12th Groningen Workshop – University of Copenhagen

12th Groningen Workshop on Hellenistic Poetry

Drama and Performance in Hellenistic Poetry

Dr Maria Papadopoulou presented a talk entitled Spectators-in-performance in Theocritus' Adoniazusae at the 12th Groningen Workshop on Hellenistic Poetry. Drama and Performance in Hellenistic Poetry which took place at the University of Groningen, 19-21 August 2015.


"Spectators-in-performance in Theocritus' Adoniazusae"

In his idyll 15, set in Alexandria and entitled Adoniazusae (or Women at the Festival of Adonis), Theocritus combines the use of epic form with real-life content. The tripartite structure of idyll 15 exhibits both the formal qualities of the mime and those of the hymn.
Its circular structure permits to bridge the realistic and playful atmosphere of the beginning (verses 1-99) and the end of the poem (verses 144-149) to the solemn ritualistic ambience of the middle section (verses 100-144).
The idyll has received much attention by scholars focussing on its content (urban, non-bucolic), its literary genre (balancing mime, epid and comedy, and its gendered gaze on everyday life in Alexandria. The composite structure of the idyll, incorporating the actual performance of a hymn in honour of Adonis on the occasion of a festival at the royal palace sponsored by queen Arsinoe II has been thoroughly discussed.
This discussion focussed on the issue of art appreciation of the woven artifacts, while the significance of the embedding of the performance of the hymn in relation to the view-point of the spectators remains largely overlooked.

This paper proposes to bring to the fore the co-presence of the spectators and the female singer, i.e. the role of this performance against the backdrop of the scholarly circles at Alexandria.
In order to unpack the semiotic density of the mise-en-scène this paper will analyse the relationship between text and performance by looking at the material signifiers: stage-auditorium relationship, decor, costumes, props, significant juxtaposition of objects and actors, phycical action, utilization of scenic space, music and sound effects.
This paper puts forward the view that the presence of the characters is achieved thanks to the presence of the city-crowd playing their part as a silent chorus lead by the old lady and the man as koryphaioi. What is ultimately proposed is to look at this poem as a recounting not of a rehearsal but of a glorious performance of and for a whole city, and as a poetic effort emphasizing Ptolemaic Greek culture as a culture of live performances and aesthetic delight drawn on public displays of art on the occasion of religious festivals.