Staged Narrative: Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy

Staged Narrative: Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy

Staged Narrative: Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy

Staged Narrative: Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy


"I have greatly enjoyed reading this study not only because of its eminently readable style but above all because of its well-presented and important argument. Making excellent use of existing scholarship on the tragic messenger, James Barrett manages to increase considerably our understanding of the place and function of this well-known, but often underrated figure. Thus, the relation between tragic and epic narrative, which so far had been described largely in terms of the shared use of unaugmented verb forms, is explored on a much larger and significant scale. Barrett also works out well the tensions between the messenger's human focalization and epic ambitions. The different roles of the messenger are effectively brought into relation with the thematic interests of different plays. This is a study which has much to bring to both student and specialist."--Irene J.F. de Jong, author of "A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

"An agile and resourceful study of tragic messenger figures and their speeches. James Barrett explores this fascinating subject with the help of narrative theory and a sophisticated approach to genre and rhetoric. His attentive readings of a range of plays--from "Persians to "Rhesos--convincingly back up his claim that messengers raise fundamental questions about knowledge and authority. This is a learned book, written with engaging zest and a fine feeling for the complex workings of dramatic narrative."--Pat Easterling, editor of "The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy

"The messenger speech "(angelia) is among the most familiar conventions of the Greek stage, occurring in 26 of the 32 extant tragedies. James Barrett interrogates the figure of the messenger and questions the transparency of the messenger's report. Eschewing approaches that focus more narrowly on the dramatic function or narratological workings of messenger speeches, Barrett focuses on their epistemic status


Listening not to me but to the logos, it is wise to agree that all is one.

Heracleitus fr. 50 D-K

In the previous chapter I suggested that Aeschylus' Persians makes reference to an established literary figure who predates the tragic messenger. This literary messenger appears already in Homer and is characterized by swiftness and reliability. More specifically, the messenger' reliability appears not only as the accuracy (ἀτϱεΧέως, at Il. 2.10, for example) but also as the fullness of her/his report: a messenger who leaves nothing out performs the assigned role well. Such a figure lies behind tragedy' use of its messenger, offering a ready-made model that supports the tragic messenger' conventional claims. But there is more in the tradition of the literary messenger that provides a foundation for the success of the conventional tragic figure.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.