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Hoc quod uolo / me nolle: Counter-Volition and Identity Management in Senecan Tragedy

Hoc quod uolo/me nolle : Contre-volition et gestion d’identité dans la tragédie sénéquéenne
Gottfried Mader
p. 125-161

Résumés

Dans les tragédies de Sénèque, le concept d’akrasia et d’action involontaire est abordé plusieurs fois de façon très claire, avec des moments-clés de l’action minutieusement dramatisés sous la forme de crises de volonté, où les protagonistes, en proie à une immense pression (interne ou externe), agissent, en toute connaissance de cause, à l’encontre de leur meilleur jugement. Ces psychodrames contre-volitifs, qui constituent l’un des types de l’Affektszene sénéquéenne, se déroulent selon une dynamique typique qui inclut les éléments suivants : lutte contre les pulsions (souvent signalée par des termes cogere, inuitus, nolle/uelle, ducere/sequi, uel sim.), conscience de soi aiguë, ordres donnés à soi-même, choix impossible, immobilité akratique, fragmentation de la personnalité ; et dans chaque cas l’échec de la volonté se doublant d’une crise d’identité, l’impasse n’est surmontée que par le biais d’un processus psycho-cybernétique où le sujet affirme (ou est contrait d’affirmer) une version particulière du soi. Cinq scènes, toutes reconnues comme jouant à elles seules un rôle central, sont ici analysées sous la forme d’un groupe cohérent au sein de la matrice contre-volitive ; le regard clinique du philosophe se conjugue avec une tendance baroque à l’excès de détails, au pathos et à la violence, pour produire un sous-ensemble bien spécifique du psychodrame littéraire.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Boyle, 1987, p. 87; cf. Trabert, 1953; Regenbogen, 1961, p. 432-442; Liebermann, 1974, p. 86-95.
  • 2 English translations are adapted from Fitch, 2002-2004.

1Decision-making can be a tough business—for choices make us anxious—and conflicting options that produce intense dilemmas may generate moments of high drama. Pivotal choices in Senecan tragedy are typically conceived as microdramas in their own right, zooming in on the mental processes to magnify extreme reactions, paralysing akrasia or paradoxical about-turns: these moments become notable sites of introspection, self-fashioning and heroic identity, for the tragic self is defined most clearly when its integrity is under threat. Dramatization of emotion is a signature of Senecan drama, with its obsessive focus “on the inner workings of the human mind, on the mind as locus of emotional conflict, incalculable suffering, insatiable appetite, manic joy, cognitive vulnerability, self-deception, irrational guilt”1. One significant subset of conflict includes various forms of involuntary action, where characters consciously act (or are coerced to act) against their will or visceral inclinations. So, emblematically, in Phaedra’s “I call all you gods to witness that this thing I want—I do not want (hoc quod uolo / me nolle)” (Phae. 604-605), where the uelle/nolle tension, and above all lucid recognition of that contradiction, produce an intense psychodrama. Oedipus experiences a similar conflict when he yields to Antigone with the jingle quid prece indomitum domas? “Why tame my untamed spirit with your prayer?” (Phoen. 307). The tyrant conversely instrumentalizes counter-volition to torment his victims (quod nolunt uelint, “Let them want what they do not want”, Thy. 212) and abstracts the principle thus: qui morte cunctos luere supplicium iubet / nescit tyrannus esse: diuersa inroga: / miserum ueta perire, felicem iube, “He who imposes the death penalty on all does not know how to be a tyrant: inflict contrasting punishments; forbid death to the wretched, force it on the happy (Herc. F. 511-513)2. Withholding death can indeed be worse than inflicting it—an insight that resonates in the modern euthanasia debate.

  • 3 So (e.g.) Tarrant, 1985, p. 47, 152 (ad Thy. 420); Giancotti, 1986, p. 33-36; Monteleone, 1991, p.  (...)
  • 4 See, most recently, Fitch and McElduff, 2002.

2Counter-volitional crises occur in several tragedies and in various situations, always to magnify inner conflict at critical moments—resisting an overpowering libido moriendi (Herc. F., Phoen.), wrestling with illicit passion (Phae.), wavering before the ultimate atrocity (Med.), grappling with deep, dark impulses (Thy.). The crisis culminates, after agonizing deliberation, in a reluctant act of assent (or capitulation) by a subject painfully aware of the countervailing pulls, and is often signalled by terms like inuitus, iubere, cogere/cogi, nolle/uelle or ducere/sequi. At these luminous moments tortured minds exhibit a self-reflexive clarity that discloses deep underlying tensions and intentions. Individual instances, especially in Thyestes and Phaedra, have been noted by the commentators3; taking my cue from them, I go on to suggest that these scenes constitute a distinct subset, sharing formal tropes and exhibiting a uniform psychological bias, and that sense and structure are better elucidated through cross-reference within this matrix. Crises of will may be classified as type-scenes, but unlike the domina-nutrix exchanges, dramatic context and emphasis are sufficiently diverse to merit individual analysis. I begin with act 5 of Hercules Furens to identify some typical criteria which then guide discussion of related crises in Phoenissae, Phaedra, Medea and Thyestes. Next, counter-volitional moments typically double as crises of identity in which the akratic impasse is only broken when the subject consciously affirms a particular version of self (the only exception is Phaedra who attempts to conflate two mutually exclusive versions). Selfhood and identity are signature themes in Senecan tragedy4. Here my argument is that involuntary action and identity construction, both crucial in their own right, are best interpreted within the nexus “coercion – counter-volition – identity management”. In that conjunction, too, it is instructive to focus on the pragmatics of self-imaging, as in modern motivational psychology.

  • 5 Choice and failure of will are also attracting more attention in the recent philosophical and psych (...)
  • 6 Inwood, 2000; and further Zöller, 2003; Fuhrer, 2010.
  • 7 Maltz, 1960, p. v, and Sommer, 2000, p. 151 respectively.

3One stimulus for this study has been a growing interest in the will in Seneca’s prose works, which has implications also for the tragedies5. Brad Inwood in particular has argued that Seneca’s use of uelle or uoluntas will not support the suggestion that he helped discover the “traditional” (Augustinian) notion of the will as distinct mental act or faculty, or set of dispositions that produce acts of volition. Instead, what Seneca offers is a composite or “summary” conception of will, understood by Inwood as a “cluster of key interests” that together perform the volition-generating function traditionally associated with an executive will: this cluster includes self-awareness, self-control, self-management, self-shaping, self-directed commands—all of which imply a conscious, goal-directed process. Even in the absence of terms like uelle (et sim.), elements from this group appearing together will signal something akin to the operation of a volitional mechanism6. Now this configuration of “key interests” features prominently also in the tragedies—where the distinctive self-address in particular resonates with the theme of philosophical self-command, and points in turn to conscious volitional activity (Star, 2012). In the dramas, Inwood’s “key interests” appear when protagonists wrestle with competing alternatives, and where volitional activity is typically counter-volitional activity. Self-image plays a crucial part in these microdramas, and its specific goal-striving function closely prefigures the mechanisms popularized in modern work on psycho-cybernetics (motivational psychology based on self-imaging). A pioneer in the field has noted that “discovery of the ‘self-image’ represents a breakthrough in psychology and the field of creative personality”; in its simplest terms, this comes down to scripting an ideal role for the self and then “liv[ing] life by your own script”7. I would argue that Seneca has a prior claim to that discovery, with his tragic case studies as compelling as those in the modern textbooks. The signature self-address and self-shaping of his characters work in exactly the same way as the processes identified in motivational psychology (albeit to very different ends).

4A further impulse for this paper comes from related work on Seneca’s literary models: psychodramas of self-division are well represented by a group of Vergilian-Ovidian heroines (Dido, Medea, Scylla, Althaea, Byblis and Myrrha) who feature prominently in the recent scholarly literature. Dilemmas of this kind would have had a special appeal to the psychologically minded tragedian, whose own tormented female figures (Medea, Phaedra, Clytemnestra) build on this tradition. And finally in Senecan as in Greek tragedy, pivotal choices and changes of mind function typically as focal points to dramatize, showcase and problematize larger dramatic issues. In Seneca too these echo-chamber moments have intrinsic dramatic significance and also connect with overarching philosophical and psychological concerns.

1. Nunc Hercule opus est: Negotiating “Hercules”

  • 8 Fischer, 2008, p. 69-73 offers a review of the debate, with some earlier literature, to which add a (...)
  • 9 E.g. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 117-118; Zintzen, 1972, p. 205-206; Shelton, 1978, p. 68-70; Wellmann- (...)

5Interpretations of Seneca’s Hercules have moved between two extremes: one reading makes him a Stoic icon and universal benefactor, driven to insanity by a vindictive external agent (Juno) not for what he does, but for what he is; on the opposing view he is a megalomaniac overreacher, his one-dimensional uirtus seriously flawed, and the source of the madness now located within his own nature8. On the final scene at least there is broad consensus: his resistance to the overwhelming suicidal urge is acknowledged as the drama’s thematic and structural climax, and many commentators read the pivotal uiuamus, “let us stay alive” (1317) as a display of quasi-Stoic fortitude9. The spectacular rejection of death is here considered more narrowly within the frame of will and counter-volition, taking into account the clustered “key interests” noted above.

  • 10 Braden, 1993, p. 245-249.
  • 11 Cuncta iam amisi bona, / mentem a r m a f a m a m coniugem natos m a n u s, / etiam furorem. nemo p (...)

6Herc. F. replays the dilemma of the Euripidean drama, with some shifts in emphasis. Greek Herakles is impelled to thoughts of suicide by an overpowering sense of guilt and pollution (1146-1162), but is checked by Theseus’ friendship and the promise of refuge in Athens (1322-1339); the redemptive counter-movement culminates in Herakles’ departure from Thebes and the prospect of purification10. Pollution as motive for the death-wish is less prominent in Seneca (it will re-appear in Hercules’ exit-speech), and Theseus’ role is correspondingly reduced in favour of Amphitryon. Hercules is indeed mindful of the defilement caused by the family murder (1240-1241, 1261-1262), but construes this more broadly to subsume also his own contaminated heroic reputation: “I have lost everything of value: my mind, my weapons, glory, wife, sons, hands—even my madness” (1259-1262)11. These reputational consequences are the primary trigger for the death-wish: for the image-obsessed Hercules, loss of κλέος signals also loss of heroic identity, making his existence meaningless. To that extent there are echoes of Ajax here.

  • 12 Further Bertoli, 1986, p. 75-81.

7In Euripides, great effort is indeed required to resist the suicidal impulse (1210-1213, 1227-1228, 1347-1357), but Herakles then falls in willingly with Theseus’ offer of asylum. Seneca complicates the resolution: the hero’s spectacular death-wish (1202-1226), surpassing anything in Euripides, makes the process of bending his will correspondingly more complex. Recognition of his guilt triggers an identity crisis in Hercules, reflected in sudden doubts over his paternity (1157-1159) and the impulse to destroy his iconic weaponry (1229-1236)12. A counter-volitional momentum is initiated when Amphitryon and Theseus oppose his frenzy. The countervailing pulls are indexed now not as nolle/uelle, but as a process of re-negotiating Herculean identity itself, with the name functioning as fixed point of psychological and rhetorical reference. In a drama dominated throughout by brute physical force, the rhetoric in the final act turns on the paradox that for the irrepressible man of action, the inner effort required to repress his libido moriendi will surpass all earlier heroics. Counter-volition entails the question: how can Hercules now remain Hercules?

  • 13 Cf. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 95-97; Braden, 1970, p. 16-17; Shelton, 1979, p. 65-66; Segal, 1982; Pe (...)
  • 14 Monstrum impium saeuumque et immite ac ferum (1280) ; agedum, dextra, conare aggredi / ingens opus, (...)
  • 15 E.g. manus (58, 114, 122, 247, 469, 566, 614-615, 918-919, 1103), dextera (800, 895, 989, 1011, 128 (...)

8Arguments for and against suicide centre on self-image, and operate with a symmetrical rhetoric of equivalence and self-consistency. The hero’s typical third-person reference to himself (1155, 1163, 1168, 1218, 1316; cf. 1239, 1277) looks beyond the individual to the defining attributes inherent in the name as a sort of virtual reality and psychological imperative13. For Hercules, uirtus is the measure of all things (1157, 1183, 1269-1271), but family-killing has tainted his heroic identity, leaving suicide as the only option for the uncompromising strongman. His logic assumes strict consistency with the heroic persona (1267): applying the template of the prior labours to his present situation, he re-designates himself as monster on a level with his earlier adversaries (“an unnatural monster, savage, merciless and untamed”, 1280 ~ 40, 62, 215, 241, 434, 444, 454, 830-831, 1029), to be dispatched accordingly (“Come, right hand, and attempt to undertake a gigantic task, surpassing the twelve labours”, 1281-1282)14. For Herculean uirtus, marked throughout by the terms manus, dextera and by verbs like effringere, rumpere (et sim.), is co-terminous with physical violence15; self-consistency now requires that he turn this force against himself (1278-1294).

  • 16 Succurre, genitor; siue te pietas mouet / ... siue uiolatum decus u i r t u t i s. effer arma (1269 (...)
  • 17 S u c c u m b e , uirtus, p e r f e r imperium patris. / eat ad labores hic quoque Herculeos labor: (...)
  • 18 To that extent Juno’s prediction was correct (though in a way she did not realize): quaeris Alcidae (...)
  • 19 See Maltz, 1960, p. 33-34.

9Amphitryon and Theseus employ a symmetrical “before/after” rhetoric also premised on the heroic image, but now to argue the opposite line: the post-madness Hercules must indeed exhibit his defining uirtus—only that uirtus itself is now reframed “passively” as self-restraint. And since this requires a monumental psychic effort from the hyperactive superman, it is indeed consonant with his heroism: hence the paradox that renouncing self-destructive violence is more strenuous than mechanically perpetrating violence. Three crucial passages track this re-designation. Amphitryon, first, invokes the name to urge that endurance too is heroic: “Now we need a Hercules: bear this weight of catastrophe” (1239). Theseus goes further, equating acceptance of present adversity with past heroics and suggesting that Hercules’ endurance will now re-enact those earlier feats. When Hercules pleads for his weapons to kill himself (“Help me, father, whether moved by family loyalty ... or by the ruined glory of my valour (uirtutis). Bring out my weapons,” 1269-1271), Theseus picks up and re-defines the signature attribute: “Rise up, smash (perfringe) adversity with your customary (solito) energy. Now take up again (resume) that spirit of yours that is equal to any trouble, now you must act with great valour (magna uirtute): do not let Hercules yield to anger” (1274-1277)16. Solito and resume figure the present as a replay of the past. The imperative perfringe, from the theme verbs for Herculean dynamism, underscores the paradox that inhibiting violence is as strenuous—but also as spectacular—as the earlier labours: thus Theseus by eliding the disjunction between the “old” and the “new” persona and emphasizing instead their continuity, implicitly counters Hercules’ concern with consistency. Hercules by submitting acknowledges the “passive” uirtus-as-endurance model as qualitatively equivalent to the active: “Give way (succumbe), my valour, endure (perfer) a father’s command. Let this labour too be added to the Herculean labours: let us stay alive” (1315-1317)17. Virtus is now re-designated as succumbere, perferre and compescere (975), meaning that he can suppress the death-wish without forfeiting the heroic image18. Theseus and Amphitryon correct Hercules’ mutilated self-image by a psycho-cybernetic process of instrumentalizing a new target-image to influence action and change personality19.

  • 20 Bella iam secum gerat (85); et cupiat mori / ab inferis reuersus (116-117); miserum ueta perire, fe (...)

