Csapo and William J. Slater have suggested the chorus dropped out because it got in the way of probability (5). The dramatic illusion was ruined by the presence of so many witnesses who should have done something but didn't. Female choruses, however, had an excuse for staying in the orchestra: nobody expected women to do anything. Their other purpose, which I will explore in this paper, was to bring out into the open the tensions and problems confronting the young men of the audience. The spectacle of men dressed as women served as rite of passage, initiating the young men into the responsibilities of citizenship.

As a character in Aristophanes' Frogs, Aeschylus says that the poets are the teachers of youth, hebosi (1055). He alludes to a specific group of the young men, the ephebes, young men between eighteen and twenty, fully grown but still beardless. Smooth-cheeked like women, they were also objects of desire(6). This was an age glorified in art and poetry. The process of maturity was viewed as moving from a feminine state to a masculine one, from soft to hard, from smooth to bristling. The growth of a beard meant the arrival of manhood and the loss of sex appeal (7).

Telemachus of the Odyssey is the perfect example of an ephebe. He set off from home, young and inexperienced in the ways of the great world (8). When he returned to Ithaca with news of his father and presents from his father's friends, he possessed a beard. Its existence (mentioned first at Od. 18.173–74) gave Penelope the excuse to trick the invaders of her house. Odysseus, she claimed, had instructed her that, if he did not return, she should wait until Telemachus grew a beard, and then marry again (18.269–70). To get gifts from her suitors, she promised to consider remarriage. By Book 18, clearly, Telemachus had a beard. The logic of hair growth implies that he had one all along. The logic of narrative insists that Telemachus' beard was somehow jump-started by his experiences in the larger world.

Like Telemachus, the ideal ephebe left the security of home. The Athenian ephebes guarded the borders and were drilled in their military exercises (9). During this two-year period, they were viewed as belonging to an age-group, helicia. They were identified by their tribe, a classification dominated every aspect of Athenian civic life--legal, political, religious, and military. At this unique period of their lives, ephebes lived outside the polis in the wilderness, together as young men. At the festival of Dionysus, when the mature men sat in the wedges assigned to their tribes, the ephebes sat in a special section, their paler faces contrasting with the bearded members of the audience (10).

Dionysus, himself a young god, gave special prominence to the ephebes, who escorted his statue to the theater. According to John J. Winkler, the ephebes were also the principal performers and the target audience of the dramatic performance (11).

According to Winkler's model, the ephebes of Athens danced in the tragic choruses just as they sat in a special section of the theater reserved for them (12). He makes a powerful contrast between the dramatic dances and the other dance-form of the festival, the dithyramb (13). Ten choruses of men and ten of boys, the two age groups flanking the ephebes, competed in ring dancing. Each tribe contributed fifty men and fifty boys for these competitions. Seated in their tribal wedges, members of the audience no doubt encouraged the home teams (14). In between the two dithyrambic competitions, the men's and the boys', Winkler neatly inserts the dance of the group in between, the ephebes. The men and boys danced for the glory of their tribes; the dramatic choruses were taken from all Athens. The ephebes in the audience did not sit in tribal wedges, but sat in a special section. Unlike the dithyrambic choruses, the dramatic choruses did not seek approval from a specific tribe, but from a specific age group, the beardless men in the ephebes' section.

Winkler points out another important contrast between the dithyramb and the dramatic chorus. The dithyrambs were circular dances; the dramatic dances had a rectangular formation. Winkler draws attention to the parallel between the dramatic dances and the military drills in which some if not all the ephebes were engaged. He collects many ancient writers who pointed out the similarity between tragic dances and military maneuvers: what was aesthetically pleasing could be militarily effective (15). The precision turns of the choruses in the orchestra replicated the dances Athenian youths performed on the drill grounds. The ephebes in the audience were ready to identify with the ephebes of the chorus. They were the same age; they danced the same dance.

When Aristophanes had Aeschylus refer to himself and fellow poets as 'teachers for youth,' he alluded to a title of the dramatic poet, 'the teacher of the choruses' (16). In that role, Aeschylus instructed men of a specific age group, ephebes, to dance and sing his songs. Since teaching includes moral instruction, Aeschylus included ethics in his spectacle of song and dance (17).

