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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: July ::
Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1451  Monday, 19 July 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Jul 2004 07:58:50 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

[2]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Jul 2004 07:20:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Jul 2004 15:54:34 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

[4]     From:   Chris Coffman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 17 Jul 2004 06:25:21 +1000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

[5]     From:   M Yawney <
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        Date:   Saturday, 17 Jul 2004 08:47:53 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Jul 2004 07:58:50 EDT
Subject: 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

I've always thought of Merry Wives as the satyr-play to the Henry IV-V
trilogy [or the R2-H4-H5 tetralogy].

Bill Lloyd

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Jul 2004 07:20:35 -0500
Subject: 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

In The Art of English Poesy (1589) George Puttenham discusses satyrs and
satires in many places in Book 1 (1.11, 1.13, and 1.15 especially).
Here's part of a draft note from my new edition on the confusions of
early modern uses of the term(s):

Early modern English did not distinguish carefully (by spelling or part
of speech) among the following related meanings of "satyre," all thought
then to be historically accurate: (1) satiric poetic speech (bitter and
rough in content, and also rough in meter); (2) a woodland god or demon
in classical mythology, partly human and partly animal, and also,
according to Puttenham, a fictional role or disguise formerly assumed by
satiric social commentators (see 1.13 and 1.14 below); (3) the actors
disguised as satyrs in the choruses of Greek satyr plays who delivered
satirical speeches; and (4) the hairy demons or monsters mentioned in
the Old Testament as living in deserts (see, for example, Isaiah 13.21).

Frank Whigham

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Jul 2004 15:54:34 -0400
Subject: 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

If Shakespeare knew anything about Greek tetralogies it was certainly at
2nd or 3rd or 4th hand. As far as we know, none survive; we don't even
get all three tragedies from any one Dionysia together in the surviving
works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and indeed the closest we
can come to the actual text of a satyr play is in the fragments of
Sophocles' *The Trackers," only dug out of the ancient trashdump of the
Greco-Egyptian town of  Oxyrhinchus in 1906, and only offered to us as
some sort of dramatic whole in Tony Harrison's play of 1981, "The
Trackers of Oxyrhynchus," which incorporates elements of the fragments
into a framework concerned with the political and economic background of
the archaeological enterprise that brought the papyri back to light (a
fine exercise in Kristevan intertextuality, by the way).  The fragments,
together with comments about satyr plays in classical non-dramatic
texts, vase-paintings of satyr-play scenes, and reminiscences of the
genre in the Old Comedy of Aristophanes and the New Comedy of Menander
and the Romans, suggest that the satyr-plays gave visual and vocal
expression to the non-rational urges of what the Renaissance would have
seen as the animal aspect of our amphibian nature (the main point about
a satyr is that it's human above the waist and a perpetually tumescent
goat below), and one of Harrison's themes is the process of tacit
elitist censorship that preserved *Oedipus* and threw the popular
*Trackers* into the trash.  I guess I don't see a lot of that in either
of Shakespeare's tetralogies, and especially not in the 4th plays of
those series, R3 and H5: it comes closer to the surface in the Eastcheap
scenes of 1H4 and 2H4, but there are plenty of other Roman, Continental,
and English prototypes for those without looking to an almost completely
vanished (or disappeared) Greek source.  The satyr-satire overlay was
operating, and may have had some diffuse effect - it probably appears,
for instance, in the satyrs that appear as supporters of arms and
columns in some early modern title-pages.  But I don't think it's more
active in the historical tetralogies than any other plays.

You can track modern treatments of Shakespeare's classical knowledge in
list-member John Velz's fine bibliography (any significant updates on
this particular head, John?), digested pretty effectively, I think, in
Robert Miola's recent books.

Satyrically,
David Evett

[Editor's Note: John Velz's <I>Shakespeare and the Classical Tradition:
A Critical Guide to Commentary: 1660-1960</I> is available online in the
library of the Internet Shakespeare Editions:
http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SCT/index.html ]

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Coffman <
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Date:           Saturday, 17 Jul 2004 06:25:21 +1000
Subject: 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

Marcia, the best evidence is that Shakespeare knew the Greek plays
through Seneca's Latin versions, so their group structure in a tetralogy
with a satyr play and the notions of "satyrical" and "satirical" would
not necessarily have been available to him.  However, there were chorus
structures in Seneca's plays so Shakespeare would have been intimately
familiar with that feature of the classical tragic tradition.

Furthermore, during Shakespeare's career the Greek cultural legacy was a
compelling and fashionable innovation that most of the literary figures
were engaged with to a greater or lesser extent.  Marlowe, for example,
knew Greek, as did many of Shakespeare's better educated contemporaries.
  Of course Chapman began publishing his great edition of Homer towards
the end of the 16th century.

In my view, there is some evidence that Shakespeare had available to
him, perhaps through Greek-speaking friends and/or colleagues, some
direct contact with the Greek tragedians and Homer.  Scholars have long
noted the eerie resemblance between the opening of Hamlet and the
opening of Aesychlus's Agamemnon, for example, but it is dismissed as a
coincidence--which it may be.

On balance, my guess is that most of the apparent influence on
Shakespeare by the Greeks is indirect, via intermediate Latin or French
sources.  On the other hand, I would not be at all surprised if we find
that certain plays or elements of plays are in fact the fruit of some
direct contact, mediated by a helpful Greek speaking assistant, with
Homer or with the Greek tragic tradition.

I have a paper currently on the SHAKSPER website for which I am seeking
comments which addresses these issues in the context of Richard III.  I
believe Richard III provides the first evidence for Shakespeare's
engagement with the Greek tradition, albeit mediated largely through
Seneca, and that the evidence in Richard III demonstrates Shakespeare's
active hostility to the Homeric hero.  The current view that the Greek
influence on Shakespeare is a non-existent or at most a marginal matter
for understanding Shakespeare is, in my view, not substantiated by
careful readings of Richard III, Troilus and Cressida and even Hamlet;
perhaps Henry V will also turn out to offer examples of the Greek
influence on Shakespeare.

Beginning on page 15, Section 3 "The Sorrow and the Pity:  The Royal
Women of Richard III", the paper I have posted on SHAKSPER assesses the
nature of the influence on Shakespeare of the Greek tradition within the
context of Richard III.  There are plenty of references that may help
you as a jump-off point for your own research.

Kind regards,
Chris

[Editor's Note: A link to Chris Coffman's paper can be found at
http://www.shaksper.net/review-papers/index.html Please send all
comments directly to him at 
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 ]

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
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Date:           Saturday, 17 Jul 2004 08:47:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1438 Greek Tetralogy, Satyr Plays, and H5

It is unlikely that Shakespeare would be familiar with Greek dramaturgy
(or even Greek drama). Most references to ancient plays by Shakespeare's
contemporaries were to the Roman playwrights, so we can assume they were
much more familiar.

In fact I cannot off the top of my head think of a single reference to
the Greek playwrights or The Poetics from the period (compared to many
references to Seneca and Terence). Since as you yourself note OED does
not cite the word tetralogy until after Shakespeare's death, he probably
did not have the concept. Also, I would be curious to know when the term
was applied to Shakespeare's works. It was probably much later.

In addition, it seems unlikely that (in spite of what George Lucas says)
that any playwright would plan on such a large scale as you
suggest--generally one does not plan for a sequel until the first play
succeeds.

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