The mise en scène of Kingship and Power in Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes: Ritual Performativity or Goos, Cledonomancy and Catharsis

  • Anton Bierl Greek Philology, Basel


This contribution focuses on Eteocles’ attempts to secure and assert his authority as king and military leader against the female chorus and both the semiotic and
self-referential power struggle in the central scene regarding the description of the shields. The extensive pre-dramatic scene of the ecphrastic accumulation of
visual signs is interpreted as a symbolic agonistic strife, the theatrical substitute of actual violence. Cledonomantic speech serves as a performative means to convey
the oracular anticipation and enigmatic interpretation of the events. Moreover, the paper sheds some light on the mutual reciprocity and circular interaction of fatal entanglements in Thebes and its ruling family. Seen in a cultural perspective of a western Asian healing ritual, the description of the shields can be read as a mise
en abyme and mise en scène of the entire play about mutual destruction and the resulting salvation of the polis.

Keywords: Aeschylus; Babylonian healing and purification ritual; cledonomancy; choreia; Dionysian palintropic harmony; euphemia; fear and lament; mise en abyme;
power struggle with words and bodily regime; Seven against Thebes; supplication.

Monographic Section