Ephebes, the target audience of the drama, sat apart from the bearded men with darker faces. The split in the audience between bearded and unbearded created a split in the play's interpretation. The bearded men sat divided into tribes, as in a political assembly. The dramatic festival was similar to such a political assembly, except that the speeches to be evaluated were spoken in a mythological situation. The young men and the older men, the beardless and bearded, were intended to hear these speeches very differently. The theater was the political equivalent of a religious initiation, where the young men of Athens were taught lessons about citizenship in a religious setting. As Winkler puts it:

...[T]he events and characters portrayed in tragedy are meant to be contemplated as lessons by young citizens (or better, by the entire polis from the vantage point of the young citizen), and therefore it makes the watchful scrutiny of the chorus structurally important as the still center from which the tragic turbulence is surveyed and evaluated. (18)

The bearded men shared in the release of emotion. They watched the performances from two perspectives, present and past. They could remember when they had sat in the special seats, when they too had danced for Athens. Female choruses captured and prolonged a ceremony of ritual importance in a young man's life, when he wore women's clothing. In a rite of passage to adulthood, he symbolically relinquished the feminine state. To show his graduation into manhood, an ephebe first donned women's clothes, then took them off (19). By rejecting female clothes, young men rejected femininity. The process of maturing meant the movement from a female state to a male one. Like the ephebes themselves, female choruses struggle between masculinity and femininity. Males are dressed as females; females, in turn, do the war dance. Mask is at variance with actor; role, with dance. In the audience, the ephebes were torn between empathy and revulsion, between identifying with their fellow ephebes in the orchestra and loathing the female role. Watching their peers in the orchestra, the ephebes learned more about the state they were rejecting.

Female choruses reinforced the Athenian stereotype of women as an alien subculture — the race of women (20). Several female choruses look weird: blood-sucking Erinyes; dark-skinned Danaids; Oceanids on winged chariots; Bacchants dressed in deer-skins. Even choruses made up of ordinary women are often foreign — captives or tourists (21). Equally off-putting is the feminine challenge to male myths. Men are blamed for the prevalence of stories about evil women: they make them up and they pass them down (Med. 410–30, Ion 1090–1105). As Jane Austen's Anne Elliot would later say, the pen has been in their hands (22). A male audience would not have been inclined to identify with female choruses, with their wild dress and crazy ideas.

Just as off-putting for a male audience is the exaggerated femininity of female choruses. (See Diagram). Many choruses are, or fear to become, helpless victims of men's violence. Many are unmanly in an exaggerated concern for their own security. They lament in women's fashion, scratching their cheeks and beating their breasts. They sing of love and marriage, a feminine concern, at least in men's eyes. They reveal a lack of importance by alluding to the constraints of their day-to-day life. Mythological females are under the same restrictions as Athenian women, unable to leave the house without a good excuse. The friends of Phaedra and Helen were doing the laundry (Hipp. 121–30; Hel. 179–83). The Oceanids, even though goddesses, needed Daddy's permission to visit Prometheus (Prom. 129–130).

The young men of Athens watching the play did not see themselves as victims. They did not show fear. They did not do laundry. In one respect, however, they may well have identified with the female choruses: both groups regularly opposed established authority. Meyer Reinhold has shown, the generation gap in Athens of the fifth century was particularly acute, with the young men in open conflict with the old (23). Both on stage and off, young men engaged older men in debate. Socrates attracted a huge following among the young because he was good at showing up the ignorance of the older generation (Apol. 23c). Neoi means both young in age and non-traditional, and the two words merged in the most famous Athenian politician after Pericles, his nephew, Alcibiades (24). Thucydides claimed that only Athens would have taken seriously a man as young as Alcibiades (5.43.2), and he shows Nicias rebuking Alcibiades for deluding the young men of Athens with a dream of foreign conquest (6.17.1, 18.6) (27). Many centuries later, Plutarch claimed that the young men of Athens wanted to continue the Peloponnesian War, whereas the old people did not (Nic. 11) (26).

The conflict between the generations existing in Athens was played out on the Attic stage through the arguments of fathers and sons; it was hinted at in the conflict between female choruses and rulers. Almost every female chorus comes in conflict with a ruler, on earth or in Heaven (27). This conflict on the stage served two educational purposes. First, it supported the general stereotype of women as impossible to deal with, as constantly rebelling (28). Second, it allows the young men to explore the consequences of yielding to an instinctive rebelliousness.

In contrast to male choruses, which--notably in Antigone and Agamemnon--side with the king, women choruses side with rebels. They support victims of injustice, or those posing as victims, against the powerful. (Examples are on the diagram). Usually covert in their support (excepting Aeschylus' Prometheus and Euripides' Bacchae), they generally intervene through deception. Since the king has military power, rebellion in drama can only come about through a deception aided by a sympathetic chorus. Except for Euripides' Heracles and Sophocles' Philoctetes, dramas of intrigue regularly have female choruses. Usually, the women help the plotters by deceptively withholding information, and this seems only too appropriate since Greek women were told to be silent. Others lie, like the Greek captive women in Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris, who mislead the messenger about the king's whereabouts (1293–97). On one occasion, moreover, the chorus affects the plot by taking charge of the script. In the Libation Bearers, the chorus leader instructs the nurse to alter Clytemnestra's message to Aegisthus with the result that he comes alone without a bodyguard (Lib. 770–73).