10But the sheer effort required is a source of massive psychic torment. Throughout his career Hercules had acted on orders from Juno and Eurystheus, but performed those tasks cheerfully (laetus, 42); now his father’s command (perfer imperium patris, 1315), the culminating “thirteenth” labour, is a monumental act of counter-volition. The thwarted will as locus of anguish was identified both by Juno in the prologue (“Let him war with himself”, 85; “Let him long to die, though returned from the dead”, 116-117) and by Lycus expounding the aesthetics of tyranny (“Forbid death to the wretched, force it on the happy”, 513)—prescient remarks that capture the essence of Hercules’ own torment20. For perferre, compescere and enforced passivity in the face of a massive countervailing drive test to the limits a brand of heroism that is signally impatient (614-615, 642-644, 773, 996, 1171) and intolerant of inactivity (1188). To one of this disposition, the choice to live is now indeed more painful than death. Competing interpretations of uirtus produce the paradox that Hercules in the counter-volitional act both forfeits and reclaims his heroic selfhood.

  • 21 E.g. Pratt, 1983, p. 121: “The father’s desolation brings Hercules to new insights ... Thus Hercule (...)
  • 22 Thus Fitch, 1979, p. 247; Timpanaro, 1981, p. 123-124; Palmieri, 1999, p. 131-132, 143-144. With Am (...)
  • 23 Ecce iam facies scelus / uolens sciensque (1300-1301) ; sic statue, quidquid statuis, ut causam tua (...)
  • 24 Praeter haec adhuc inuenies genus aliud hominum ... eorum, qui cogi ad rectum compellique possunt, (...)

11And finally, what causes him to yield? Commentators regularly cite Seneca’s own rejection of suicide from consideration for his ageing father (Ep. 78, 1-2; 104, 3) and read Hercules’ decision as a heroic gesture of the same order; on this reading, Hercules’ submission marks the triumph of pietas over brute uirtus21. But qualitatively the two cases are far apart, for Hercules ignores Amphitryon’s rational appeal to pietas (1246-1257) and the tears of Theseus (1272-1274), and capitulates only to the old man’s emotional blackmail when in a melodramatic gesture Amphitryon threatens to kill himself, turning Hercules’ own methods against him22. The sense of familial responsibility evinced in Seneca’s own repudiation of suicide, and that framed his decision as a philosophical issue, has no place here. Instead, it is two other remarks by Amphitryon that strike a responsive chord. First, Hercules is unnerved by the line, “See, now you will commit a crime intentionally and knowingly” (1300-1301)—which suggests that he abandons suicide less from consideration for Amphitryon than to avoid compounding his own perceived guilt and further damaging his own reputation by a crime consciously committed. Amphitryon clinches the argument by re-framing Hercules’ dilemma from “life/death” to “life/killing” (aut uiuis aut occidis) and by pointedly emphasizing the image problems this would cause: “Whatever you decide, do so on the understanding that your reputation (fama) and the verdict about you (causa) are in the balance: either you live, or you kill” (1306-1308). The crucial terms causa and fama resonate with the reputation-obsessed hero (e.g. 192-196, 1183, 1268-1271); Amphitryon in effect bludgeons Hercules into submission by threatening a damnatio memoriae of sorts23. As Fitch concludes, the hero “has taken the right decision, but in the wrong spirit—reluctantly, and under duress so extreme that it can only be called blackmail” (1987, p. 39). At least a far as the psychodynamics are concerned, we might cite Seneca himself—“In addition, you will find still another class of men ... who can be forced and driven to what is right, who do not need a guide so much as one to assist them and, as it were, to force them along” (Ep. 52, 4)—for here too it is coercion that clinches the issue (cogi, compelli)24. Amphitryon at a crucial moment had used the line ecce iam facies scelus / u o l e n s s c i e n s q u e (1300-1301). If Hercules’ suicide would amount to a crime committed knowingly and intentionally (and entailing also the death of Amphitryon), checking that impulse is, symmetrically, also an act performed uolens sciensque by a sane Hercules—only this time under massive duress. The whole drama, and especially its final scene, hammer home the irony that here “all things have been driven to embrace their opposites” (Motto and Clark, 1988, p. 288): this is the essence of the quod nolunt uelint dynamic.

  • 25 Ubique notus perdidi exilio locum (1331) ; senectae parce desertae, precor, / annisque fessis (1249 (...)
  • 26 Cf. Anliker, 1960, p. 91; Pettine, 1974, p. 106-110; Timpanaro, 1981, p. 124; Palmieri, 1999, p. 14 (...)

12Seneca has consistently “taken pains to emphasize that the final yielding to the will of his father is no easy way out for Hercules” (Lawall, 1983, p. 20) and that dimension is thematized one last time in the drama’s coda. Here the hero’s exit speech (1321-1341) turns on the paradox that the all too visible Hercules cannot now disappear into invisible exile, for pre-madness fama has turned into a massive liability, in effect making the exile self-negating (“Known everywhere, I have forfeited a place for exile”, 1331). Theseus had re-imagined a new version of Hercules consistent with the old, but the exit speech suggests only that counter-volitional uiuamus will truly make life unbearable for Hercules, worse even than death. And, ironically, also for Amphitryon, for with his son’s departure his own greatest wish is negated just as he thinks he has attained it (“Show mercy on my lonely old age, I pray, and my weary years”, 1248-1250; 1319-1321).25 The drama ends on a note of unrelieved bleakness. Subjectively Hercules’ decision is construed not as a victory (contrast Oedipus’ bitter triumphalism as he departs into exile in the eponymous drama)26 but as a self-punishment. Psychologically and rhetorically Hercules’ choice provides a template for the quod nolunt uelint dynamic, constructed around the following elements: competing impulses, acute self-awareness, self-directed commands, self-consistency and the fissured self, the tension between “new” and “old” persona, the agonizing choice, the counter-volitional impulse playing out as identity crisis and negotiated selfhood, name and associated image instrumentalized in a psycho-cybernetic process—and the paradoxical failure of the pivotal act to provide an adequate resolution. This syndrome can provide a model for discussing related scenes.

2. Quid prece indomitum domas? Bending Oedipus

  • 27 The only time the blind man “sees” is when he hallucinates: nata, genitorem uides? / ego uideo (43- (...)
  • 28 Cf. Mader, 2010, p. 293-295.
  • 29 Desere infaustum patrem. / in recta quid deflectis errantem gradum? / permitte labi; melius inuenia (...)

13The first “act” of the anomalous bipartite Phoen. (1-319) dramatizes a monumental clash of wills, with Oedipus’ frenzied death-wish countered by Antigone’s equally vigorous “pro-life” argument, and the old man finally capitulating—paradoxically and at enormous effort—to his daughter. From the opening lines these tensions are captured in gesture and attitude, notably in the leading/following refrain. Oedipus’ blindness (caeci parentis, 1) doubles as a metaphor for furor27, while conversely Antigone plays the part of dux in two senses, guiding his steps and attempting to lead him away from his obsessive libido moriendi; and the uia along which they travel resonates with a well-known philosophical trope (e.g. Ep. 37, 4)28. The pervasive polysemy comes out in Oedipus’ desparing cry, “Abandon your ill-fated father. Why do you turn my wandering steps onto a straight path? Allow me to stray; alone I shall better find the road I seek, that can draw me from this life” (3-5)29. As Oedipus strains towards Cithaeron, where he craves in old age the death denied him in infancy (12-13, 27-38), Antigone struggles to lead him back to life. The countervailing pulls make the dramatic armature of the first section.

  • 30 Quid me, nata, pestifero tenes / amore uinctum? quid tenes?, (38-39); uis nulla, genitor, a tuo nos (...)
  • 31 So also the oxymoron peccas honesta mente, pietatem uocas / patrem insepultum trahere (97-98), agai (...)

14Volition and coercion can be tracked in the leading/following nucleus. Oedipus, eager to die and impatient of delay (28-30, 37-38, 46-48, 141-143), believes he can find his way to Cithaeron even without a guide (6, 29-30) and is anxious to shake off Antigone (3, 10, 49-50, 103, 241) who merely impedes his death-wish (11). But she refuses to leave him, with her devotion indexed in repeated references to the hand-clasp (“Why, daughter, do you hold me bound by this pestilential love? Why hold me?”, 38-39; “No force, father, shall loosen my hold on your body, no one shall ever tear me from your side”, 51-53; “the chaste hand”, 222)30. For Oedipus, Antigone’s devotion is a paradoxical pestifer amor31 which produces a counter-volitional drama as she resolutely opposes his suicidal impulse:

Non si reuulso Iuppiter mundo tonet
mediumque nostros fulmen in nexus cadat,
manum hanc remittam, p r o h i b e a s, genitor, licet:
regam a b n u e n t e m, derigam i n u i t i gradum. (Phoen. 59-62)

Not even if Jupiter should thunder, rending heaven, and the bolt should fall right between our close bodies, would I release this hand. Though you forbid it, father, I shall guide you despite refusals, I shall direct your unwilling steps.

  • 32 Genitor uocat. / sequor, sequor, (39-40). The conjunctions ducere/sequi, nolle/uelle and resultant (...)

15Regam and derigam assert her role as guide, literal and figurative, against Oedipus’ earlier rejection (3-6); abnuentem and inuiti in particular are markers of counter-volition. The mind-bending has begun in earnest: like a man finally yielding to a higher power, Oedipus whose first impulse was to join his dead father Laius (39-40), will be reluctantly be made to follow his daughter instead, and go on living32.

  • 33 Cf. the “therapeutic” persistence at Ep. 89, 19: remedia ante uultis quam uitia desinere? ego uero (...)

16The process leading to that decision is both painful and paradoxical. Antigone’s insistence on guiding Oedipus even against his will (59-62) reflects unflinching devotion33. From his perspective, however, the picture is rather different—for withholding death from the man who craves it is worse than inflicting it:

                    Qui cogit mori
nolentem in aequo est quique properantem impedit;
occidere est uetare cupientem mori.
nec tamen in aequo est; alterum grauius reor:
malo imperari quam eripi mortem mihi.
desiste coepto, uirgo. (98-103)

One who hinders a man in haste to die is the equal of one who forces an unwilling man to die. Forbidding a man to die who desires it is the same as killing him. No, the two are not equal, I consider the first harsher: I would rather have death imposed on me than withheld. Cease your efforts, girl.

17The antitheses cogit/impedit, nolentem/properantem, imperari/eripi signal the rhetoric of the thwarted will and gloss Antigone’s earlier regam a b n u e n t e m, derigam i n u i t i gradum (62): for now Oedipus is the patient of counter-volitional constraint, and Antigone’s honourable intentions produce only unbearable anguish for their intended beneficiary. Qualitatively this corresponds (now from the patient’s perspective) to the torment inflicted by the discerning tyrant-artist (Herc. F. 511-513). A little later, Oedipus is himself both agent and patient in another sado-masochistic act of counter-volition. Much given to self-flagellation, he coerces himself to overcome pudor and natural inhibition by broadcasting his own ineffable incest; having violated the taboo itself, he now compels himself to overcome also the taboo of speaking about the abomination, so compounding his anguish:

                    Occidi patrem,
sed matrem amaui. proloqui hymenaeum pudet
taedasque nostras? has quoque i n u i t u m pati
te c o g e poenas: facinus ignotum efferum
inusitatum fare quod populi horreant. (261-265)

I killed my father, but I loved my mother! Am I ashamed to speak out about our marriage and our wedlock? Force yourself, though unwilling, to endure this punishment too! Tell of that deed, unheard of, brutish, without precedent—one that nations would shudder at.

18This involves the sado-masochistic calculus of cruelty, with the speech-act itself now as an additional, second-order punishment: in this non-violent act of violence, Oedipus is simultaneously tyrant-agent and victim-patient.

  • 34 Quid perdis ultra uerba ? quid pectus ferum / mollire temptas precibus ? (140-141) ; quid prece ind (...)
  • 35 Iubente te uel uiuet (319). The effect of the aprosdoketon is heightened by triple anaphora on iube (...)
  • 36 Compare Anchises’ rhetoric of submission in Vergil, when the obstinate senex abandons his death-wis (...)

19The compulsive death-wish throughout the first part makes his capitulation to Antigone at the end all the more surprising. The nolle/uelle tension is now indexed in the theme word preces and in a number of oxymoron-like jingles to bring out the role-reversal. Verbal echoes track the collapse of Oedipus’ initial resistance: first “Why waste your words any further? Why try to soften my fierce heart with your prayers?” (140-141), then “Why tame my untamed spirit with your prayer? Fortune has this one means to take me, undefeated as I am by other means. You alone can soften my hard heart” (307-310)—where the juxtapositions ferum mollire, indomitum domas and mollire duros pointedly thematize the agonistic dimension involved in his about-turn34. With the climactic “At your bidding he will even live” (319), the programmatic death-wish (1-6) is paradoxically repudiated35. Submission to Antigone, figured now as an act of following, validates her status as dux in the leading/following hierarchy implicit throughout the preceding act36.

  • 37 Pectus antiquum aduoca (77) ; parens magnanime (182) ; nata, quid genibus meis / fles aduoluta ? (3 (...)
  • 38 Discede a patre, / discede uirgo. timeo post matrem omnia (49-50). Further Mader, 2010, p. 305-307. (...)

20But—again paradoxically—it is not Antigone’s rational appeals that cause Oedipus to relent. Like Jocasta, she uses a Stoic argument of unflinching uirtus (77-79, 188-192 ~ Oed. 81-86), and like Amphitryon, she appeals to an ideal version of Oedipus (“Summon up your courage of old”, 77; “great-souled father”, 182 ~ HF 1239). But what clinches the matter is the non-verbal gesture (“Daughter, why do you throw yourself weeping at my knees?”, 306-307)—which finally causes Oedipus to “soften” (mollire)37. His reaction (311-319), shaped around a number of well-known erotic topoi, suggests in the manner of a Freudian slip that his deep paternal feelings have been stirred—in his case however an ominous signal. For the amatory rhetoric hints that he is now slipping back into the very pose of father-as-lover that had earlier terrified him (“Leave your father, leave while a virgin. After my mother I fear everything”, 49-50); a pestifer amor shimmers through the rhetoric of attachment38. To that extent Antigone’s innocent pectus antiquum aduoca (77) is indeed being realized—though not as intended. Thus in addition to the explicit counter-volitional references in the suicide debate, there are hints of a secondary nolle/uelle tension as the rhetoric subconsciously discloses a repressed aspect of the convoluted persona. This would be fully consistent with the self-proclaimed “iniquity of the age” (Oed. 875-78) in whom all normative family roles have been hideously confounded (Phoen. 134-137).

  • 39 Cf. Petrone, 1988-1989, p. 252-255; Mader, 2010, p. 307-308.

21Nor is the pivotal counter-volition at 319 in any sense a game-changer, for it is immediately and ironically undermined. Antigone’s optimism that Oedipus by staying alive might avert further family strife (287-294) is quickly dashed as the caecus, relying now on his ears as surrogate eyes, avidly follows as blind “spectator” the beginnings of a new cycle of internecine feuding (358-362)39. His “conversion”, in other words, fails signally to arrest the fratricidal spiral. In spite of the agonizing decision to renounce suicide, the old persona is only temporarily repressed, and the decision to live ensures that the self-destructive dynamic will continue into the next generation. To that extent Antigone’s noble intentions produce paradoxically unintended consequences, even as Oedipus’ prescient designation of her devotion (pestifer amor, 38-39) is ironically validated. Counter-volition is throughout a powerful source of dramatic irony.

