Aeschylean drama attests a simpler pre-Sophoclean tradition: as in the case of the passage
in Suppliants (line 62, hawk instead of hoopoe), Ag. 1050-51 reflects an earlier version of the
legend which makes no mention of shearing Philomela's tongue. Clytaemnestra says she will
"persuade Cassandra (in Greek)" provided that she is not a monolingual barbarian who can only
chatter like a swallow. This is the familiar association of swallow song and foreign languages,
which, if anything, foreshadows Cassandra's mantic loquacity, not her inability to speak.
The crux at Birds 16, ἐκ τω + ̑ν ὀρνέων, no doubt conceals a phrase that anticipates Peisetaerus' explanation (46-48) of his interest in Tereus. A compelling solution is offered by Koenen 1959, 83-87, who emends to ἐκ τω + ̑ν ὀργίων , restoring an allusion to the Dionysian cult context
of Tereus'metamorphosis. We should then translate "Tereus, the hoopoe, who became a bird from
the rites (of Dionysus)." in this case ἐκ + genitive would denote both a causal and a temporal
connection between the Dionysian Trieterica and Tereus' metamorphosis. Dunbar 1995 ad loc.,
on the other hand, considers it an interpolation, a gloss on the preceding line.
Ovid Met. 6.594-96: Concita per silvas truba comitante suarum / Terribilis Procne
furiisque agitata doloris, / Bacche, tuas simulat; "Surrounded by her (female) attendants Prokne
rushes through the forest frightful in her frenzied rage of pain, feigning your fury, Bacchus."
It is conceivable that the moment of metamorphosis was illustrated by the display of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela on the ἐκκύκλημα in a superimposition of the death tableau of the Choephori exodus and the familiar Euripidean deus ex machina. The rapid succession of events
would seem to preclude a full costume change. I suggest that we imagine this moment marking
the conclusion of the tragedy as an arrangement of three characters ( Tereus in pursuit?) in which
their metamorphosis is marked symbolically by certain prominent signs--a token change of
clothing or headdress, perhaps. The death wish implicit in the desiderative metaphor of lyric and
tragic poetry "Would that I were a bird" (i.e., the desire to flee from life and the human condition)
is well known and would make quite natural the association of this desperate tableau of metamorphosis-in-crisis with the scenes of death that had already been presented on the ekkuklêma. Thus Sophocles would achieve a counterpoint of sorts between this final image of the unfortunate
"birds" and his audience's expectation of a death scene.
Anticipating Hall Inventing the Barbarian ( 1989), Kiso ( 1984) emphasizes how much our
understanding of the Sophoclean corpus is distorted by the (nonrandom) process responsible for
preserving the seven extant scripts. Much of the lost material appears to resemble late Euripides
(much more so than do the extant seven)!
For a discussion of the performative aspects of Peisetaerus' role, see the essay by Slater
Alink M. 1983. De Vogels van Aristophanes: een structuuranalyse en interpretatie. Amsterdam.
Arnott Geoffrey. 1973. "Euripides and the Unexpected." G&R 20.49-64.
Arrowsmith William. 1973. "Aristophanes' Birds: The Fantasy Politics of Eros." Arion, n.s., 1.119-67.
Bain David. 1975. "Audience Address in Greek Tragedy" CQ 25.13-25.
---. 1977. Actors and Audience. Oxford.
Bakhtin Mikhail. 1984. Rabelais and His World. Translated by
H. Iswolsky. Bloomington.
Barchiesi M. 1970. "Plauto e il'metateatro'antico." Il Verri 31.113-30.
Barthes Roland. 1970, "Lancienne rhetorique." Communications 16.170-97.