Deceptive silence and lying speech characterize the choruses as female, but in their willingness to take risks these choruses resemble the idealistic young men of tragedy who come into conflict with kings: Haemon, Hippolytus, and Menoeceus. Since women choruses can have no expectation of prizes or promotions from a coup d'état, their rebellions too are cleansed of any self-serving motives. There are however, significant differences. First, Haemon, Hippolytus, and Menoeceus speak openly against their fathers. Second, these young men are proven right; the female choruses usually support the wrong people.

In misguided idealism, female choruses resemble young men described by Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claimed young men could not make good decisions because they were guided by emotions, not prudence (1.3.6, 6.88.5). He analyzed the reasons in his Rhetoric:

They are not ill-natured but simple-natured, because they have never yet witnessed much depravity; confiding, because they have as yet not often been deceived;...And they are more courageous, for they are full of passion and hope, and the former of these prevents them from fearing, while the latter inspires them with confidence, for no one fears when angry, and hope of some advantage inspires confidence...They are high-minded, for they have not yet been humbled by life nor have they experienced the force of necessity... In their actions, they prefer the noble to the expedient...At this age more than any other they are fond of their friends and companions, because they take pleasure in living in company and as yet judge nothing by expediency, not even friends. All their errors are due to excess and vehemence...for they do everything to excess--love, hate and everything else. And they think they know everything and confidently affirm it, and this is the cause of their excess in everything. If they do wrong, it is due to hubris, not baseness. And they are inclined to pity, because they think all men are virtuous and better than themselves; for they measure their neighbors by their own inoffensiveness, so they think that they suffer undeservedly.
(Rhetoric 1389a5–b16, trans. John Henry Freese, with modifications) (29)

Trusting, brave, high-minded, altruistic, loyal, passionate, and compassionate, the female choruses fit Aristotle's stereotype of young men. (See diagram). Their shining idealism is clouded only by inexperience. Their mistakes are the mistakes of the young in a tragedy part cautionary tale.

To be sure, some choruses are right to side with rebels. In Euripides' Helen and Iphigenia in Tauris the women lie to the kings so that one heroine may escape with her husband, the other with her brother. The choruses of these plays are Greek, captives in a foreign land helping other Greeks escape barbarians. The choruses of the Electra plays take sides against the infamous Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, but the morality of the matricide became cloudier as the story passed from Aeschylus to Euripides.

The best example of a female chorus is that of the Oceanids in Prometheus Bound. The principal event in this static play is their change from inquisitive well-wishers to zealous partisans. Since the play revolves around this change, they are carefully delineated. Those who argue that the Oceanids represent the Athenians fail to distinguish between Prometheus' audience and Aeschylus' (30)s. The Athenians would not have identified with the nymphs, who, confined within the house and ignorant of the world, were like the women at home.

Leaving home for the first time, the Oceanids are easily seduced by a clever speaker (31). Water nymphs naturally flow, and the wily Prometheus finds it easy to elicit tears of pity. 'Behold me,' Prometheus says, pointing out his cruel chains and desolate surroundings (Prom. 141). The water nymphs weep to behold him (Prom. 144–49), and they take that first step towards his side. Second, Prometheus invites them to imagine the joy his enemies must feel at his suffering (Prom. 158–59). As the nymphs condemn anyone who could rejoice at his pain (Prom. 160–63), they move closer to his side, banding against his enemies. Prometheus' third appeal reels them in. Punished for pitying humanity, he laments that he himself finds no pity (Prom. 241–43). The nymphs pour out their compassion a third time, now banding against anyone who does not pity Prometheus (244–46). Three times — a magical number — they reassure Prometheus, and with each reassurance they are drawn more deeply into his fate. With each outburst of compassion, induced by Prometheus' skillful rhetoric, the Oceanids move unconsciously from sympathy to alliance.

Having won their emotional support, Prometheus proceeds to cut off their escape. Urgently he entreats them to come down to earth, so that he can speak to them more comfortably (Prom. 273–77). Without their winged chariots, the nymphs must stay with him. The timing is perfect. As the girls come down, they are absent at a crucial scene, while Prometheus talks to their father.