3. Fugienda petimus: Re-defining Phaedra

22Velle and nolle are the defining poles in Phaedra. This has been called the “tragedia della uoluntas” (Biondi, 1989, p. 67), where “the moral philosopher turned tragedian seems to be probing the problems involved in setting up the will as the principal moral faculty” (Curley, 1986, p. 51): the protagonist, caught between the competing pulls of wife and stepmother, castus amor and turpis libido, fate and responsibility, offers the most clinical auto-analysis of akrasia in the dramas. Her tragedy is over-determined by a conjunction of several factors: “She falls fatally in love with Hippolytus because she feels herself a vulnerable, lonely, unloved wife, because she is doomed to repeat the sins of her family, because she is too weak to resist the onslaught of Venus’ divine force, because she is constrained to act as her myth dictates” (Armstrong, 2006, p. 298). Our main focus is here on the third of these elements, her failure of will in resisting a passion she herself recognizes as criminally perverse.

  • 40 Iuuat excitatas consequi cursu feras / et rigida molli gaesa iaculari manu (110-111) ; Thesea coniu (...)

23The opening dialogue with the nurse identifies the defining tensions: on the one hand Phaedra’s coded language, betraying her hidden sexual fantasies (“It is my pleasure to start and pursue beasts in the chase and to hurl stiff javelins with my soft hand”, 110-111), on the other the “institutional” perspective of the nurse in which address doubles as moral imperative (“Wife of Theseus, illustrious progeny of Jove, banish forthwith these unspeakable thoughts from your chaste heart”, 129-130; “Banish this terrible deed from your chaste mind”, 169)40. Phaedra’s inability to oppose her passion is then articulated in a psychogram of self-division:

                    Quae memoras scio
uera esse, nutrix; sed furor cogit sequi
peiora. uadit animus praeceps sciens
remeatque frustra sana consilia appetens.
sic, cum grauatam nauita aduersa ratem
propellit unda, cedit in uanum labor
et uicta prono puppis aufertur uado.
quid ratio possit? uicit ac regnat furor,
potensque tota mente dominatur deus. (177-185)

I know, nurse, that what you say is true, but passion forces me to take the worse path. My spirit moves into the abyss with full knowledge, and turns back ineffectively in search of sane judgement. Just so, when a mariner drives his laden vessel against the current, his toil goes to waste, and the overpowered ship is swept away by the headlong flow.

  • 41 Literary precedents include Eur., Hipp. 380-381, τὰ χρήστἐπιστάμεθα καὶ γιγνώσκομεν, / οὐκ ἐκπονο (...)
  • 42 Cf. Liebermann, 1974, p. 87-88; Calabrese, 2009, p. 32-33. On the imagery of indecision, see Heldma (...)
  • 43 Vicit ac regnat furor, / potensque tota mente dominatur d e u s (184-185); hic uolucer omni pollet (...)

24The counter-volitional moment captures the crisis of the heroine immobilized by conflicting impulses: ratio against furor, lucid awareness (sciens) to heighten her sense of helplessness, movement and counter-movement cancelling each other out (uadit in praeceps ... remeatque), agency and volitional impulse disabled (frustra sana consilia appetens)41. The simile articulates the intensity of the conflict involved, with the seaman’s exertions against the waves indexing both conscious struggle (grauatam ... aduersa ratem / propellit unda, labor) and its inefficacy (cedit in uanum, uicta ... puppis aufertur). Precise responsions between illustrans and illustrandum highlight the theme of the embattled will and Phaedra’s loss of self-control (uicta 183 ~ uincit 184, frustra 180 ~ in uanum 182)42. Seneca’s Phaedra is both subject and observer in the tempestuous psychodrama, simultaneously within and above the fray. Here the two lines meet in the paradox of the culpable victim, signalling a state of akratic paralysis with loss of executive agency, but without loss of moral consciousness. But with the line “Passion has conquered and rules supreme, and a mighty god controls my whole mind” (184-185) her helplessness takes a new turn—for dominatur deus is now not simply a variation of regnat furor, but deus (= Amor) marks a slippage from objective self-analysis to self-justification through the traditional mythological apparatus. She expands on this tendency (“This winged one rules ruthlessly in every land ...”, 186-194) to plead an irresistible force majeure inhibiting free will and hence responsibility—but her confection is briskly dismissed by the nurse as an opportunistic farce majeure and pretext for base lust (195-203). Where Phaedra would cast herself as victim, the nurse recognizes that her own desires are heavily invested in this emotional entanglement43.

  • 44 Honesta primum est u e l l e nec labi uia, / pudor est secundus n o s s e peccandi modum (140-141)  (...)
  • 45 Cf. Heldmann, 1974, p. 130. Velle and uoluntas: pars magna bonitatis est uelle fieri bonum, “The gr (...)
  • 46 Maius est monstro nefas: / nam monstra f a t o, m o r i b u s scelera imputes (143-144). On the ten (...)
  • 47 As (e.g.) Prou. 2, 4, non quid, sed quemadmodum feras, interest, “Not what you endure, but how you (...)
  • 48 Quid poena praesens, conscius mentis pauor / animusque culpa plenus et semet timens ? (162-163).

25Remarks in the surrounding dialogue add nuance to the uelle/nolle tension. The Nurse in urging restraint assigns a key role to cognition and intentionality in the process of checking illicit desire (“Best is the honourable purpose, without going astray; second best is a sense of shame, to recognize some limit in transgression”, 140-141; “Part of health is the will to be healed”, 249)44, but in the akratic situation it is exactly pudor and the inhibiting will that are disabled (180). Commentators note comparable philosophical-type uses of uelle in Seneca’s prose; whatever the exact nuance there (will as a distinct psychological force, as considered desire, willingness or motivation), cross reference at least points to the sort of self-conscious mental activity that characterizes also Phaedra’s tragedy: in the duel against passion, nosse and uelle are the first line of defence45. Besides the mental activity identified by the nurse, there are Phaedra’s self-justifying orthopaedics. Early in her self-diagnosis she had framed her passion as a replay of her mother’s fatale ... malum within the curse on the whole genus (112-128, cf. 698-699). But where Phaedra posits a parallelism between Pasiphae’s love and her own, the Nurse counters with a disjunction (“This outrage is worse than monstrous, for the monstrous is attributable to fate, but crime to character”, 143-144): that is, the monstra/fatum model (as in the case of Pasiphae) cannot be invoked to exonerate Phaedra, whose nefas is attributed instead to her mores (implying personal responsibility)46. For here as elsewhere what interests Seneca is not the operation of an impersonal, external curse, but the individual responses of the participants47. In the same way Phaedra’s excursus on Amor (185-194) is punctured by the Nurse as specious self-deception (195-203) that originates within the individual and will return to torment her as pangs of guilt (“What of the ever-present punishment—the mind’s fearful conscience, the spirit full of guilt and afraid of itself?”, 162-163)48. The nurse’s remarks, zooming in expertly on the psychological dynamics, give objective validity to the condition experienced subjectively by Phaedra as immobilizing counter-volition.

  • 49 Aude, anime, tempta, perage mandatum tuum. / intrepida constent uerba... / ...en, incipe, anime ! ( (...)

26Phaedra’s sharply rational analysis of her irrationality (177-185) continues in the interview with Hippolytus in the second act. Resolute self-exhortation suggests that the illicit impulse is gaining the upper hand (“Courage, my spirit! Make the attempt, carry out your own command. Your words must be firm and fearless ... Come, begin, my spirit!”, 592-599)49, but instead of producing “fearless words” her speech falters, and the passion parsed as nefanda (130, 596) becomes in Hippolytus’ presence literally unspeakable:

Ph.

Sed ora coeptis transitum uerbis negant;

uis magna uocem mittit et maior tenet.

uos testor omnis, caelites, hoc quod uolo

me nolle.

Hi.

Animus cupiens aliquid effari nequit ?

Ph.

Curae leues loquuntur, ingentes stupent.

Hi.

Committe curas auribus, mater, meis. (602-608).

Ph.

But my lips refuse passage to the words I begin. A great force impels my speech,

and a greater holds it back. I call all you gods to witness that this thing I want—I do not want.

Hi.

Your spirit desires to utter something, but cannot?

Ph.

Light troubles speak, huge ones are struck dumb.

Hi.

Entrust your troubles to my ears, mother.

  • 50 Cf. Biondi, 1989, p. 67, “La uoluntas della passione (quod uolo) che la precipita verso il crimen d (...)
  • 51 “Qui lo stupor [607] indica come il blocaggio delle facoltà psico-fisiche” (Marchetta, 2010, p. 80) (...)
  • 52 Dimoue uocis moras (587) — intrepida uerba (593) — ora (602) — uerbis (602) — uocem (603) — effari (...)
  • 53 Libet loqui pigetque (637); fugienda petimus (699). The latter at (e.g.) Cic., Ac. I, 18; Fin. I, 2 (...)

27The self-cancelling tendency (uis magna uocem mittit / maior tenet) intensifies the earlier dilemma (uadit / remeatque; propellit / uicta ... puppis aufertur, 177-183) and works up here to the nolle/uelle paradox (604-605)50: speechless tongue, disabled will and stupor (607) together capture the akratic paralysis51. Again the half verse me nolle, emphasized through isolation, throws the paradoxical counter-volition into high relief. Going beyond the topos of the lover’s loss of voice, the sustained emphasis here on speech and speechlessness (“break silence” [587] — “fearless words” [593] — “my lips” [602] — “my words” [602] — “my voice” [603] — “to utter” [606] — “they speak” [607] — “my ears” [608]) is a powerful psycho-physical index of Phaedra’s dilemma52. So again, a little later, the outward symptom “I desire to speak, but recoil from it” (637), glossed in more philosophically-sounding terminology as “we seek what should be shunned” (699).53 Phaedra in articulating her akratic state attains a level of abstraction matched only in Atreus’ maxim quod nolunt uelint.

  • 54 Cf. Fitch and McElduff, 2002, p. 32-35.
  • 55 Miscere thalamos patris et nati apparas / uteroque prolem capere confusam impio? (171-172); remouet (...)
  • 56 Ambigua uoce uerba perplexa iacis (639).

28Most signally, the conflict between uelle and nolle, illicit desire and moral scruple, plays out as identity crisis, bringing into collision Phaedra’s roles as wife, stepmother and lover54. The nurse in the first act had presciently sensed the drift of Phaedra’s opening speech (“Do you intend to confound the beds of father and son, and receive in an incestuous womb a blended progeny?”, 171-172)—where miscere and confusam exactly prefigure the queen’s transgressive desires; then in the second act Phaedra’s fantasy to change her identity from royal wife to cynegetic lover was externalized in the transvestite motif (“Maids, remove those robes bedecked with purple and gold”, 387-388)55. In the meeting with Hippolytus (599-718), her dilemma is captured in a studied word-game to obfuscate and conflate the contested areas, and indexed rhetorically as ambiguous speech (“You throw out riddling words in cryptic speech”, 639)56—for unlike Hercules, Oedipus, Medea or Thyestes, who reluctantly allow one persona to assert itself over another, Phaedra grapples first to elide one, then to reconcile two irreconcilable roles. When Hippolytus innocently addresses her as mater (608), using a primary marker of normative family structure and boundaries, Phaedra counters the implicit opprobrium of the label by re-designating herself as soror and even famula (609-612), with the latter then shading off easily into love’s slavery:

Matris superbum est nomen et nimium potens ;
nostros humilius nomen affectus decet :
me uel sororem, Hippolyte, uel famulam uoca,
famulamque potius : omne seruitium feram. (609-612)

The name of mother is too grand and mighty. A humbler name suits my feelings: call me sister, Hippolytus, or servant—yes, servant is better: I will endure all servitude.

  • 57 Cf. Calabrese, 2009, p. 62-67. The semantic play is a sop to a guilty conscience, as with Ovid’s By (...)
  • 58 Et te merebor esse ne uiduam putes / ac tibi parentis ipse supplebo locum (632-633); o spes amantum (...)
  • 59 Est genitor in te totus (658) ; respersa nulla labe et intacta, innocens / tibi mutor uni (668-669)

29Repeated nomen self-consciously thematizes her semantic game, while the progression mater – soror – famula tracks the rhetorical ploy of circumnavigating a perceived taboo through strategic re-naming: she is simultaneously un-defining and re-defining herself57. Literal and coded meanings collide again in her ambiguous self-designation as uidua (“widowed / husbandless”, 623)—betraying her desire for the son as surrogate father—beside the young man’s literal understanding of the term (that Theseus might be dead). Hippolytus in good faith gives assurances of pietas towards his brothers, and innocuously offers to “fill the father’s place” during Theseus’ absence (“I shall behave so that you will not think yourself widowed, and fill my father’s place for you myself”, 632-633)—which Phaedra wilfully (mis)construes as a re-drawing of the restrictive roles (“O gullible hope of lovers, o deceitful Love!”, 634)58. And when Hippolytus innocently assumes that Phaedra’s burning passion must be amor castus for her legitimate husband (641-645), she will not refute him outright, but by collapsing the roles of father and son (“All of your father is in you”, 658) blurs illicit desire for Hippolytus and legitimate love for the (youthful) Theseus (646-671). The uelle/nolle tension produces the impossible situation of Phaedra wanting to be simultaneously chaste wife and incestuous stepmother, indulging furor while preserving pudor: “Stained by no dishonour, untouched and innocent, I am changed for you alone”(668-669)59.

  • 60 Full discussion in Hill, 2003, p. 159-175.
  • 61 Procul i m p u d i c o s corpore a c a s t o amoue / tactus (704-705).

30The only resolution to this cognitive dissonance is symbolic and rhetorical, with her deliberate ambiguities functioning throughout to reconcile the discordant personae60. At the end of act 1 Phaedra, powerless to resist the incestuous drive, resolves on death as the only way of preserving her shame, chastity and reputation: “Let me follow my husband, and by death (morte) avert this enormity (nefas)” (254). Mors and pudor are here pointedly construed as alternatives to nefas and coitus nefandi. Phaedra again insists on her purity of motives when disclosing her passion for Hippolytus (668-669), but when he recoils in horror and threatens to kill her (“Keep your impure touch from my chaste body”, 704-705)61, she welcomes death by his sword as both presevation of pudor and consummation of illicit desire:

  • 62 On the possible sexual pun in immoriar, see Coffey and Mayer, 1990, p. 154 (ad Phae. 712).

Hippolyte, nunc me compotem uoti facis ;
sanas furentem. maius hoc uoto meo est,
saluo ut pudore manibus immoriar tuis. (710-712)62

Hippolytus, now you grant me fulfilment of my prayer, you heal my madness. To die at your hands with my honour preserved—this surpasses my prayer.

  • 63 In the play’s final act, the two strands are again separated by Phaedra herself: morere, si casta e (...)
  • 64 Abscede, u i u e, ne quid exores (713).

31Phaedra wants it both ways. Chastity and incest, res olim dissociabiles, here conjoin in her over-heated fantasy. Sanas furentem, echoing the nurse’s therapeutic language (248-249), denotes the passionate stepmother, saluo ... pudore the faithful wife: in an impossible coniunctio oppositorum the countervailing pulls of uelle and nolle are in imaginary stasis63. But the erotic fantasy is shattered when Hippolytus, refusing to oblige, denies her the symbolic consummation she craves and thwarts her will with a curt “Go, stay alive, lest you have your wish” (713)64. Her death-wish and his blunt denial enact the tyrant’s formula “forbid death to the wretched ...” and resonate with the fugienda petimus paradox.

  • 65 See further Calabrese, 2009, p. 103-127 for discussion of the “embedded” Theseus-Hippolytus tragedy (...)
  • 66 Theseus’ paroxysmal vow to pursue Hippolytus through every region of the world (929-941) also symme (...)

