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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gnomes of the Oresteia : lyrical reflection and its dramatic relevance Cooper, Craig Richard


One of the most distinctive features of Aeschylus' poetic style is the choral odes. The odes can generally be divided into two parts: lyrical narrative and lyrical reflection. The narrative sections motivate the main action of the drama, often relating past events and causes. The lyrical reflection is distinguished from the narrative parts by its overt moralizing that lift the dramatic action from the particular to the universal. Within these sections of the ode, are clusters of moral generalizations or gnomes, dealing with a variety of topics but always of a distinctively moral nature. These gnomes far from being unrelated, in fact, give logic to the dramatic events, explaining the reason for a particular event and presenting that event in universal terms, in terms, let us say, of the justice of Zeus or the working of Fate. In fact, the gnomes move along two directions of the drama. They reflect upon and anticipate its events. The conflicts in, and resolutions to the drama are often worked out at the lyrical level. It is the purpose of this thesis, then, to study the gnomes of the Oresteia and their surrounding gnomic passages, to examine their meaning within their immediate context, and to see how and to what extent the gnomes relate to the dramatic actions.

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