Many critics have disparaged this scene with Ocean as flat: yet another character visits Prometheus (32). An ancient commentator suggested that Aeschylus inserted the scene so that the chorus would have time to come down from behind the stage building (33). Although giving too little credit to Aeschylus' artistry, the commentator brought out an important dramatic convention. Because they are not present on the stage at the same time, Ocean and the chorus neither see each other nor learn of each other's presence in that dangerous spot (34). That the chorus is absent must be inferred from its silence in this scene. The chorus leader usually interacts with actors on the stage, pointing out a new arrival, or introducing a long speech by a principal character, or commenting on one that has just ended, but this chorus leader is silent throughout the whole scene with Ocean. Moreover, of all the mythological groups, Aeschylus chose the Oceanids for his chorus, and of all the mythological characters who could have visited Prometheus, he chose Ocean, their father. If present in this scene, the Oceanids act neither as a chorus nor as daughters (35). The spectators had a powerful advantage over readers because they can see events played out on the stage; readers must make deductions from words conveyed in writing and, in this case, from the absence of words.

The Oceanids' absence during their father's visit adds meaning to the conversation between Prometheus and Ocean. Although the two gods discuss politics, the real purpose of Ocean's visit is personal. He did not want his daughters to visit Prometheus in the first place (Prom. 129–30), and he visits Prometheus now to check on their safety. It may seem strange to a modern reader that Ocean does not simply ask Prometheus about his daughters. In ancient Athens, however, where even the names of women were not allowed to travel freely in public, where a respectable women was designated by the name of her husband or father, and where a woman's best reputation was ignorance of her existence, Ocean's discreet silence about his daughters is readily comprehensible (36). As males, the Athenians read the political subtext in the scene between Prometheus and Ocean's daughters; as fathers, they read the personal subtext in the scene between Prometheus and Ocean. Ocean's anxious concern for his daughters belies his masculine discourse, his political expertise, his confident promises. Believing that his daughters are not present, Ocean is easily persuaded to leave. He does not know his daughters are still in Prometheus' dangerous proximity. The Oceanids never learn that their father was there.

The Athenian audience must have split early on in its evaluation of Prometheus. The prologue makes him very sympathetic: tormented and taunted by the dreadful Kratos, pitied by the kindly Hephaestus. Soon, however, the older members of the audience, connoisseurs of rhetoric, would have been distanced from the naive Oceanids, manipulated by a master rhetorician (37). They could recognized the tricks of a skilled orator, but the ephebes would not. The nymphs, totally incompetent, do not analyze Prometheus' reason for supporting Zeus against the Titans: he wanted to be on the winning side. They do not question the origin of his quarrel with Zeus, who had apparently failed to reward Prometheus for his treachery. They do not understand Prometheus' motive in helping the human race: resentment at being insufficiently compensated. Angry with Zeus, Prometheus allies himself with the creatures Zeus hates. In his scene with Ocean, Prometheus shows that his only criterion for friendship is hatred of Zeus. He pities the monster Typhon (38), crushed under Mt. Etna (Prom. 353–67). Only a common enemy in Zeus could have led Prometheus to pity the monster Typhon. There was certainly nothing attractive about the human beings, who lived like ants in dark holes (Prom. 452–53). Prometheus had no more affection for human beings when he opposed Zeus than he felt for Zeus when he betrayed his fellow Titans. For Aeschylus' mature audience, such coalitions were a natural feature of political life. The water nymphs do not recognize his self-interest, and the ephebes in the audience probably missed it too.

Some Athenians could see Prometheus as a politician because he resembles two prominent members of the Alcmeonid clan, Megacles and Cleisthenes, the grandfather and uncle of Pericles' mother. Megacles had helped make Peisistratus tyrant of Athens (Hdt. 1.61), just as Prometheus helped make Zeus king of the gods. Megacles then fell out with Peisistratus for personal reasons, just as Prometheus fell out with Zeus. Megacles' son, Cleisthenes, adopted the demos, the non-aristocrats, because he was losing out to his rival Isagoras (Hdt. 5.66) (39). Like Cleisthenes, Prometheus established a power base from the lowest class: the demos was to the aristocrats what humanity was to the Olympians. Since the political structure of the universe is analogous to that of Athens, Prometheus' actions should be judged in the context of Athenian history, which the nymphs had no opportunity to study. Lacking political experience and a historical perspective, the nymphs fail to see Prometheus' cold self-interest and assume that he supported of the human race out of the same altruism that will lead them to share his torments at the end of the play (40). Until the arrival of Ocean, the ephebes might have believed him too.