32For Phaedra, it is non-fulfilment of the death-wish that prolongs her torment. Theseus at the end of the drama finds himself in an inverse, small-scale psychodrama that mirrors the uelle/nolle dynamics and forms an exact counterpart to Phaedra’s plight65. In what we might term the circulation of perversity, Hippolytus is (wrongly) accused and punished by Theseus for the very duplicity by which Phaedra engineers the young man’s demise (915-929)66. In answer to Theseus’ prayer (fer abominandam nunc opem nato, parens, 948), Neptune sends a fantastic sea-bull to destroy Hippolytus; but when the young man’s fate is announced, fulfilment of that death-wish produces another paradoxical uelle/nolle dissonance, this time in the remorseful father. Where Phaedra tried to rhetorically reconcile the discordant roles of wife and stepmother, Theseus is now caught between the roles of father and avenger (relative to Hippolytus as son and rapist respectively): “As father, I know that my son (gnatum) died long ago; now the rapist (raptor) has died” (998-999). But where Phaedra had instrumentalized the various designations for self-justification, in the case of Theseus they capture the paradox of self-inflicted suffering. As avenger he calls down destruction on the alleged rapist, but the logic of crime and punishment will not elide the natural bonds between father and son—which re-assert themselves to the anguish of the bereaved parent (as mutatis mutandis Phaedra is tormented by her guilty conscience). The dilemma is thematized in a brief exchanged with the messenger:

Th.

O nimium potens

quanto parentes sanguinis uinclo tenes

natura! quam te colimus i n u i t i quoque!

occidere u o l u i noxium, amissum fleo.

Nvn.

Haud flere honeste quisque q u o d u o l u i t potest.

Th.

Equidem malorum maximum hunc cumulum reor,

si a b o m i n a n d a casus o p t a n d a efficit.

Nvn.

Et si odia seruas, cur madent fletu genae ?

Th.

Quod interemi, non quod amisi, fleo. (1114-1122)

Th.

O Nature, all too potent, how strong the bonds of blood with which you hold parents! How we follow you even against our will! For his guilt, I wished him dead; but now he is dead, I weep.

Nvn.

A man may not rightfully weep for what he himself has willed.

Th.

For me, this is the pinnacle of woes, if fortune makes us desire what we detest.

Nvn.

And if you keep your hatred, why are your cheeks wet with tears?

Th.

I weep for destroying him, not for losing him.

  • 67 Fer abominandam nunc opem nato, parens (948).
  • 68 οὔθἥδομαι τοῖσδ οὔτἐπάχθομαι κακοῖς (Hipp. 1260).

33Phaedra’s conflict had set reason against passion, wife against stepmother. Theseus in an analogous dissonance experiences the tensions between avenger and father, between death as punishment (occidere uolui noxium) and death as personal loss (amissum fleo), between the centrifugal desire for justice and the centripetal pull of the uinclum sanguinis. Hippolytus’ death results from a conscious act of will on the part of Theseus, expressed in the prayer to Neptune and reflected here in two occurrences of the theme verb, occidere uolui noxium and quod uoluit. But this uelle is cancelled by an implied countervailing nolle rooted in natura and the uinclum sanguinis itself, and indexed in the father’s tears (amissum fleo — haud flere honeste — cur madent fletu genae — fleo). His cri du cœur “How we follow you even against our will” captures the distinctive counter-volitional moment, glossed as “if fortune makes us desire (optanda) what we detest (abominanda)”where abominanda ironically echoes his fateful prayer to Neptune (“Now, my sire, give your son this ghastly aid”, 948)67, and where the oxymoron formally replays Phaedra’s fugienda petimus (699). The inuitus paradox distinguishes this Theseus fundamentally from his Euripidean counterpart, whose reaction to Hippolytus’ death is frigidly neutral by comparison (“I will neither rejoice nor be distressed at what has happened”, Hipp. 1260)68: in Seneca the psychological nuance is paramount. Thus by opposite routes both Phaedra and Theseus come to experience the aprosdoketon of Wilde’s celebrated aphorism: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst”. Theseus would have agreed.

4. Et cupio et nequeo : Scripting Medea

  • 69 Trabert, 1953, p. 46-48; Liebermann, 1974, p. 190-193; Shelton, 1979, p. 55-56; Gill, 1987; 1996, p (...)

34Medea’s grand monologue before the first infanticide (Med. 893-971) is a literary tour de force, brilliantly capturing Seneca’s fascination with akrasia and the rhetoric of self-division: formal-stylistic features include self-incitement, apostrophized emotions, self-distancing and intellectualized expression of emotion, self-referentiality and discordant roles, while psychologically the monologue dramatizes the conflict between a deliberate but passionate desire for vengeance and the moral responses this elicits. Medea coniunx wrestles with Medea mater, until furor finally annexes and subsumes her rational side and turns her into a fearful killing machine69. All this situates the monologue on the counter-volitional trajectory, with one modification as against the scenes discussed so far: there (Herc. F., Phoen., Phae.) competing positions are articulated by different speakers, here the drama is fully internalized as a duel between different aspects of Medea’s psyche, making her literally a split personality speaking in two distinct voices.

  • 70 Formally Seneca’s rhetoric of self-division, juxtaposing discordant roles and conflicting emotions (...)
  • 71 Quid, anime, cessas ? (895) ; incumbe in iras teque languentem excita (902) ; quid, anime, titubas  (...)
  • 72 Et cupio et nequeo (Met. VIII, 506) ; ira, qua ducis, sequor (Med. 953). Sequor/duco: Ov., Her. 12, (...)

35The counter-volitional moment is signalled by her remark, rursus increscit dolor / et feruet odium, repetit inuitam manum / antiqua Erinys, “Again my pain grows and my hatred burns, the ancient Fury seeks my reluctant hand again” (951-953)—where inuitam manum effectively captures the paradox that the manus, emblem throughout of her power and resourcefulness (128, 479, 680, 901, 908, 969, 987), is suddenly and uncharacteristically unresponsive. Akrasia again plays out as a highly rhetoricized crisis of identity, with Medea torn between the roles of slighted coniunx, driven by ira and dolor, and mater restrained by pietas and amor (927-928, 937-939, 943-944). This is a fully internalized controuersia that builds on Ovid’s akratic heroines, especially his Medea (cf. above, n. 41: uideo meliora proboque, / deteriora sequor, Met. VII, 17-21)70. In a rise-and-fall movement the countervailing impulses and personae battle inconclusively, the vindictive urge shows signs of abating and needs to be re-ignited (“Why slacken, my spirit?” [895]; “Bear down on your anger, awaken your sluggish spirits” [902]; “Why, my spirit, do you vacillate?” [937]), psycho-physical reactions externalize inner reluctance (“My heart is struck with horror, my limbs are numb with cold, my breast trembles” [926-927]; “Why do tears wet my face?” [937]), and the retarding simile of wind and waves, with its high frequency of terms denoting dissonance and indecision, dramatizes self-division (“From side to side ... whirling winds ... contending waves drive the sea both ways ... the waters seethe in confusion”, 937-944)71. This is the akratic paralysis described by another Ovidian heroine through the paradox “I both desire it and cannot” (Met. VIII, 506). But then dolor and odium revive (951-952), Medea’s surrender to passion is signalled by the “leading/following” pairing (“Anger, where you lead, I follow”, 953)72, and she kills the first child.

  • 73 Quid nunc moraris, anime ? quid dubitas ? potens / iam cecidit ira ? paenitet facti, pudet. / quid, (...)

36At the sound of pursuing Corinthians she makes for the roof, intending there to complete her revenge by performing the second murder in full public view (971-977). But again she baulks, and in a further self-address pudor briefly checks ira (“Why delay now, my spirit? Why hesitate? Has your potent anger already flagged? I regret what I have done, I am ashamed. What have I done, poor woman?”, 988-990). Relapse and regret however are quickly dismissed (paeniteat licet, / feci)—but even as she savours the ultimate satisfaction of appearing before an audience in a spectacular finale, the slightest hint of counter-volition marks a continuing tension, even at this stage, between the conflicting roles: “Great pleasure steals over me against my will, and see, it is growing” (991-992). This is the sanguinis uinclum of Natura re-asserting itself, the irrepressible force that was painfully acknowledged by Theseus, “How we follow you even against our will” (Phae. 1116). In either case the visceral human reflex effectively underscores the inhumanity of the triumphalist pose73.

  • 74 Hac qua r e c u s a s , qua d o l e s , ferrum exigam (1006).

37That inhumanity comes out again when Jason in the last scene pleads for the life of the second child and offers up himself instead (1004-1005). Medea’s final act of psychic torment is to deny that request and to do just the opposite of what he craves: “I shall drive the sword just where you forbid it, where it causes you pain” (1006).74 As in the calculus of tyranny, where withholding death is the ultimate punishment, Medea recognizes that the thwarted will compounds the anguish. The kind of counter-volitional torment that she had herself experienced is now turned against Jason. A perverse sense of rationality and aesthetics informs the atrocity to give it an added sadistic dimension.

  • 75 Medea superest (166), Medea fiam (171), Medea nunc sum (910). Cf. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 95-97; Li (...)
  • 76 Liebermann, 1974, p. 162; Galimberti-Biffino, 1996.
  • 77 Tu, tu malorum machinatrix facinorum, / cui feminae nequitia, ad audendum omnia / robur uirile est, (...)

38As in the other dramas, Medea’s akratic dilemma is accompanied by intense interrogation of her own identity. Emergence of selfhood is tracked in particular in her self-referential “Medea remains” (166), “Medea – I shall become” (171), “Now I am Medea” (910)—coupled (at least rhetorically) with a sense of exponential self-growth (904-910)75. Psychologically this is the tragedies’ most explicit example of the psycho-cybernetic mechanism in action: Medea fixes on an ideal self-image and then works systematically towards it. Subsidiary aspects too come into play. Names, naming and self-naming are crucial elements of identity-construction, embodying the expectations of characters in themselves, and doubling as psychological imperatives to drive them to act out their ideal identity. For Medea (and others) that identity is fixed by the literary and mythographic tradition, and thus invoking the expectations inherent in “Medea” is also a metaliterary signal that she is consciously playing out a pre-scripted role. Third-person reference to herself, that is, exhibits awareness of her extra-textual status76. Literary memory weighs heavily on her, and she is massively preoccupied with what it means to be herself; it is exactly this motivational mechanism that Creon fails signally to comprehend when he remarks, “You, you, contriver of evil crimes, you have a woman’s wickedness and a man’s strength to dare everything, with no thought of reputation: leave” (266-269). For to Medea, famae memoria is everything77.

  • 78 Nvt. Rex est timendus. Me. Rex meus fuerat pater ... (168-176); Braden, 1970, p. 20; cf. Seidenstic (...)

39Like other Senecan characters, too, Medea fashions herself self-reflexively by studied reference to her own prior history. In parallel dilemmas, Hercules and Oedipus are directed to their former identity as stable point of reference (“Now there is a call for Hercules”, Herc. F. 1239; “Summon up your old-time courage”, Phoen. 77), while Thyestes would repudiate his earlier persona (“Dismiss the old Thyestes from your heart”, Thy. 937). Medea’s identity management involves both affirmation and repudiation—affirming her earlier Colchian identity to elide her present status as coniunx—with each line producing its own distinctive rhetoric and paradoxes. Her Colchian pectus antiquum is summoned up in a defiant series of philosophically sounding tropes. In the celebrated stichomythic exchange with the Nurse, and at a moment when her fortunes are at their lowest ebb, she invokes her own biography to re-assert her unbroken spirit (Nvt. “A king must be feared. Me. My father was a king...”, 168‑176); here her “replies angle off their stimuli into reminders of, successively, her ancestry (I am a king’s daughter), capabilities (I have helped destroy whole autochthonous armies), determination (I am willing to die), mythic reputation (I am Medea...), and, finally, unavenged injury”78. Thrown back upon her own resources, she appropriates a sententious rhetoric of self-sufficiency which—in another context—could equally characterize the unassailable autarky of the sapiens: so for single instance her memorable line Fortuna opes auferre, non animum potest, “Fortune can take away my wealth, but not my spirit” (176) is fully worthy of a Stilbo who, having lost everything in war, could still confront his conqueror unbowed (Ep. 9.18-19):

Hic enim capta patria, amissis liberis, amissa uxore cum ex incendio publico solus et tamen beatus exiret, interroganti Demetrio ... numquid perdididsset, “omnia” inquit, “bona mea mecum sunt”. ecce uir fortis ac strenuus ! ipsam hostis sui uictoriam uicit ... “omnia mea mecum sunt”: hoc ipsum est nihil bonum putare, quod eripi possit.

For he, when his country had been captured and his children and wife lost, as he emerged from the general conflagration alone, yet happy, spoke thus to Demetrius in answer to the question ... whether he had lost anything: “I have all my goods with me!” There is your brave and stout-hearted man! His enemy conquered, but Stilbo conquered his conqueror ... “All my goods are with me”: in other words, this is to deem nothing a “good” that may be taken away.

  • 79 Ira, qua ducis, sequor (953); ἄγου δέ μ’, Ζεῦ, καὶ σύ γ πεπρωμένη, / ὅποι ποθὑμῖν εἰμὶ διατε (...)
  • 80 Rabbow, 1954, p. 189-213; Edwards, 2008; Star, 2012, p. 23-83.

40Medea in re-affirming her Colchian identity parades as an inverted mirror-image of the sage, and attains an analogous omega point of self-sufficiency—submitting now not to reason but to vindictive passion. So again, in her later monologue, the “leading/following” formula programmatically reverses Stoic priorities (“Anger, where you lead, I follow”, 953): now passion elides and commandeers the logos that should be leading the way, as famously in Cleanthes’ hymn to Zeus: “Lead me, O Zeus, and you, O fate, where I have been assigned by you. I shall follow intrepidly” (SVF I, 527). At the apotheosis of nefas and the triumph of “rational passion” over pure reason, these resonances underscore the paradox that the mundus peruersus operates with a symmetrical logic as consistent as that of the sapiens79. And unlike Hercules or Oedipus, who had external “therapists” to assist, Medea breaks her akratic impasse through a fully internalized controuersia. In another paradoxical inversion, her sustained rhetoric of introspection and self-exhortation replicates, even as it subverts, the therapeutic self-scrutiny and self-command of the Stoic, the arduous process of self-improvement and mastering the passions recommended in the philosophical prose (e.g. Ir. III, 36, 1-4)80.

  • 81 P a r i a narrentur tua / repudia thalamis (52-53); scelera te hortentur tua / et cuncta r e d e a (...)
  • 82 Erepto patre / patria atque regno (118-119); abiere Colchi ... / nihilque superest opibus e tantis (...)
  • 83 On the thematic symmetry of Medea’s revenge, where divorce answers marriage point for point (52-53, (...)

