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Hellenic Whispers

Modes of Greek Literary Influence in Seventeenth-Century French Drama

Series:

Susanna Phillippo

Hellenic Whispers builds a picture of how Greek literature was received and reworked by the authors of seventeenth-century French tragedy. Using case studies, the author establishes a new methodology for exploring the variety of responses and creative processes involved in these encounters with classical Greek material. The book explores the complex interactions surrounding these adaptations of Greek dramatic material, involving the input of scribes, editors, translators and earlier authors, and asks the important question of what these dramatists conceived of themselves as doing. Focusing on a time and place where cultural predilections and a lack of linguistic training made engagement with the original Greek texts problematic, the book explores the creative role of intermediary sources, the build-up of chain reactions between sources and the cumulative processes of recreation involved in the genesis of seventeenth-century dramatic texts. The volume also goes on to explore wider questions relevant to the classical tradition and issues of ‘source study’ and reception.

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Chapter 4 Iphigenia in Aulis

Extract

Our second series of plays, on the Iphigenia in Aulis legend, displays some parallels to the Iphigenia in Tauris series but is also distinct in several impor- tant ways. In both cases a single Euripidean play is the clear original source; in both cases, Italian sixteenth-century dramatists had produced early adapta- tions of the Greek play concerned. In the case of the Iphigenia in Aulis plays, however, a seventeenth-century French dramatist wishing to use the Greek play also had a choice of translations available: not just a careful parallel Latin rendition, but elaborated versions designed to stand alone, in both Latin and French. Moreover, Lodovico Dolce’s Italian version for significant stretches renders the Greek play much more closely than Rucellai’s Oreste did, often functioning as a quasi-translation. It follows with the Iphigenia in Aulis plays that contact with ‘the original’ would for many writers function primarily through these renditions into more familiar and accessible tongues, and therefore that the small-scale but often significant shifts to be encountered in translations with their own literary pretensions could play an important role in shaping the directions taken by seventeenth-century adapters. With the IT plays, an adapter would negotiate between the original Greek (or a mainly exact Latin rendition of this) and (once available) prior adaptations which had more freely reworked that original. With the Iphigenia in Aulis plays, such an adapter had available a third type of representation of the Greek: closer to the original than an adaptation, at times rendering words and...

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