Whatever their age, all the Athenians had an important advantage over the nymphs in understanding the central character: throughout the play they never took their eyes off him. They saw him trick his supporters by keeping the daughters of Ocean and their father apart. By preventing father and daughters from meeting, Prometheus ensures that the chorus will stay with him. The girls cannot get away if the situation gets dangerous, now that they are separated from their winged chariots, and they would abandon Prometheus anyway, if they knew he had refused their father's offer to help. Finally, Ocean would never permit his daughters to remain in Prometheus's dangerous proximity; but since he does not know they are there, he cannot command them to go. By taking Ocean's daughters down with him, Prometheus includes Ocean's family in his private quarrel with Zeus.

When the Oceanids return, the gap between themselves and the Athenian audience widens even further. They sing that the entire universe weeps for Prometheus (Prom. 399–435), but even the ephebes could not join the deluded girls in pitying their deceiver (41). At this low moment of his credibility, Prometheus lists the benefits he has conferred on humanity—a catalogue that should endear him to the audience composed of human beings. Here, however, the mythological tradition is against him. He tells the nymphs that he gave the human race the ship, the bridle, arithmetic and the alphabet, for example, but tradition credited the first two gifts to Athena and the last two to Palamedes (42). Particularly jarring here is Prometheus' use of the first person verbs, the repeated 'I...I..I' (43). Ironically enough, mythological goddesses do not even know mythology. At the end of his catalogue of benefits, Prometheus brings up his contribution to horse-racing (Prom. 466), a sure sign of luxury, and for that reason unattractive to Aeschylus' democratic audience (44).

In their easy credulity, the nymphs are like the ephebes. Also ephebic is the nymphs' sudden courage at the end of the play. Defiantly, the Oceanids spurn Hermes' warning with, 'How can you bid me to practice baseness? I wish to suffer what I must with him, for I have learned to hate traitors, and I despise no disease more than this ' (1063–70). This is young men's talk, not women's. Their transformation into idealistic risk-takers takes them into the area of ephebes (45). A similar change occurs in Aeschylus' Libation Bearers. The chorus boldly urges Agamemnon's children to avenge his murder, until the killing starts. Then it backs off, saying, 'Let us stand away from the affair as it is being worked out, so that we are not blamed for anything wrong' (Lib. 872–74). As ephebes, the chorus takes the moral high road; as women, the chorus shrinks from its danger. The combination of female cowardice and ephebic loyalty is harmonious with the double nature of female choruses and of the ephebes themselves. The Oceanids take the opposite path, from feminine to ephebic.

The Oceanids' brave words to Hermes seem to chime with the oath sworn by all the ephebes, in which they promised never to desert a comrade (46). The ephebic oath may account for the frequent oaths sworn by female choruses to keep another woman's secret, a practice scorned as a blatant plot device (47). (See diagram for a list of examples.) The Corinthian women commit themselves to Medea, seeing in her fate what every woman fears: to be abandoned by her husband for a younger woman. Therefore they promise to hide her scheme of vengeance on Jason (Med. 267). Inadvertently, they become accessories to her murders of their king, his daughter, and Jason's innocent sons. In Hippolytus the chorus is tricked into helping Phaedra spring her trap on Hippolytus. Sympathizing with Phaedra, the women of Troezen promise to keep secret her guilty passion (Hipp. 713–14). True to their oath, they lie to Theseus. When it is discovered that Phaedra has taken her own life, they pretend not to know why Phaedra should take her life since they have only just arrived at the palace themselves (Hipp. 804–5). When Theseus reads Phaedra's letter accusing Hippolytus of rape, the women are bound by their oath and by their previous lie. They warn Theseus of his error, but they cannot tell him the truth. The choruses of Oceanids, Corinthian women, and Troezenian women are alike in rashly committing themselves to skilled manipulators. The Oceanids are martyrs manqu"es; the Greek housewives find themselves colluding in the deaths of innocent people. In a parody of the ephebic oath, the women bind themselves to abet monsters.

The choruses of Medea and Hippolytus recoil in horror from crimes they have passively permitted. In Euripides' Electra, too, the chorus pities the victims' victim, revolted by the sight of Orestes and Electra spattered with their mother's gore. Other choruses stray off into the moral wilderness. Creusa is urged by her chorus of Athenian friends to murder the innocent Ion. In Hecuba, the chorus of Trojan captives helps the aged queen murder the innocent son of an evil king. In a dreadful allegory of mass madness, the chorus in Orestes eagerly supports the ghastly plot of the principal characters to murder the guileless Hermione. Yet all these choruses start off as well-intentioned people who get caught up in an emotional situation. The ephebes watching the plays with female choruses could explore the tensions inherent at that stage of life when they moved from passive observers to participants in a democracy. They could learn from the choruses' mistakes not to commit themselves to emotional appeals.

