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The Rhesus – a Pro-Satyric Play?

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When Rhesus was composed and by whom is still debated, and we shall probably never have unequivocal answers. Regardless of whether it was written by Euripides, who was known for experimenting, or by someone else, could we reasonably consider it a pro-satyric play (i. e. a light play that concludes a tetralogy instead of a satyr play), due to similarities with the Alcestis in its treatment of serious themes, certain satyric features, and some of the play's unconventional elements, such as lack of pathos, deflation of ethos, and the humor of some scenes? Could the play have been presented in place of the burlesque satyr-play which usually provided humor and release from the tragic tension created by the three preceding full-scale tragedies performed in the agōn? We know that in 438 BCE Euripides presented the Alcestis, which is neither a satyr-play, nor a full-fledged tragedy, as a pro-satyric play. The likelihood that the play was pro-satyric would support the view advanced by some scholars that Euripides preferred pro-satyric plays to satyr-plays, and would thus help explain the low number of satyr-plays (eight) in the catalogue of Euripides' plays (estimated at ca 92).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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  • Hermes, founded in 1866 and currently edited by Siegmar Döpp, Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp and Adolf Köhnken, is an international, peer-reviewed journal on Greek and Roman antiquity. It focuses on linguistics, literature as well as history. It features original articles in English, German, French and Italian.
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