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Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle$
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Benjamin Sammons

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190614843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190614843.001.0001

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Character Roles and Narrative Design

Character Roles and Narrative Design

(p.127) 4 Character Roles and Narrative Design
Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

Benjamin Sammons

Oxford University Press

This chapter makes use of the concept of “character-space” to treat character roles as an underlying feature of narrative structure. The argument begins with a discussion of how Achilles’ presence and absence in the story of the Iliad reflects the narrative design of the poem as a whole, and the contrast between the Iliad and Odyssey in this regard. The range, distribution, and use of character roles also had an intimate connection to the narrative and thematic design of the cyclic epics. The Little Iliad and the Aethiopis used leading characters to bring a kind of unity to the work as a whole. Other poems show different narrative strategies and aims: the Cypria shifted focus from one character to another until finally settling on Achilles in the second half; and the Nostoi uses the two sons of Atreus as defining figureheads for the doublet-structure of the poem as a whole.

Keywords:   characters, protagonist, character-space, dramatic unity

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