Medical theory viewed maturity as a process of hardening and drying: the child starts out as moist, but aging dries out the moisture so that a mature man is dry (48). Women never fully developed, so stayed moist, but young men did emerge, if a bit damp behind the ears. If the emotions of pity and fear are considered to be wet, as Anne Carson has argued (49), and if we adopt the medical meaning of catharsis, as the expulsion of bad liquids, then Aristotle may have meant that tragedy brings about the expulsion of pity and fear, the emotions that fog judgment. The effect of tragedy was most powerful on young men, the target audience. Emerging from the watery state themselves, the ephebes were likely to be moved by the emotions swirling below. By expelling these emotions, the young men are hardened, their chins, perhaps, more bristly.


(1)For instance, two essays in The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, ed. P. E. Easterling (Cambridge, 1997): Peter Burian, 'Myth into muthos: the shaping of tragic plot, 198; P. E. Easterling, 'Form and Performance,' 163.

(2)Oliver Taplin, Greek Tragedy in Action (Berkeley, 1978), 12-13.

(3)Mary Margolies DeForest, Apollonius' Argonautica: A Callimachean Epic (Leiden, 199-), 21-24.

(4)On Ithaca, it may be added, good people liked Odysseus' stories and bad people (the suitors) did not.

(5)Eric Csapo and William J. Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama, 351.

(6)For the association of beards with maturity, see Lauren Taafe, Aristophanes and Women (London, 1993), 185, n. 13. She points out that male actors playing women could also be viewed as desirable, citing the vases which show scenes from tragedies with kalos inscribed next to one of the female characters and presumably denoting the actor playing the character.

(7)K. J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (New York, 1980), 85, 198, citing Plato, Prot. 309a; Bion in Plutarch, Dial. 770bc; and Pindar's Pelops, dismissed by Poseidon when his beard came (Ol. 1. 67-71). (8)For Telemachus' coming of age, see George E. Dimock, The Unity of the Odyssey (Amherst, 1989), 21-24. (9)For the upbringing of ephebes in Athens and elsewhere, see Pierre Vidal-Naquet, The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World, trans. by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak (Baltimore, 1981), chapters 4-6.

(10)Schol. to Birds 794 (=Souda, s.v. 'Bouleutikos); Pollux, Lexicon 4.122; Hesychius, s.v. 'Bouleutikon.' Unfortunately, the sources for the ephebes' special section are late, as Simon Goldhill points out in 'The Audience of Athenian Tragedy,'Easterling, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, 59.

(11)John J. Winkler, 'The Ephebes' Song: Tragoidia and Polis',in Nothing to Do with Dionysos? eds. John J. Winkler and Froma I. Zeitlin (Princeton, 1990), 20-62 (hereinafter cited as Winkler). There is, unfortunately, no hard evidence for the existence of the ephebate before 334. Winkler excludes the comic choruses from his analysis, but it is hard to understand why the same constraints should not apply.

(12)Winkler's strongest piece of evidence for the youth of the chorus is the Pronomos Vase (late 5th or early 4th century bc), which shows beardless faces under the masks of a tragic chorus, in contrast to three bearded actors (43-44). A bell-crater (390-70 bc) shows two comic chorus members portraying women, one with mask thrown back to reveal a beardless face (ibid., 47 n. 79).

(13)Winkler, 50-57.

(14)Simon Goldhill, 'The Audience of Athenian Tragedy,'in Easterling, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, 61.

(15)Winkler, 50.

(16)For the chorodidaskalos, see A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 2nd rev. ed. J. Gould and D. M. Lewis (Oxford, 1988), 303-4; Csapo and Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama (Ann Arbor, 1995), 352, with references 359-60.

(17)Indeed, the context in the Frogs demands that additional responsibility where Aeschylus has just attacked Euripides for the immorality of his characters.

(18)Winkler, 43.

(19)This ritual generated the many legends of beardless men passing for women: Froma Zeitlin, 'Playing the Other: Theater, Theatricality, and the Feminine in Greek Drama', Nothing to Do with Dionysos?, 63-96; p. 66, n. 8; Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (Berkeley, 1979), 29-30.

(20)N. Loraux, 'On the Race of Women and Some of Its Tribes: Hesiod and Semonides'in The Children of Athena, trans. by Caroline Levine (Princeton, 1993), 72-110; Froma Zeitlin, Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature (Chicago, 1996), 56, 140, 354-56.

