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Dangerous Women in Attic Tragedy: A State of Affairs

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posted on 2022-11-07, 05:56 authored by Everitt, Philip

Dangerous Women in Attic Tragedy: A State of Affairs (2022) considers the central role of the dangerous woman in fifth-century (BCE) Attic tragedy. This study examines intertextuality and allusion to compare the wronged-wife across three tragedies by three different Athenian playwrights. By analysing the depiction of these women as a result of active engagement with previous playwrights we are able to identify the emergence of a ‘dangerous-woman’ topos on the tragic stage. Not only does this offer a renewed assessment of the depiction of women in tragedy but elucidates further aspects of the play’s overall construction, themes, and place within Attic tragedy and the Athenian polis.

This thesis is divided into two main parts: the first part concerns instances of intertextuality inSophocles’ Trachiniae that recall Aeschylus’ Agamemnon; and the second part concerns instances ofintertextuality in Euripides’ Medea that recall either (or both) Trachiniae and Agamemnon. Thisintertextual relationship centres around the dangerous women who helm these tragedies. Chapter One positions this thesis in relation to three fundamental approaches: the date of Trachiniae; intertextuality as it functions in Attic tragedy; and the enormous influence the Oresteia had over fifth-century tragedy. Chapter Two identifies and analyses the numerous allusions that exist in Sophocles’ Trachiniae; the result of which is a comprehensive intertextual relationship that casts Deianira’s crimes as synonymous with Clytemnestra. Chapter Three, similarly, considers the allusions and subsequent intertextual relationship in Euripides’ Medea. By 431 BCE, the topos of the dangerous woman – one who kills a member of their oikos – is fully realised, and has come to assimilate Medea, Deianira, and Clytemnestra. The final chapter explores the conclusions and considers some of the wider implications.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Classical Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130704 Understanding Europe’s past

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Perris, Simon