41Obsession with identity comes out again in Medea’s rhetoric of repudiation, which pointedly sets impending atrocities against biographical precedents in a way that makes the present a replay of the past: divorce answering marriage (“Let the story they tell of your divorce match that of your marriage”, 52-53), extreme love turning to equally extreme hate (397-398, 866-867), her Colchian identity (42-45) and past crimes returning as model for her revenge on Jason (“Your own crimes must urge you on, every one of them must return”, 129‑130)81. On this logic of equivalence (as in the Hercules model) the revenge symbolically reclaims her former status, reconstitutes her identity, and (at least rhetorically) cancels out former losses. Those losses were specified as “father, fatherland and kingdom robbed” (118‑119), “Colchis is lost ... and nothing remains of your great wealth” (164‑165), “my fatherland, my father, my brother, my modesty” (487); now she makes the symmetrical claim, “In this moment I have recovered my sceptre, brother, father, and the Colchians hold the spoil of the golden ram; my realm is restored, my stolen maidenhood restored” (982-984)82. The quest for perfect symmetry exhibits both tight rhetorical control and a highly intellectualized treatment of violent emotion in which the retaliation mechanism plays out according to a system of “credits and debits” based on the logic of matrimonial exchange83. In the end however “becoming Medea” involves a paradoxically regressive progress, for self-realization turns back upon itself and consciously replays her own past, meaning that the new Medea (Medea nunc sum) is a hypertrophic (49-50, 904-910) but recycled version of her former self. Antigone’s idealistic pectus antiquum aduoca model is here turned on its head.

  • 84 Liebermann, 1974, p. 191 ; Auhagen, 1999, p. 211 ; Zwierlein, 2004, p. 106.

42Finally, we might ask how counter-volition contributes to the tragic effect of the drama. In reference to Medea’s monologue, it has been argued that since she has already resolved on infanticide, her fluctuations have only rhetorical function to heighten pathos; and again that since Seneca downplays Medea’s maternal feelings in comparison with Euripides, stressing instead her superhuman powers and demonic status, the tragic locus cannot be in her conflict but rather in the suffering of Jason84. But notwithstanding the superhuman dimension and vindictive impulse, counter-volitional inuita (951-953, 991-992) is an effective foil to the atrocity, capturing a residual humanity whose repression tracks the larger dramatic process of her dehumanization.

5. Quod nolunt uelint: Fragmenting Thyestes

  • 85 Stabo et arcebo scelus (95) ; quis inferorum sede ab infausta extrahit ? (1); siste, quo praeceps r (...)
  • 86 In quod malum transcribor? (13); me pati poenas decet, / non esse poenam (86-87).

43Thyestes is Seneca’s master-text of counter-volition and identity management, with all the characters participating fully in this scheme. This distinctive emphasis is signalled in the prologue, itself structured as a hypertrophic, other-worldly act of coercion that prefigures the subsequent human interactions. The ghost of Tantalus, archetypal criminal and personification of inter-generational strife, recoils at the prospect of becoming instrumental in a new cycle of atrocity, and strenuously resists (“I shall stand and block the crime”, 95). Counter-volition is registered here as a tension between external compulsion (“Who drags me forth from the accursed regions of the dead?”, 1) and inner repugnance (“Stop, where are you rushing wildly?”, 67), with Tantalus’ final capitulation to the Fury, under massive duress, marked by the signature “I follow” (100)85. In a universe where hell has been displaced to the upper world and the underworld is desirable by comparison (81-83), the ghost complains that even his own fixed identity is out of sync (“To what new evil am I reassigned?”, 13; “My proper role is to suffer punishments, not to be a punishment”, 86-87)86—anticipating analogous slippages in the mundus peruersus of Atreus’ Argos.

44The coercion of the expositional scene becomes the subject of theoretical reflection in the second act, where Atreus tyrannus incites himself to a transcendental act of vengeance. Dismissing the advice of his satellite to heed the people’s hostile talk, the tyrant expounds an alternative model calculated precisely to make his subjects experience their impotence:

Sat.

Fama te populi nihil

aduersa terret ? Atr. Maximum hoc regni bonum est,

quod facta domini c o g i t u r populus sui

tam ferre quam laudare. Sat. Quos c o g i t metus

laudare, eosdem reddit inimicos metus.

at qui fauoris gloriam ueri petit,

animo magis quam uoce laudari uolet.

Atr.

Laus uera et humili saepe contingit uiro,

non nisi potenti falsa. quod nolunt uelint. (204-212)

Sat.

Does public disapproval not deter you?

Atr.

The greatest advantage of kingship is this: that the people are compelled to endure

their master’s deeds as well as praise them.

Sat.

Whom fear compels to praise, it also turns into enemies. But he who seeks the glory

of true favour will want to be praised from the heart rather than the lips.

Atr.

True praise often comes even to the lowly, false praise only to the mighty. Let them

want what they do not want!

  • 87 Cf. Mader, 1998, p. 38-41; Schiesaro, 2003, p. 162, “Atreus aspires to complete control over his pe (...)
  • 88 On Atreus as aesthete, see (e.g.) Lefèvre, 1981; Picone, 1984, p. 51-53, 97-112; Littlewood, 2004, (...)

45Cogere and nolle/uelle go hand in hand here: what counts is not submission as such, but submission as a counter-volitional act of enforced spontaneity to inflict maximum psychic torment. Rather like an operation performed without anaesthetics, the patient needs to be fully aware of the self-negating charade in which he is a powerless participant: mens conscia is decisive here87. The tyrant systematically instrumentalizes the akratic anguish whose potential for torment is dramatized in the dilemmas of Hercules, Oedipus, Phaedra, Medea, and Tantalus himself. Inflicting psychic pain is paramount: for Atreus, the form of the punishment takes precedence over its mere function (cf. 1096-1098)88.

  • 89 Resonating with arguments from Seneca’s own Clem.: Rose, 1987, p. 117-119; Mader, 1998, p. 34‑37; M (...)

46The second act is structured as small-scale psychodrama that replays the dynamics of the first—but unlike Tantalus, bludgeoned into submission by the Fury, the satellite now discloses the subtler mechanisms of counter-volition. In the regnum debate the attendant urges a model of benevolent kingship89 indexed in expressions of sincere praise by subjects and in the shared values of pudor, cura iuris, sanctitas and—most crucially—fides. But this arrangement cramps the tyrant’s style (214-218), and the scene ends with the satellite sworn to silent complicity:

Atr.

       

Nostra tu coepta occule.

Sat.

Haud sum monendus: ista nostro in pectore

fides timorque, sed magis claudet fides. (333-335)

Atr.

And you, keep my schemes secret.

Sat.

I need no warning. Both fear and loyalty will hide them in my heart—but chiefly loyalty.

  • 90 Cf. Mader, 1998. Enforced complicity makes the satellite both patient and agent in the self-debasin (...)

47His parting words capture a paradoxical convergence of opposites: he gestures towards the enlightened model—where fides is central—but gives the game away by his inadvertent mention of timor, thus ratifying the tyrant’s programmatic remarks on metus (207-212) and his own status as participant in a phobocracy where fides has no place. Timor is the absent presence here. At the climax of the scene, and at a point corresponding exactly to Tantalus’ sequor in the prologue, the satellite’s Freudian slip precludes an innocent reading, unconsciously validates Atreus’ regnum model, and signals that he has been effectively co-opted into the counter-volitional charade (207-212). His professed allegiance (sed magis claudet fides), correlatively, exactly plays out the laus falsa demanded by the tyrant: this is fear masquerading as loyalty, enforced lip service (uoce laudari) and not spontaneous praise (animo laudari). The satellite’s performance follows his master’s script to the letter90.

  • 91 On Atreus as inverted uir sapiens, see Monteleone, 1991, p. 361-367; Lefèvre, 1997a.

48Counter-volitional control in this script plays out at several levels: the satellite is controlled through fear and made to abdicate personal agency (even as he affirms it); Thyestes is ensnared in proportion as he is seduced into relinquishing self-control; only Atreus, unmoved mover at the operational centre of the choreographed spectacle, exhibits an enkrateia that paradoxically recalls the Stoic sage91. Gripped by irrepressible rage (176-191, 260-280), he yet forces himself to repress his frenzy in order to trap Thyestes. Atreus’ self-control, tested to the limits as his brother approaches Argos, is dramatized in an extended simile:

Vix tempero animo, uix dolor frenos capit.
sic, cum feras uestigat et longo sagax
loro tenetur Vmber ac presso uias
scrutatur ore, dum procul lento suem
odore sentit, paret et tacito locum
rostro pererrat; praeda cum propior fuit,
ceruice toto pugnat et gemitu uocat
dominum morantem seque retinenti eripit:
cum sperat ira sanguinem, nescit tegi;
tamen tegatur. (496-505)

Scarcely can I control my spirit, scarcely can my rage be reined in. So when a keen-scented Umbrian hound is tracking beasts and is held on a long leash, his snout bent down to probe the trail: while he scents the boar afar and faintly, he is obedient and silent in scouring the place; but when the prey is closer, he strains with the whole strength of his neck, with baying calls his slow master and tears himself free of restraint. When rage scents blood, it cannot be concealed; yet it must be concealed.

  • 92 The lively inner dynamic is captured in the parallel movements from restraint to breaking free (lor (...)
  • 93 Cf. Med. 866-867, frenare nescit iras / Medea, “Medea cannot reign in her feelings of anger”; Ag. 2 (...)
  • 94 Self-mastery is shown also in his ability to suppress visible signs of emotion, an act requiring mo (...)

49This is the familiar tension between passion and restraint, figured as a hunting dog straining at the leash as he nears his quarry92. As with the dog, bloodlust threatens to get the better of Atreus (uix tempero animo, uix dolor frenos capit)—but then he checks the violent impulse (tamen tegatur): the tension produced by these framing verses captures the massive effort involved. The paradox nescit tegi; / tamen tegatur in particular marks the near impossibility of the feat. Atreus’ image uix dolor f r e n o s capit, anticipating the simile’s longo ... loro and echoing the therapeutic rhetoric of the restraint figures93, points to the psychological function of the verses: this is an abridged and fully internalized version of the typical domina–nutrix scene, Atreus without an external restraint-figure now effectively subdues his passion. And this in turn is the reverse of the akratic moment: where Thyestes gives in to his son against his better judgement, Atreus iratus is paradoxically not impotens sui, but in full control of his responses94.

  • 95 Rose, 1987, p. 123; cf. Tarrant, 1985, p. 47, 152 (ad Thy. 420).

50For as types Atreus and Thyestes are conceived as a symmetrical pair, with the tyrannical power and enkrateia of the one set against, and validated by the other’s akratic indecision and powerlessness. Since Atreus “measures his power by his success in bending subjects to his will”, enticing his reluctant brother back to Argos and getting him to accept the treacherous offer of shared kingship signals “the fulfilment of [his] most urgent demand: quod nolunt uelint95. But Atreus is also an aesthete for whom punishment is process rather than end point (“You talk about the conclusion of punishment: I want the punishment itself”, 246). Thyestes’ counter-volitional crisis and loss of self-control in act 3, under pressure of Tantalus junior, enact the quod nolunt uelint script to the letter. This also replays the coercion of Tantalus and the satellite, now however with greater emphasis on the victim’s inner torment.

  • 96 Clarus hic regni nitor (414). Marchetta, 2010, p. 184-190 is the fullest discussion of this crucial (...)
  • 97 Moueo nolentem gradum (420); pigro... incessu (421); quae causa cogit, genitor, a patria gradum / r (...)
  • 98 O p t a t a patriae tecta ... cerno — nunc contra in m e t u s / reuoluor (404-419); clarus hic reg (...)
  • 99 Hinc uetus regni furor, / illinc egestas tristis ac durus labor / quamuis rigentem tot malis [~ 417 (...)
  • 100 Animus haeret ac retro cupit / corpus referre (419-420). For animus as master over the body, cf. Cl (...)
  • 101 Quid, anime, pendes, quidue consilium diu / tam facile torques ? (423-424) ; placet ire, pigris mem (...)

51That torment and uncertainty are tracked in a series of eloquent psycho-physical reactions. The “step” (gradus) in particular is a key marker of indecision, visibly signalling the disconnect between talking the talk (“This bright lustre of kingship ...”, 414) and walking the walk96. At the start of the scene Thyestes’ hesitant movements (“I move reluctant steps”, 420; “With faltering pace”, 421) prompt his son to ask, “What compels you, father, to turn your step back from the sight of your fatherland?” (429-430); by its end, the man capitulates to the child, “Step forward without hesitation” (490)97; between those points, the counter-volitional dynamic plays out in a sustained tension between mind and body. Argos simultaneously attracts and repels (“I see the long-desired dwellings of my homeland ... but now I am relapsing into my fears”, 404-419), for exile has de-hypnotized Thyestes (“This bright lustre of kingship...”)—though not yet made him fully immune to the lure of power98. As Atreus had presciently remarked, “On this side his old passion for power, on the other grim poverty and hard toils, will subdue the man, however toughened by so many troubles” (302-304)99. Thyestes’ observation “My spirit (animus) falters and wants to turn my body (corpus) back” (419-420), first, locates the countervailing pulls in corpus and animus, with the latter potentially retaining control over the body: here the inhibiting impulse is a rational, volitional act emanating from the mind (retro cupit / corpus referre), while the urge to proceed to Argos is represented as a counter-rational, mechanical motion (corpus; moueo ... gradum)100. But as the control function of the animus weakens, body and spirit act increasingly out of sync (this in sharpest contrast to Atreus’ psycho-somatic self-mastery). Collapse of Thyestes’ willpower is registered in the progression from initial hesitation (“My spirit falters”, 419) to further blurring of the animus/corpus hierarchy (“Why, soul, this hesitation? Why wrestle so long with such an easy decision?”, 423-424), to something approaching an act of volition (“My intention is to proceed ...”)—with the inhibiting function now paradoxically displaced from mind to body (“But my body is weak-kneed and faltering”, 436). The “normative” distribution of functions implied in animus ... retro cupit / corpus referre (419-420) is now reversed. And Thyestes’ loss is Atreus gain. “My intention is to proceed, but my body is weak-kneed and faltering, and I am pulled away from the goal I struggle towards” (436-437): this marks an important fugienda petimus-moment, a counter-volitional crisis of will that signifies his entrapment in the tyrant’s master-plan101. And the countervailing forces are such that the process itself becomes part of the punishment: “Why wrestle so long with such an easy decision?” (423-424); “What compels you to turn your step back?” (429-430); “I am pulled away from the goal I struggle towards” (437); “Overcome whatever opposes and thwarts your will” (440).

  • 102 Immane regnum est posse sine regno pati (470). As Tarrant, 1985, p. 155 (ad Thy. 446-470) notes, “T (...)

52It is a mark of Thyestes’ divided self that his impulses proceed not in linear fashion (as with Atreus) but by alternating, contradictory turns. With placet ire (437) the inhibiting will has apparently capitulated—but then young Tantalus’ key term “you can be king (regnare)” is cue to a counter-movement in which the father argues, like a sage, that true kingship is located in the self-sufficient mind (“It is a vast kingdom, to be able to cope without a kingdom”, 470). Yet even here there are ironies, for Thyestes’ meticulous review of the high life he disavows betrays a latent fascination with the fulgor of worldly kingship (446-470)102. Tantalus junior continues to ply his father relentlessly until Thyestes capitulates in a reprise of the drama’s prologue (sequor, 100):

Serum est cauendi tempus in mediis malis.
eatur. unum genitor hoc testor tamen:
ego uos sequor, non duco. (487-489)

It is too late to be careful in the midst of evil. Let us proceed! But this one thing I declare as your father: I follow you, I do not lead.

  • 103 Ben. VI, 43, 4, opinionem quidem et famam eo loco habeamus, tamquam non ducere, sed sequi debeat, “ (...)

53Eatur reverses the earlier misgivings (moueo nolentem gradum), while pivotal sequor/duco articulates the fatal counter-volitional assent: as structural marker in the psychological process, it has the same status as Medea’s climactic ira, qua ducis, sequor (Med. 953). Thyestes’ failure of will is shown when he allows himself to do something instead of commanding it (cf. Marc. 8, 3). Additionally, the ducere/sequi contrast carries a hint of moral propriety103—and since it is here the man who yields to the child, this would add to the irony of the peripeteia.