(21)In a humorous variation on the theme of alien women, Euripides introduces onto the stage a chorus from the wrong festival. In his Phoenician Women the chorus was supposed to be dancing in Delphi to honor Apollo; because Thebes is involved in a war with Argos, the chorus is now stuck in a Theban tragedy.

(22)Persuasion (Oxford, 1988), 234.

(23)A general complaint was that young men were rash and lacked respect for their elders. Aristophanes always sides against the young; young men listened to Sophists, who argued for the natural right of the young to challenge the old: see Meyer Reinhold, 'The Generation Gap in Antiquity,'in The Conflict of Generations in Ancient Greece and Rome, ed. Stephen Bertman (Amsterdam, 1976), 33, n. 51 for references.

(24)Radical democrats were called neoi in contrast to more conservative politicians (Aristophanes, Wasps 1099-1100).

(25)Felix Wasserman, 'The Conflict of Generations in Thucydides,'119-21 in Bertman, The Conflict of Generations in Ancient Greece and Rome.

(26)In what may be a contemporary reference, a character in one of Euripides' plays is rebuked because he let himself be dragged into war by young men eager for glory, office, and money (Supp. 230-36). The Suppliants, however, has been dated to the late 420s by Christopher Collard, Euripides Supplices (Groningen, 1975), 8-14.

(27)The chorus of Andromache betrays its queen's secrets to Peleus, but their sympathy is for Hermione's victim, not Hermione herself.

(28)For example, Hera throughout the Iliad; the followers of Lysistrata and Praxagora in Aristophanes; the women who conspire to hide pregnancies in New Comedy.

(29)Cf. Aristotle, NE 1.3.6, 6.8.5, 8.3.5. (30)Because an unfavorable representation of Zeus seems contrary to Aeschylus' religious beliefs, modern writers who side with Prometheus have argued that the play is not by Aeschylus or that Aeschylus traced the course of Zeus's moral evolution in the lost plays that followed Prometheus Bound. Supporters of Zeus against Prometheus are listed by F. Solmsen, Hesiod and Aeschylus (Ithaca, 1949), 135, n. 59. Prometheus has been attacked by Kathleen McNamee, 'Guile in Aeschylus' Prometheus,'PP, 225 (1985), 406-7 (hereinafter referred to as McNamee); and Eirik Vandvik, The Prometheus of Hesiod and Aeschylus (Oslo, 1943, hereinafter referred to as Vandvik).

(31)McNamee, 406-7; Vandvik, 42-43, 63-64, harshly criticizes the Oceanids as shallow, naive, deluded, vulgar, and sensual.

(32)Stoessl, Die Trilogie des Aischylos (Baden bei Wien, 1937), 118, speculates that Aeschylus included scene to balance one with Gaea in the next play (known to me from D. J. Conacher, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound: A Literary Commentary [Toronto, 1980], 45 (hereinafter referred to as Conacher). M. L. West, 'The Prometheus Trilogy,'JHS, 99 (1979), 138, suggests that the author (he doesn't think it was Aeschylus) added the scene because his play was too short. Griffith, Aeschylus. Prometheus Bound (Cambridge, 1983), 139 (hereinafter referred to as Griffith). According to Friedrich Solmsen, Hesiod and Aeschylus (Ithaca, 1949), 137, the scene with Ocean reveals that Zeus could not be made to relent. Dahle, 'Okeanos in Prometheus Bound,'claims that Ocean would have had no success had he been allowed to approach Zeus. In that Prometheus does not even allow Ocean to intercede, we have only his word for Zeus' intractability.

(33)Cf. John Herington and James Scully, The Older Scholia on the Prometheus Bound (Leiden, 1972), Schol. M284b. Podlecki censures Ocean for kowtowing to Zeus, The Political Background, 102, 120. Others find him decent if not admirable: H. D. F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy, 3d ed. (1966; rpt., London, 1968), 63; Griffith at 284; see Conacher, 44-45; H. Lloyd-Jones, 'Zeus in Aeschylus,'JHS, 76 (1956), 66 and n. 40; David Dahle, 'A Note on the Characterization of Okeanos in the Prometheus Bound,'Echos du Monde Classique, 33 (1989), 342-46; McNamee, 'Guile in Aeschylus' Prometheus,'411-12; Vandvik, The Prometheus of Hesiod and Aeschylus, 45-53.

