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Stepping onto the Stage: Aeschylus’ Oresteia and Tragic Footwear

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susanna Phillippo


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The ‘recognition scene’ in Aeschylus’ Choephoroe (Libation Bearers) has been the focus of much critical debate, both textual and dramatic, with one key but contested element being Electra’s identification of her brother by his footprints near their father’s tomb. What has less often been discussed is the dramatic relationship of this scene to, and its implications for, the first entry of Orestes in the play’s opening: a passage whose text survives only in fragmentary form. Are Orestes’ footprints ‘bare’ footprints? If so, does he enter at the play’s outset barefoot, or does he enter shod and remove his footwear? What might be the dramatic and thematic implications of either visual detail? This article sets the question in the context of critical debates about classical Athenian tragic costume and footwear, exploring such 5th-century visual evidence as is available. It also explores the layers of meaning that production details like this might add to the trilogy, in the light of current theories about the significance of Ancient Greek footwear, its donning and its removal.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Phillippo S

Editor(s): Pickup, S and Waite, S

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Shoes, Slippers, and Sandals: Feet and Footwear in Classical Antiquity

Year: 2019

Pages: 143-173

Print publication date: 02/10/2018

Online publication date: 21/09/2018

Acceptance date: 31/08/2017

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: Oxford


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781472488763