  • 104 Causam timoris ipse quam ignoro exigis. / nihil timendum uideo, sed tamen timeo (434-435).
  • 105 Aygon (in this volume), following Marchetta, 2010, p. 185-207 and 299-341, argues for conscious dis (...)

54Comparison with Phaedra (or Medea) is instructive. Both are capable of acute auto-analysis, recognizing conflicting forces, akratic impasse, and moral trespass (Phae. 177-180, 602-605; Med. 926-957). Thyestes on the other hand exhibits profound unease and typical symptoms of akrasia, but is unable to identify the locus of his dilemma: “You ask the reason for my fear: I do not know it myself. I see nothing to be feared, but still I am fearful” (434-435)104. Atreus had recognized a latent cupido regni that would lure him back to Argos (288-294), and this is supported by the emphasis on the regnum motif in the exchanges between Thyestes and his son; but Thyestes himself seems unaware (or will not acknowledge)105 what draws him on like a magnet. Hence his susceptibility to pressure from his son. This is akrasia without the introspective clarity of Phaedra or Medea: the template hoc quod uolo / me nolle—where illicit urges (uelle) collide with countervailing scruples (nolle)—applies also to Thyestes, only that the abstract internal rhetoric is now externalized as gesture and visceral reflex.

  • 106 Degl’Innocenti Pierini, 2008, p. 1338-1340.

55The cena Thyestea in act 5 then takes this theme to its spectacular conclusion: in a scenario that resonates with the parable of Damocles and Dionysius106 and where every detail is part of a semiotic system, the outward trappings, discordant gestures and spontaneous, contra-rational reflexes signal Thyestes’ definitive loss of self-control. As in act 3, body and mind pull violently in opposite directions: Thyestes’ rational self tries hard to justify his decision and he exhorts himself to co-operate (921)—but dolor issues powerful counter-commands, producing visible withdrawal symptoms. The resulting tension shows the victim unwittingly playing to the quod nolunt uelint script:

Quid me r e u o c a s festumque u e t a s
celebrare diem, quid flere i u b e s,
n u l l a surgens dolor e x c a u s a?
quis me p r o h i b e t flore decenti
uincire comam, prohibet, prohibet?
uernae capiti f l u x e r e rosae,
pingui madidus crinis amomo
inter s u b i t o s s t e t i t horrores,
imber uultu n o l e n t e cadit,
uenit in medias uoces g e m i t u s. (942-951)

Why do you hold me back and oppose my celebration of this festive day, why command me weep, grief arising for no reason? Who stops me wreathing my hair properly with flowers, stops me, stops me? The spring roses have slipped from my head, my hair, dripping in rich nard, has bristled in sudden shock, a rain of tears falls down my unwilling cheek, amidst my words there comes a groan.

N o l o infelix, sed uagus intra
terror oberrat, s u b i t o s fundunt
oculi fletus, n e c c a u s a s u b e s t.
dolor an metus est? (965-968)

I refuse to be unhappy, but vague terror prowls within me, my eyes pour out these sudden tears, based on no cause. Is it grief or fear?

Sed quid hoc? n o l u n t manus
parere, crescit pondus et dextram g r a u a t;
admotus ipsis Bacchus a labris f u g i t
circaque rictus ore d e c e p t o fluit,
et ipsa t r e p i d o mensa s u b s i l u i t solo. (985-989)

But what is this? My hands refuse to obey, the weight increases and burdens my hand.
When raised, the wine recoils from my very lips, cheats my mouth and flows around my
gaping jaws. The table itself jumps up from the trembling ground.

56In spite of the warning signs in the first two passages, Thyestes cannot pull himself away. Loss of personal autonomy is further highlighted by the emphasis on constraint and inhibition (“hold me back – oppose – command – stops – stops – stops”), emanating now not from the conscious, controlling animus but registered as a visceral, sub-rational reflex external to the spirit. The animus/corpus hierarchy is disabled. And to reinforce the counter-volitional dimension, the wine that cheats Thyestes’ lips (987-989) suggestively replays the punishment of Tantalus (labrisque ab ipsis, 69), the drama’s first victim of coercion.

  • 107 Both Atreus and Thyestes refer to themselves in the third person, as though observing themselves fr (...)

57We noted how counter-volitional dilemmas double as crises of identity, and are resolved only when the protagonist opts for a particular version of himself. So too in Thy., where identity issues relate also to the larger contrast between Atreus and Thyestes as symmetrical types. Atreus from first appearance is obsessed with living up to his identity as tyrannus (176-191, 204-219, 245-248), and that role will be validated by his successful vengeance107. Thyestes, conversely, attempts to break the akratic impasse by negative identity management, not now assuming an ideal persona, but abdicating his former self. The procedure here is the reverse of Antigone’s pectus antiquum aduoca (Phoen. 77) :

  • 108 Thyestes’ image sed iam saeui nubila fati / pelle pointedly echoes Atreus’ gloating discutiam tibi (...)

Sed iam saeui nubila fati
pelle ac miseri temporis omnes
dimitte notas ;108
redeant uultus ad laeta boni,
u e t e r e m ex animo mitte T h y e s t e n. (935-937)

But now dispel the clouds of bitter fate, and put aside all tokens of unhappy days; greet present happiness with joyful countenance, dismiss the old Thyestes from your heart.

  • 109 Eructat. o me caelitum excelsissimum, / regumque regem! (911-912). The art here lies in the exquisi (...)

58Veterem Thyesten designates the sobered exile who spoke the language of Stoic paradox (414-420, 442-454), and rejection of that persona now means that he has succumbed to the falsus fulgor he had earlier disavowed. The elaborate self-deception evinced here, sharply ironic in light of the earlier categories “true/false” (209-212, 415, 446), makes him complicit in his own punishment (in the sense of quod nolunt uelint). The pivotal ueterem ex animo mitte Thyesten is also rhetorically significant and sounds almost like an act of religious conversion, recalling the apostle’s “putting off the old man” (ἀποθέσθαι ... τòν παλαιòν ἄνθρωπον) and “putting on the new” (Eph. 4, 22-24; Rom. 6, 6; Col. 3, 9-10). For Thyestes, however, this marks the peripeteia that will seal his fate: at the moment of his unwitting capitulation to Atreus, he explicitly surrenders also the self-consistency of the true sage (Ep. 34, 4; 111, 4). His memorable line corresponds, in the gestural rhetoric, to his equally memorable belch just before, that had sonorously proclaimed the transition from ascetic to luxuriosus, from “old” to “new” (“He belches! Oh, most exalted of the gods am I, and king of kings!”, 911-912)109—and was duly glossed by the king of kings as fatal loss of self-control (nec satis menti imperat, 919). Thyestes fails signally where Atreus had exhibited super-human enkrateia (496-505). Coercion, shifting identities, control and loss of self-control all converge in the densely suggestive lines of the reluctant banqueter-king: like Tantalus “reassigned” under duress to a new role (13), Thyestes is forced out of sync with himself. In this thematic context, the half-hearted resolve in ueterem ex animo mitte Thyesten captures a profound crisis of fragmentation.

6. Conclusion: Convergence, divergence, coherence

59Even if Seneca did not discover the traditional “Augustinian” concept of will, as Inwood has argued, he did recognize the operation of discrete mechanisms that together prefigure the notion of an executive volitional process. This thesis is confirmed by the evidence of the tragedies, which offer spectacular examples of the failure of will—a symmetrical emphasis that only makes sense in relation to the psychological interests of the prose works. More specifically, tragic akrasia and counter-volitional compulsion, capturing a tension between intellect and impulse, uelle and nolle, intention and outcome, can be read as reflecting, even as they invert, exemplary displays of enkrateia and self-command in the prose (e.g. Stilbo at Const. 5, 6 and Ep. 9, 18-19, or Pastor at Ir. II, 33, 3-6). As one commentator has noted, “Seneca’s tragic characters do not issue their commands in order to strive after ‘moral self-control’; they do so in order to pursue their unique combination of immorality and control” (Star, 2012, p. 74). Paradoxically, the closest we come to the model of Stoic sage in the dramas is through his spectacular inversion in Medea and Atreus. This is not to resuscitate the view that the tragedies were conceived as counter-exempla to reinforce the didactic project of the philosophical prose, only to recall that common psychological interests inform both. The binaries ducere/sequi and nolle/uelle, indices in the prose of moral priorities or metaphysical insight—as famously in Seneca’s adaptation of Cleanthes’ hymn (Ep. 107, 11)—in the tragedies typically signal psychological conflict in characters caught between visceral passion (uelle) and countervailing inhibition (nolle). Phaedra’s formulation is emblematic: “I call all you gods to witness that this thing I want—I do not want” (Phae. 604‑605).

60Pivotal counter-volitional moments double as crises of selfhood and identity, resolved when the subject affirms (or rejects) a particular version of self in a process akin to modern motivational psychology: Theseus and Amphitryon attempt to re-constitute Hercules by re-defining his heroic uirtus (nunc Hercule opus est, “Now there is a call for Hercules”, Herc. F. 1239); Antigone exhorts Oedipus to reclaim his old nature (pectus antiquum aduoca, “Summon up your old-time courage”, Phoen. 77); Thyestes consciously abdicates his enlightened persona (ueterem ex animo mitte Thyesten, “Dismiss from your heart the old Thyestes”, Thy. 937); Medea embraces her former Colchian identity, with the mater now exponentially extending the misdeeds of the puella (Med. 908-910); Phaedra wants it both ways, with her attempt to collapse two diametrical roles producing only cognitive dissonance. The relentless focus on pathological anguish and anxiety is another aspect of the tragedies’ obsession with Schmerz und Tod, making these scenes psychological counterparts to the celebrated ekphraseis on death and bodily maiming (the sparagmos of Hippolytus, Oedipus’ self-blinding, the deaths of Astyanax and Polyxena). The tyrant captures the calculus and aesthetics of counter-volition in his quod nolunt uelint; but even in the absence of an external tyrant-figure like Atreus or Lycus, similar effects are produced by the tyranny of choice, inner compulsion and resistance.

61The dramas bristle with paradox to drive home the point that in the tragic mundus peruersus all things are driven to embrace their opposites—Oedipus’ despairing cry profuge iamdudum ocius–/ uel ad parentes, “Quick, escape—even to your parents” (Oed. 80-81); Jason’s classic dilemma, remedia quotiens inuenit nobis deus / periculis peiora, “How often god finds us remedies worse than the dangers” (Med. 433-434); the absurd circularity in multi ad fatum uenere suum / dum fata timent, “Many have come upon their fate through fear of fate” (Oed. 993-994), or scelus fugiens suum / nouumque faciens, “Fleeing from her own crime and committing a new one” (Phoen. 23-24); the victor vanquished (Ag. 39-43, 869), the hunter hunted, now entangled in his own snares (Oed. 775-759, Phae. 1085-1087). Aprosdoketon here effectively captures the thwarted intention, the unforeseen reversals, the paradoxical dislocations in a world out of joint where the subject has lost or forfeited control over self and destiny (Lefèvre, 2002b, p. 217-229). The rhetoric and paradoxes of counter-volition, analogously, direct the focus inwards and signal the contradictory pulls and the fissured self. Oxymora of the type fugienda petimus, “We seek what should be shunned” (Phae. 699), si abominanda casus optanda efficit, “If fortune makes us desire what we detest” (Phae. 1120), quod nolunt uelint, “Let them want what they do not want” (Thy. 212), alioque quam quo nitor abductus feror, “I am pulled away from the goal I struggle towards” (Thy. 437) identify the psychological epicentre of the seismic external convulsions. Even attempts at self-realisation produce their own unintended paradoxes—Antigone’s idealistic appeal pectus antiquum aduoca, “Summon up your old-time courage” (Phoen. 77), Amphitryon’s nunc Hercule opus est, “Now there is a call for Hercules” (Herc. F. 1239), or the regressive Medea nunc sum, “Now I am Medea” (Med. 910).

  • 110 Segal, 1984, p. 313. Cf. Shelton, 1979, p. 54, “His style is a style of rhetorical abundance, perha (...)

62Counter-volitional conflict is consistently represented with a precision that recalls the diagnostic gaze of the prose works. De Ira famously describes the external symptoms of the iratus (I, 1, 3-4) and offers also an aetiology of anger, from initial impression of injury to conscious assent to full-blown, uncontrollable rage (2, 4). In the tragedies the clinical gaze conjoins with a typical baroque tendency towards “a plethora of detail, the mood of pathos, violence and grandiosity”110 to produce a distinct subset of literary psychodrama. It was widely held in antiquity that the soul’s constitution could be read from the face (e.g. Ag. 128)—as conversely character was inscribed in the soul (Pl. Grg., 524 e; Tac., Ann. VI, 6, 2). Seneca’s baroque art depicts the nuanced physical symptoms, and sounds out the deep structures of psychological conflict; variants of the dramatic psychogram feature in all the tragedies. It would be no exaggeration to claim that within this group the counter-volitional moments represent one of the distinctive Senecan elements in Senecan tragedy.

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Notes

1 Boyle, 1987, p. 87; cf. Trabert, 1953; Regenbogen, 1961, p. 432-442; Liebermann, 1974, p. 86-95.

2 English translations are adapted from Fitch, 2002-2004.

3 So (e.g.) Tarrant, 1985, p. 47, 152 (ad Thy. 420); Giancotti, 1986, p. 33-36; Monteleone, 1991, p. 241-243; and most recently Marchetta, 2010, p. 65-88, 185-190.

4 See, most recently, Fitch and McElduff, 2002.

5 Choice and failure of will are also attracting more attention in the recent philosophical and psychological literature, e.g. Mele, 1987 and 2001; Holton, 2009; Salecl, 2010.

6 Inwood, 2000; and further Zöller, 2003; Fuhrer, 2010.

7 Maltz, 1960, p. v, and Sommer, 2000, p. 151 respectively.

8 Fischer, 2008, p. 69-73 offers a review of the debate, with some earlier literature, to which add also: (positive interpretation of Hercules) Anliker, 1960, p. 45-51; Caviglia, 1979, p. 13-83; Lawall, 1983; Grimal, 1986; Motto and Clark, 1988, p. 261-294; Viansino, 2007, p. 100-120; (negative interpretation) Giancotti, 1953, p. 129-142; Seidensticker, 1969, p. 109-119; Braden, 1970, p. 23-25; Pettine, 1974, p. 61-128; Timpanaro, 1981, p. 113-130; Pratt, 1983, p. 115-121, 127; Boyle, 1997, p. 106-111 (“a dramatic critique of the central Roman value, uirtus”, p. 106); Palmieri, 1999, p. 131-149. My own view is that Hercules is conceived as victim of Juno, who misrepresents his intentions and inflicts madness externally, but that accusations of hybris are questionable and that the heroic self-representation of the uir magnus is justified (cf. Heldmann, 1974, p. 56); for reasons set out below I hesitate to read the final scene as quasi-philosophical allegory.

9 E.g. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 117-118; Zintzen, 1972, p. 205-206; Shelton, 1978, p. 68-70; Wellmann-Bretzigheimer, 1978, p. 127-127; Boyle, 1997, p. 110. Multiple thematic ironies and responsions in the final act are noted by Seidensticker, 1969, p. 115-119; Caviglia, 1979, p. 62-64; Lawall, 1983, p. 21-23; Motto and Clark, 1988, p. 286-293.

10 Braden, 1993, p. 245-249.

11 Cuncta iam amisi bona, / mentem a r m a f a m a m coniugem natos m a n u s, / etiam furorem. nemo polluto queat / animo mederi: morte sanandum est scelus (1259-1262).

