The Agon in Euripides

The Agon in Euripides

The Agon in Euripides

The Agon in Euripides


This book is a study of the agon, or formal debate, in Euripides' tragedies. In these scenes, two characters confront each other, often before an arbitrator or judge, and make long speeches as if they were opponents in a court of law. Most of Euripides' extant plays contain an agon, often of crucial importance to the central conflict of the play. Lloyd provides interpretations of the more important agones, giving special attention to their dramatic context and function. Concentrating on Euripides' rhetorical skill, brilliance in argument, and interest in philosophy, Lloyd explores the role of formal debate in Euripides. He contrasts the agon in Euripides' work with that of Sophocles, and discusses extensively Euripides' relationship to fifth-century rhetorical theory and practice.


The English word 'agon', like its Greek original, can refer to various kinds of contest or conflict. The present work is concerned with a type of formal debate, common in Euripides, in which two hostile characters make conflicting speeches. I have concentrated on the agon, rather strictly defined, in Euripides' extant plays, and have not attempted to rival the comprehensive coverage given by the still-useful book of J. Duchemin (1968; 1st edn. 1945). This has left me free to discuss the specific issues of individual agones as well as offering a more narrowly formal study of the agon itself.

This book has its origins in my Oxford D.Phil. thesis, submitted in 1983, which included discussion of the agones in Alcestis, Electra, and Troades. Colin Macleod was an exacting supervisor, and, whatever its inadequacies, the present work is both shorter and better because of my worries about what he would have thought of it. I discussed the agon in general, and the agon in Troades in particular, in 'The Helen Scene in Euripides' Troades', CQ 34 (1984) 303-13; some material from that article reappears here, by permission of Oxford University Press. I am grateful to Dr M. J. Cropp and Prof. W. G. Arnott for reading earlier versions of the chapters on Electra and Orestes respectively, and for giving me the benefit of their perceptive comments. The Clarendon Press reader, whom I am permitted to identify as Prof. C. Collard, read the whole book in draft form and made many helpful suggestions about both structure and content. My greatest debt remains that to Tom Stinton, both for his generous encouragement as my tutor at Wadham College and for the example afforded by his wide learning and fine feeling for Greek poetry.



June 1991 . . .

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