(34)For discussion and history of the problem of staging, Conacher, 182-85. Pickard-Cambridge suggested that the chorus was rolled out on the stage building, that it left the audience's vision by going down a stairway behind the building, and that it emerged after Prometheus had talked to Ocean (The Theater of Dionysus in Athens [1946; rpt. Oxford, 1973], 39'41, 397). His idea has been accepted by Griffith, 109'10; Conacher, 182'83; Peter Arnott, Public and Performance in the Greek Theater (London, 1989), 25; and Donald J. Mastronarde, 'Actors on High: The Skene Roof, the Crane, and the Gods in Attic Drama,'CA 9 (1990), 266-68. That the wall could support the chorus has been disputed by O. Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus: The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy (Oxford, 1977), 253 and n. 1, 255'57, 252'60, and John Davidson, 'Prometheus Vinctus on the Attic Stage,'G & R 41 (1994), 33-40.

(35)Cf. Griffith, 140; Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus, 249.

(36)For the silence about respectable women in Athens, see K. R. Walters, 'Women and Power in Ancient Athens,'in Mary DeForest, ed., Woman's Power, Man's Game: Essays on Classical Antiquity in Honor of Joy K. King (Wauconda, Ill., 1993), 200-201.

(37)Ismene in Sophocles' Antigone shows a feminine ignorance of politics in her expression psephon tyrannon, 'vote of the tyrant'(60).

(38)Hesiod, Theog. 820-68. Ovid has the rebellious Pierides sing the praises of Typhon (Met. 3.319'31). Solmsen, oddly, urges that we are supposed to join Prometheus in sympathizing with Typhon, Hesiod and Aeschylus, 132.

(39)A. J. Podlecki, however, suggests that the Athenians would have read into Zeus the Alcmaeonids and into Prometheus the wily Themistocles, The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy (Ann Arbor, 1966), 116-17.

(40)McNamee, 407.

(41)For a different view, see Conacher, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, 48.

(42)Vandvik calls Prometheus' benefits to mankind delusions (55). See 'Palamedes,'in A. Pauly-G. Wissowa-W. Kroll, RE, vol. 18.2, 2505-6, 2507. Athena was credited with inventing the bridle (Pindar, Ol. 13.63-82).

(43)Griffith points out that Prometheus repeatedly claims the role of first discoverer, protos heuretes by using the first person (at 456-58).

(44)Cf. Griffith, at 465-56; Vandvik, The Prometheus of Hesiod and Aeschylus, 56; and D. Ambrosino, 'Aristoph. Nub. 46s (Il matrimonio di Strepsiade e la democrazia ateniese),'Museum Criticum 21-22 (1986-87), 108ff. Vandvik (77) points out the interpretation of Dio Chrysostom (Or. 6.25), who claims that Prometheus introduced luxury to men by giving them fire. Among the benefits he conferred upon his protegés, the hapless mortals, was the gift of horses, 'an adornment of super-rich luxury.'The Greeks regarded horse-raising as a sign of great wealth: see the extensive note of W. Wyse, The Speeches of Isaeus with Critical and Explanatory Notes (Cambridge, 1904). Wyse likens the old houses capable of entering a four-horse chariot in the sacred games, the oikiai tethrippotrophoi, to the feudal nobility (472).

(45)Aristotle criticized the inconsistency of the heroine of Iphigenia in Aulis, who, having beseeched her father to spare her life, turns around and strides heroically to her death (Poet. 15.9). The stereotype of the woman clashes against that of the ephebe. This clashing of stereotypes was more obvious, perhaps, in a character than in a chorus.

(46)P. Siewert, 'The Ephebic Oath in Fifth-Century Athens,'JHS, 97 (1977), 102-16. He finds allusions to the oath, not attested until the fourth century, in Thucydides 1.144.4, 2.37.3; Sophocles, Ant. 663-71; Aeschylus, Pers. 956-62.

(47)Eric Csapo and William J. Slater attribute the decline of tragedy in part to the embarrassment of having witnesses to intrigues, Context of Ancient Drama, 351.

(48)Hippocratic Corpus (Loeb edition, ed. W. H. S. Jones) 'Regimen'1.33, vol. 4, 278-81; 'Regimen for Health,'chap. 2, vol. 4, 46-47).

(49)Anne Carson, 'Putting her in her Place: Woman, Dirt, and Desire,'in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World, eds. David M. Halperin, John J. Winkler, and Froma I. Zeitlin (Princeton, 1990), 137-145.

Mary deForest
University of Colorado
E-mail: crypto@ecentral.com

(Mary Margolies DeForest is the author of Apollonius' Argonautica: A Callimachean Epic and of articles on classical literature and the classical tradition in modern literature.)