12 Further Bertoli, 1986, p. 75-81.

13 Cf. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 95-97; Braden, 1970, p. 16-17; Shelton, 1979, p. 65-66; Segal, 1982; Petrone, 1988, p. 61-66; Fitch and McElduff, 2002, p. 24-27.

14 Monstrum impium saeuumque et immite ac ferum (1280) ; agedum, dextra, conare aggredi / ingens opus, labore bis seno amplius (1281-1282). Cf. Fitch, 1987, p. 443 (ad loc.): “Once again Hercules is reducing the situation to the formula of the labors”.

15 E.g. manus (58, 114, 122, 247, 469, 566, 614-615, 918-919, 1103), dextera (800, 895, 989, 1011, 1281), lacerti (225, 1102), umeri (71, 624-625); and note also the adjectives audaces manus (247), notas manus (469), manantes ... / manus cruenta caede (918-919), uictrice dextera (800), ultrice dextra (895). Boyle, 1997, p. 106 well remarks that “uirtus is dramatised pervasively in this play as ‘manliness’ or ‘valour’ in its crudest and most popular sense, namely physical prowess and power, independent of any intellectual or moral quality ... Indeed for Hercules ... uirtus is intimately bound to physical force, to what his ‘hands’ can do. The words manus ... and dextra ... dominate the linguistic texture of this play as of no other”. Typical verbs for Herculean activity include rumpere and compounds (57, 237, 280, 287, 290, 566, 1000), effringere (47), diruere (283), scindere (285) and euertere (998).

16 Succurre, genitor; siue te pietas mouet / ... siue uiolatum decus u i r t u t i s. effer arma (1269-1271); surge et aduersa i m p e t u / perfringe s o l i t o. nunc tuum nulli imparem / animum malo r e s u m e, nunc magna tibi / u i r t u t e agendum est: Herculem irasci ueta (1274-1277).

17 S u c c u m b e , uirtus, p e r f e r imperium patris. / eat ad labores hic quoque Herculeos labor: /
u i u a m u s
(1315-1317). On the typology of the “approbation explicite”, see Aygon in this volume.

18 To that extent Juno’s prediction was correct (though in a way she did not realize): quaeris Alcidae parem? / nemo est nisi ipse (84-85).

19 See Maltz, 1960, p. 33-34.

20 Bella iam secum gerat (85); et cupiat mori / ab inferis reuersus (116-117); miserum ueta perire, felicem iube (513). Braden, 1993, p. 257 well remarks that “Amphitryon has unwittingly applied Lycus’ calculus of cruelty: miserum ueta perire, felicem iube ... Hercules’ hell has not been alleviated but made more conclusive”.

21 E.g. Pratt, 1983, p. 121: “The father’s desolation brings Hercules to new insights ... Thus Hercules moves from audacity, violence, madness, and egoism to rationality and altruism ...”; similarly Seidensticker, 1969, p. 118; Galinsky, 1972, p. 173; Shelton, 1978, p. 69; Caviglia, 1979, p. 61-62; Lawall, 1983, p. 15-26, esp. 21 and 23; Zwierlein, 1984, p. 29.

22 Thus Fitch, 1979, p. 247; Timpanaro, 1981, p. 123-124; Palmieri, 1999, p. 131-132, 143-144. With Amphitryon’s gesture and its effect, compare the analogous operatics of Anchises at Verg., Aen. II, 644-649.

23 Ecce iam facies scelus / uolens sciensque (1300-1301) ; sic statue, quidquid statuis, ut causam tuam / famamque in arto stare et ancipiti scias : / aut uiuis aut occidis (1306-1308). Cf. Fitch, 1979, p. 244-245; 1987, p. 35-38. As Braden, 1993, p. 255 paraphrases: “That is, if you do not decide to live, I will see to it that you are remembered as the murderer of your father ... [Hercules] bows to the evidence that Amphitryon holds dangerous power over his posthumous reputation”.

24 Praeter haec adhuc inuenies genus aliud hominum ... eorum, qui cogi ad rectum compellique possunt, quibus non duce tantum opus sit, sed adiutore et, ut ita dicam, coactore (Ep. 52, 4).

25 Ubique notus perdidi exilio locum (1331) ; senectae parce desertae, precor, / annisque fessis (1249-1250).

26 Cf. Anliker, 1960, p. 91; Pettine, 1974, p. 106-110; Timpanaro, 1981, p. 124; Palmieri, 1999, p. 147-148. So far from having won an inner “victory over himself” (e.g. Giancotti, 1953, p. 142; Seidensticker, 1969, p. 118; Caviglia, 1979, p. 82; Motto and Clark, 1988, p. 286), Hercules remains a “prisoner of himself”, condemned in perpetuity (Pettine, 1974, p. 108).

27 The only time the blind man “sees” is when he hallucinates: nata, genitorem uides? / ego uideo (43-44).

28 Cf. Mader, 2010, p. 293-295.

29 Desere infaustum patrem. / in recta quid deflectis errantem gradum? / permitte labi; melius inueniam uiam, / quam quaero, solus, quae me ab hac uita extrahat (3-5). With deflectis errantem gradum (4) compare Antigone’s later sed flecte mentem (77): changing direction and changing the mind are isomorphic phenomena.

30 Quid me, nata, pestifero tenes / amore uinctum? quid tenes?, (38-39); uis nulla, genitor, a tuo nostram manum / corpore resoluet, nemo me comitem tibi / eripiet umquam, (51-53); castam manum, (222). With reference to Antigone, manus signifies filial devotion; in the case of Oedipus, it is a constant reminder of his horrendous past (8, 91-93, 154-155, 173, 217).

31 So also the oxymoron peccas honesta mente, pietatem uocas / patrem insepultum trahere (97-98), again in reference to Antigone’s piety.

32 Genitor uocat. / sequor, sequor, (39-40). The conjunctions ducere/sequi, nolle/uelle and resultant anguish of the reluctant subject ironically echo Seneca’s paraphrase of Cleanthes’ hymn: duc, o parens celsique dominator poli, / quocumque placuit: nulla parendi mora est; / adsum impiger. fac nolle, comitabor gemens / malusque patiar, facere quod licuit bono. / ducunt uolentem fata, nolentem trahunt, “Lead me, father and master of lofty heaven, wherever you wish. I obey without hesitation, I am ready and eager. And if I am unwilling, still shall I follow groaning, and suffer in my wickedness what I might have done as a good man. For the fates lead the willing, but drag the unwilling along” (Ep. 107, 11). Antigone plays the higher power, while Oedipus’ reluctant acceptance of her leadership is less a case of the uolens following than the nolens being dragged—here a paradoxical unwilling willingness.

33 Cf. the “therapeutic” persistence at Ep. 89, 19: remedia ante uultis quam uitia desinere? ego uero eo magis dicam et, quia recusatis, perseuerabo ... dicam etiam inuitis profutura, “Do you want my remedies to stop before your vices? I shall indeed speak of them all the more and persevere because you object ... I shall speak words that will help men even against their will”.

34 Quid perdis ultra uerba ? quid pectus ferum / mollire temptas precibus ? (140-141) ; quid prece indomitum domas ? / unum hoc habet fortuna quo possim capi / inuictus aliis ; sola tu affectus potes / mollire duros (307‑310). The “softening” that leads Oedipus to repudiate death (mollire duros, 310) reverses his earlier wish for a fiery death (pectusque soluam durum et in cinerem dabo / hoc quidquid in me uiuit, 113-114).

35 Iubente te uel uiuet (319). The effect of the aprosdoketon is heightened by triple anaphora on iubente te and by the dramatic pause after the half-verse 319: “Edipo rimane come attonito sotto il peso di qual doloroso assenso” (Marchetta, 2010, p. 71).

36 Compare Anchises’ rhetoric of submission in Vergil, when the obstinate senex abandons his death-wish and submits to a higher will: iam iam nulla mora est; s e q u o r et qua d u c i t i s adsum, / di patrii ... / c e d o equidem n e c, nate, tibi comes ire r e c u s o, “No more delay now; now I follow, and wherever you lead, O gods of my fathers, there I am ... I yield and do not refuse to go with you, my son, as your companion” (Aen. II, 701-704). As with Oedipus, ducere/sequi implies moral propriety (Hor., Epist. I, 10, 47-48 ; Sen., Ben. VI, 43, 3 ; Prou. 5, 4).

37 Pectus antiquum aduoca (77) ; parens magnanime (182) ; nata, quid genibus meis / fles aduoluta ? (306-307). Oedipus is “vinto ma non convinto” (Marchetta, 2010, p. 70).

38 Discede a patre, / discede uirgo. timeo post matrem omnia (49-50). Further Mader, 2010, p. 305-307. Situated just before the amatory topoi, the juxtaposition sola tu affectus potes / m o l l i r e d u r o s (310) perhaps recalls the distinctive mollis/durus opposition of elegiac poetics, as (e.g.) Prop. 1.7, with Stroh, 1971, p. 18-20: another pointer, perhaps, to the (subconscious) erotic turn Oedipus’ rhetoric is taking.

39 Cf. Petrone, 1988-1989, p. 252-255; Mader, 2010, p. 307-308.

40 Iuuat excitatas consequi cursu feras / et rigida molli gaesa iaculari manu (110-111) ; Thesea coniunx, clara progenies Iouis, / n e f a n d o c a s t o pectore exturba ocius (129-130) ; expelle facinus mente castifica horridum (169).

41 Literary precedents include Eur., Hipp. 380-381, τὰ χρήστἐπιστάμεθα καὶ γιγνώσκομεν, / οὐκ ἐκπονοῦμεν δ’, “We understand and we can discern what is right, but don’t accomplish it”; Med. 1078-1078, καὶ μανθάνω μὲν οἷα δρᾶν μέλλω κακά, / θυμὸς δὲ κρείσσων τῶν ἐμῶν βουλευμάτων, “And I understand what terrible crimes I am about to commit, but passion overrules my resolutions”; Ov., Met. VII, 17-21, excute uirgineo conceptas pectore flammas, / si potes, infelix. si possem, sanior essem; / sed trahit inuitam noua uis, aliudque cupido, / mens aliud suadet; uideo meliora proboque, / deteriora sequor, “Dash out the flames kindled within your virgin breast, if you can, unhappy one! If I could, I would be better off. But some strange force drags me against my will, and desire persuades me to do one thing, the mind another. I see and approve of the better course, but follow the worse”; with Liebermann, 1974, p. 86-89; Pettine, 1974, p. 172-173; Binroth-Bank, 1997; Auhagen, 1999, p. 131-156; Nugent, 2008. On Phaedra’s self-analytical clarity Lefèvre, 1969, p. 149 (= 1972, p. 363) remarks, “Diese Einsicht in das Fehlen ist für Senecas dramatisches Werk durchaus ungewöhnlich, da der Stoiker das Unterliegen unter die Affekte zumeist mit der Blindheit der Menschen in Verbindung brachte, wie es bei Theseus, Hippolytus oder Agamemnon der Fall ist”.

42 Cf. Liebermann, 1974, p. 87-88; Calabrese, 2009, p. 32-33. On the imagery of indecision, see Heldmann, 1974, p. 136; Tietze Larson, 1987 and 1994, p. 29, 99-100; and esp. Aygon, 2004, p. 95-101. Since the tertium comparationis is control, the nautical simile is also reversible: at 181-185 it indexes Phaedra’s loss of control, later it dramatizes Hippolytus’ skillful (but futile) attempt to assert control over his stampeding horses: at ille, qualis turbido rector mari / ratem retentat, ne det obliquum latus, / et arte fluctum fallit, haud aliter citos / currus gubernat, “But as a helmsman holds a ship steady in a stormy sea, lest it turn broadside, and cheats the wave with his skill, just so he steers the speeding chariot” (1072-1075).

43 Vicit ac regnat furor, / potensque tota mente dominatur d e u s (184-185); hic uolucer omni pollet in terra impotens (186-194); with Heldmann, 1974, p. 137-144. For the spurious self-justification, cf. Helen’s argument at Hom., Od. IV, 259-264 ; Eur., Tr. 981-991.

44 Honesta primum est u e l l e nec labi uia, / pudor est secundus n o s s e peccandi modum (140-141) ; pars sanitatis u e l l e sanari fuit (249).

45 Cf. Heldmann, 1974, p. 130. Velle and uoluntas: pars magna bonitatis est uelle fieri bonum, “The greater part of goodness is the will to become good” ( Ep. 34, 3); magna pars est profectus uelle proficere, “The greater part of progress is the will to progress” (71, 36); quid tibi opus est ut bonus sis? uelle, “What do you need to be good? To want it” (80, 4); actio recta non erit, nisi recta fuerit uoluntas, ab hac enim est actio. rursus uoluntas non erit recta, nisi habitus animi rectus fuerit, ab hoc enim est uoluntas, “Conduct will not be right unless the will is right, for this is the source of conduct. Nor again can the will be right unless the attitude of mind is right, for this is the source of the will” (95, 57); with discussion in Inwood, 2000, p. 137-142; Zöller, 2003; Fuhrer, 2010.

46 Maius est monstro nefas: / nam monstra f a t o, m o r i b u s scelera imputes (143-144). On the tension fate/responsibility, see Heldmann, 1974, p. 131-132; Giancotti, 1986, p. 19-36. The pairing appears again in the nurse’s appeal to Hipploytus: quem fata cogunt, ille cum uenia est miser;/ at si quis ultro se malis offert uolens / seque ipse torquet, perdere est dignus bona / quis nescit uti, “A person coerced by fate may be forgiven for being unhappy. But if someone willingly volunteers for suffering and torments himself, he deserves to lose the good things he is incapable of using” (440-443).

47 As (e.g.) Prou. 2, 4, non quid, sed quemadmodum feras, interest, “Not what you endure, but how you endure, is important”; further Lefèvre, 1966 and 1973.

48 Quid poena praesens, conscius mentis pauor / animusque culpa plenus et semet timens ? (162-163).

49 Aude, anime, tempta, perage mandatum tuum. / intrepida constent uerba... / ...en, incipe, anime ! (592-599)

50 Cf. Biondi, 1989, p. 67, “La uoluntas della passione (quod uolo) che la precipita verso il crimen della confessione d’amore a Ippolito, e la uoluntas della ratio (me nolle) che la riscatterà fino alla confessione della colpa a Teseo” ; Calabrese, 2009, p. 59-60 ; Marchetta, 2010, p. 71-80, “il conflitto fra il uelle del furor e il nolle della bona mens” (79) ; Fuhrer, 2010, p. 79, “Die Volition des nolle ist durch ihre moralischen Skrupel verursacht, die Volition des uelle von ihrem Affekt geleitet. Gemäß der Zuweisung der Funktionen von uelle une nolle in epist. 67, 2 ... könnte man sagen, dass sie um das nolle debere weiß, dass ihr aber der Affekt das uelle vorschreibt”. Hippolytus then takes up the nolle/uelle tension in his innocent question, animusne c u p i e n s aliquid effari n e q u i t? (606).

51 “Qui lo stupor [607] indica come il blocaggio delle facoltà psico-fisiche” (Marchetta, 2010, p. 80). The same reaction at Thy. 421-422, pigro (quid hoc est?) genitor incessu stupet / uultumque uersat seque in incerto tenet, “What is this? My father hesitates, he looks around, unsure of himself, uncertain”.

52 Dimoue uocis moras (587) — intrepida uerba (593) — ora (602) — uerbis (602) — uocem (603) — effari (606) — loquuntur (607) — auribus (608). The lover’s speechlessness at (e.g.) Cat. 51, 9; Verg., Aen. IV, 76. Phaedra’s loss of speech also at Ov. Her. 4.7-8 (there however to support the epistolary fiction). Loss of voice as symptom of akrasia also at Ov., Met. X, 420-422 (Myrrha).

