Stringed Instruments in Fifth-Century Drama

TitleStringed Instruments in Fifth-Century Drama
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKovacs, G
EditorHarrison, G, Liapis, V
Ancient AuthorsSophocles Trag. (TLG 0011)
Book TitlePerformance in Greek and Roman Theatre
Series TitleMnemosyne Supplements 353

This chapter is concerned with a confluence of two performative elements, the aural and the visual, in the role played by the stringed instruments collectively known as lyrai in Greek theatre of fifth century, either as stage properties or musical accompaniment. It focuses on the handful of plays in which we can be sure that a stringed instrument was played or appeared in actor’s hands as stage property. The chapter argues that when a lyraappeared in tragedy, it was as a stage prop in the form of a traditional chelys lyra and accompanied by an off stage professional playing a concert kithara. It concludes with a discussion of Sophocles’ Thamyras, for which Sophocles himself was said to have played lyra. Use and appearance of lyra in fifth-century drama were quite rare. The chapter presents case studies concerning two plays of Sophocles known to have featured a lyra on stage: Ichneutaiand Thamyras. []

DOI 10.1163/9789004245457_024

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