The Dramaturgy of Vocatives: Dynamics of Communication in Sophoclean Thebes


  • Eleni Papazoglou



Vocative address is a crucial component of human communication: it acknowledges and bestows identity to the addressee and defines his/her relation to the addresser, providing, at the same time, an index to the latter’s idea of his/her Self. Ancient Greek addresses relate either to body or social status: gender or age, familial or civic ties, private or public, personal or collective identities. Beginning with a categorization of addresses with reference to OT, analysis then focuses on the ferocious collision of father and son at the crossroad, which is conducted in speechless gestures (OT 800-13). The neglect/absence of addresses at the crossroad signposts the absence – the non-anagnorisis – of identities with clear and hierarchical social positions. Turning to Antigone, the essay then explores how vocative addresses reveal the protagonists’ sense of their Self, the relation of their social identities to the identity provided by their body, and the conditions of their communication on stage. The use – or the absence – of vocatives is connected to the way that both Antigone and Kreon adopt and exhaust timeless and universal ideas, only to reduce themselves to arguments that derive from their particular bodily identities: Antigone will focus on the identity of one “of the same womb”; against Antigone, Kreon will summon his male identity, and against Haemon his identity as an elder. The play’s exodos features a spectacular transformation of Kreon: cut off from any human communication, as his vocatives show, and lamenting with a dead body of a beloved young man in his hands, he appears to ‘embody’ on stage his female adversary: the absolute defeat of the/his Self.

Keywords: Sophocles; Antigone; Oedipus Tyrannus; dramaturgy; vocatives; body and identity