53 Libet loqui pigetque (637); fugienda petimus (699). The latter at (e.g.) Cic., Ac. I, 18; Fin. I, 23; Tusc. V, 68; Hor., Sat. I, 2, 75; 3.114.

54 Cf. Fitch and McElduff, 2002, p. 32-35.

55 Miscere thalamos patris et nati apparas / uteroque prolem capere confusam impio? (171-172); remouete, famulae, purpura atque auro inlitas / uestes (387-388). Similarly the transvestite motif at Thy. 524-527, 955‑957 to externalize the victim’s fatal “conversion” from his earlier position (414-418).

56 Ambigua uoce uerba perplexa iacis (639).

57 Cf. Calabrese, 2009, p. 62-67. The semantic play is a sop to a guilty conscience, as with Ovid’s Byblis and Myrrha (Mader, 2012).

58 Et te merebor esse ne uiduam putes / ac tibi parentis ipse supplebo locum (632-633); o spes amantum credula, o fallax Amor! (634). As Hill, 2003, p. 167 aptly remarks, “Phaedra hears the innocuous statement as an improbable glissement between the language of politics and the language of passion, obviating the need for her to state this linkage directly”.

59 Est genitor in te totus (658) ; respersa nulla labe et intacta, innocens / tibi mutor uni (668-669).

60 Full discussion in Hill, 2003, p. 159-175.

61 Procul i m p u d i c o s corpore a c a s t o amoue / tactus (704-705).

62 On the possible sexual pun in immoriar, see Coffey and Mayer, 1990, p. 154 (ad Phae. 712).

63 In the play’s final act, the two strands are again separated by Phaedra herself: morere, si casta es, uiro; / si incesta, amori, “Die—if you are chaste, for your husband; if unchaste, for your love” (1184-1185). Coffey and Mayer, 1990, p. 189-190 (ad loc.) gloss: “She must die whether she is chaste or unchaste: if she is still chaste and was not raped by Hippolytus then she must die to recompense Theseus for the unnecessary loss of his son; but if she was Hippolytus’ lover then she has to die to join him below”.

64 Abscede, u i u e, ne quid exores (713).

65 See further Calabrese, 2009, p. 103-127 for discussion of the “embedded” Theseus-Hippolytus tragedy.

66 Theseus’ paroxysmal vow to pursue Hippolytus through every region of the world (929-941) also symmetrically inverts Phaedra’s (embryonic) “to the ends of the earth” gesture (613-616; cf. Phoen. 311‑319).

67 Fer abominandam nunc opem nato, parens (948).

68 οὔθἥδομαι τοῖσδ οὔτἐπάχθομαι κακοῖς (Hipp. 1260).

69 Trabert, 1953, p. 46-48; Liebermann, 1974, p. 190-193; Shelton, 1979, p. 55-56; Gill, 1987; 1996, p. 226‑239; 1997; 2006, p. 421-435; 2009, p. 66-76; Auhagen, 1999, p. 211-215.

70 Formally Seneca’s rhetoric of self-division, juxtaposing discordant roles and conflicting emotions (materque tota coniuge expulsa redit, Med. 28; ira pietatem fugat / iramque pietas, 943-944), builds on the Ovidian tradition: Medea torn between ratio and furor, mens and cupido (Met. VII, 10-21), Procne and Althaea between the roles of mater and soror (VI, 633; VIII, 463-464, 475, 499-500, 506-509), Myrrha between filia and amans, pudor and cupido (X, 336-340, 371-372). See further Tarrant, 1976, p. 199-200 (ad Ag. 132ff.); Stein, 2004; Nugent, 2008; Mader, 2012.

71 Quid, anime, cessas ? (895) ; incumbe in iras teque languentem excita (902) ; quid, anime, titubas ? (937) ; cor pepulit horror, membra torpescunt gelu / pectusque tremuit (926-927) ; ora quid lacrimae rigant ? (937) ; uariam, nunc huc ... nunc illuc, diducit, anceps, incertam, fluctus ... discordes, dubium, fluctuatur (937-944).

72 Et cupio et nequeo (Met. VIII, 506) ; ira, qua ducis, sequor (Med. 953). Sequor/duco: Ov., Her. 12, 209, quo fert ira, sequar. So also Tantalus’ submission to the Fury (sequor, Thy. 100) and Thyestes’ capitulation to his sons (ego uos sequor, non duco, Thy. 289); in Phoen., the “leading/following” syzygy has both literal and metaphorical meaning.

73 Quid nunc moraris, anime ? quid dubitas ? potens / iam cecidit ira ? paenitet facti, pudet. / quid, misera, feci ?... / ... uoluptas magna me i n u i t a m subit, / et ecce crescit (988-992) ; quam te colimus inuiti quoque ! (Phae.1116). — Medea’s self-division is mirrored in Jason’s own dilemma—si uellem
f i d e m / praestare meritis coniugis, l e t o fuit / caput offerendum
, “If I wanted to keep faith with my wife as she deserves, I would have to yield up my life” (434-436)—framed as a choice between keeping faith to Medea and staying alive himself (a marriage alliance with the Corinthian royal house to shield him from Acastus, son of Pelias: 415, 521, 525-526). As he continues, the alternatives “faith to Medea/danger from Acastus” (434-436) become “faith to Medea/father-love” (non t i m o r uicit f i d e m , / sed trepida p i e t a s; quippe sequerentur necem / proles parentum, “It was not fear that prevailed over faith, but paternal anxiety”, 437-439)—and he hopes Medea too will privilege mater over coniunx: consulere natis ... quam thalamis (443). As in Medea’s monologue, Jason’s dilemma produces sharp anguish, remedia quotiens inuenit nobis deus / periculis peiora, “How often god finds us remedies worse than the dangers” (433-434): an ironically prescient lament. On Jason’s dilemma, see Heldmann, 1974, p. 175-177; Zwierlein, 2004, p. 107-112.

74 Hac qua r e c u s a s , qua d o l e s , ferrum exigam (1006).

75 Medea superest (166), Medea fiam (171), Medea nunc sum (910). Cf. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 95-97; Liebermann, 1974, p. 189; Kullmann, 1970, p. 161-164; Guastella, 2001, p. 209-210.

76 Liebermann, 1974, p. 162; Galimberti-Biffino, 1996.

77 Tu, tu malorum machinatrix facinorum, / cui feminae nequitia, ad audendum omnia / robur uirile est, nulla famae memoria, / egredere (266-269).

78 Nvt. Rex est timendus. Me. Rex meus fuerat pater ... (168-176); Braden, 1970, p. 20; cf. Seidensticker, 1969, p. 93-95.

79 Ira, qua ducis, sequor (953); ἄγου δέ μ’, Ζεῦ, καὶ σύ γ πεπρωμένη, / ὅποι ποθὑμῖν εἰμὶ διατεταγμένος, / ὡς ἕψομαι γἄοκνος (SVF I, 527). On the triumphant Medea nunc sum (910), Maurach, 1966, p. 137 (= Lefèvre [ed.], 1972, p. 312-313) notes: “Ihr Selbstwerden ist die Übereinstimmung mit ihrem früheren Tun, und das waren Verbrechen. Sie ist also das genaue Gegenbild zum Philosophen”; she becomes “das Bild des pervertierten Selbstgewordenseins” (p. 140). Medea as symmetrical inversion of the sapiens: Mazzoli, 1997; Lefèvre, 1997b, p. 75-78; 2000; 2002a, p. 108-109. It is significant that Medea and Atreus—albeit as grotesque travesties—are as close as we get to the Stoic sage in the dramas: Thyestes and Oedipus fail signally on these same criteria (Thy. 414-419, 442-454; Phoen. 188-196; Oed. 81-86).

80 Rabbow, 1954, p. 189-213; Edwards, 2008; Star, 2012, p. 23-83.

81 P a r i a narrentur tua / repudia thalamis (52-53); scelera te hortentur tua / et cuncta r e d e a n t (129‑130).

82 Erepto patre / patria atque regno (118-119); abiere Colchi ... / nihilque superest opibus e tantis tibi (164‑165); tibi patria cessit, tibi pater frater pudor (487); iam iam recepi sceptra germanum patrem, / spoliumque Colchi pecudis auratae tenent; / rediere regna, rapta uirginitas redit (982-984).

83 On the thematic symmetry of Medea’s revenge, where divorce answers marriage point for point (52-53, 130), see further Haß, 1997; Dupont, 2000, p. 23-25, 33-34; and especially Guastella, 2001. The latter explicates Medea’s logic of revenge by reference to Roman matrimonial exchange: Medea’s original losses (regnum, pater, frater, patria, pudor) are construed as metaphorical dowry to Jason—which she reclaims at the repudium (hac dote nupsi. redde fugienti sua, 489). Seneca’s Medea “not only expects the return of her ‘dowry’ but constructs her revenge in such a way that she can paradoxically claim that she has in fact received compensation” (Guastella, 2001, p. 208); hence her claim to have requited the earlier injuries (982-87). “If only in the logic of a paradoxical metaphor, Medea has recouped her losses; her revenge creates the illusion that ‘everything has come back’, rediere/redit (984)” (ibid., p. 216-17). Compare the analogous logic of Cassandra’s symbolic “victory” at Ag. 869-871, uicimus uicti Phryges. / bene est, r e s u r g i s Troia; traxisti iacens / pares Mycenas, terga dat uictor tuus, “We, the conquered Phrygians, have conquered! Good, Troy, you rise again. In your fall you brought to equal ruin your adversary Mycenae: your conqueror turns and runs”; with Lefèvre, 1966, p. 491-492 (= 1972, p. 469-471); Liebermann, 1974, p. 222 n. 65.

84 Liebermann, 1974, p. 191 ; Auhagen, 1999, p. 211 ; Zwierlein, 2004, p. 106.

85 Stabo et arcebo scelus (95) ; quis inferorum sede ab infausta extrahit ? (1); siste, quo praeceps ruis? (67); sequor (100).

86 In quod malum transcribor? (13); me pati poenas decet, / non esse poenam (86-87).

87 Cf. Mader, 1998, p. 38-41; Schiesaro, 2003, p. 162, “Atreus aspires to complete control over his people’s reactions, and is aware that force can turn dissent into consent, that his superior will can bend an initially uncooperative mind”; Rosati, 2011, p. 276-278. So too the enforced gaze of the unwilling spectator: mixtus in Bacchum cruor / s p e c t a n t e t e potetur, “Let blood mingled with wine be drunk while you watch” (65‑66); utinam quidem tenere fugientes deos / possem et c o a c t o s trahere, “Would that I might keep the gods from flight and forcefully drag them back” (893-894). On the quod nolunt uelint principle, Atreus “would like to treat the gods as he does his own subjects, forcing them to do what they most want to avoid” (Tarrant, 1985, p. 218 ad loc.). Cf. Med. 992-993.

88 On Atreus as aesthete, see (e.g.) Lefèvre, 1981; Picone, 1984, p. 51-53, 97-112; Littlewood, 2004, p. 226‑240; Mader, 2010b; Marchetta, 2010, p. 98-100, 136-138.

89 Resonating with arguments from Seneca’s own Clem.: Rose, 1987, p. 117-119; Mader, 1998, p. 34‑37; Manuwald, 2003; Schiesaro, 2003, p. 159-162.

90 Cf. Mader, 1998. Enforced complicity makes the satellite both patient and agent in the self-debasing charade—as in Tantalus’ remark me pati poenas decet, / non esse poenam (86-87), and prefiguring the dilemma of Thyestes himself.

91 On Atreus as inverted uir sapiens, see Monteleone, 1991, p. 361-367; Lefèvre, 1997a.

92 The lively inner dynamic is captured in the parallel movements from restraint to breaking free (loro tenetur – paret – pugnat – uocat / dominum morantem – seque retinenti eripit), distance to proximity (procul – praeda cum propior fuit), silence to baying (tacito ... rostro – gemitu).

93 Cf. Med. 866-867, frenare nescit iras / Medea, “Medea cannot reign in her feelings of anger”; Ag. 203, frena temet et siste impetus; HO 277, frena dolorem; also Herc. F. 975, compesce dementem impetum; Med. 174, compesce uerba, parce iam, demens; Phae. 404, compesce amoris impii flammas.

94 Self-mastery is shown also in his ability to suppress visible signs of emotion, an act requiring monumental effort; cf. Med. 155-156, leuis est dolor qui capere consilium potest / et clepere sese; magna non latitant mala; Mader, 2002, p. 339-340.

95 Rose, 1987, p. 123; cf. Tarrant, 1985, p. 47, 152 (ad Thy. 420).

96 Clarus hic regni nitor (414). Marchetta, 2010, p. 184-190 is the fullest discussion of this crucial scene.

97 Moueo nolentem gradum (420); pigro... incessu (421); quae causa cogit, genitor, a patria gradum / referre uisa? (429-430); perge non dubio gradu (490). At 490, the imperative perge parallels the Fury’s opening words to Tantalus, perge, detestabilis / umbra (23-24): both Tantalus and Thyestes are reluctant agents who have “to be prodded to act against [their] judgment” (Tarrant, 1985, p. 47).

98 O p t a t a patriae tecta ... cerno — nunc contra in m e t u s / reuoluor (404-419); clarus hic regni nitor (414). Cf. Marchetta, 2010, p. 330-334.

99 Hinc uetus regni furor, / illinc egestas tristis ac durus labor / quamuis rigentem tot malis [~ 417‑418, 446‑454] subigent uirum (302-304).

100 Animus haeret ac retro cupit / corpus referre (419-420). For animus as master over the body, cf. Clem. I, 3, 5, totum corpus animo deseruit, “the whole body is the servant of the mind”; Ep. 90, 19; 114, 23; NQ VII, 25, 2. Thyestes’ dilemma may be parsed by the nolle/uelle criteria of Phae. (above, n. 50): inhibition as rational resolve (nolle ~ bona mens) against the irrational physical urge to proceed to Argos (uelle ~ uetus regni furor). The only qualification is that the dichotomy is here not as clear-cut as in Phae.—for now both rational resolve and irrational urge are indecisive (animus haeret; nolentem gradum), this itself an indication of Thyestes’ inner division. Marchetta, 2010, p. 189 notes the analogy with hoc quod uolo / me nolle (Pha. 604‑605), but explains Thyestes’ rational nolle by reference to paranoid consciousness of his prior scelera.

101 Quid, anime, pendes, quidue consilium diu / tam facile torques ? (423-424) ; placet ire, pigris membra sed genibus labant / alioque quam quo nitor abductus feror (437-437). The dilemma is further nuanced by the marine simile that follows, sic concitam remige et uelo ratem / aestus resistens remigi uelo refert, “Just so a ship, urged on by oar and sail, is carried back by the tide resisting oar and sail” (438-439). Contrast Phae. 177‑185: there the simile of the sailor’s futile efforts against the waves connotes Phaedra’s ineffective resistance against irresistible desire (the illicit uelle); here (Thy. 438-439) the same image showcases Thyestes’ resistance against the inhibiting force of nolle. This inversion marks a turning point in the quod nolunt uelint dilemma. See further Marchetta, 2010, p. 187 n. 35, and 189.

102 Immane regnum est posse sine regno pati (470). As Tarrant, 1985, p. 155 (ad Thy. 446-470) notes, “The gusto with which Thyestes enumerates the trappings of wealth seems a clear sign that he does not find this existence as distasteful as he claims”.

103 Ben. VI, 43, 4, opinionem quidem et famam eo loco habeamus, tamquam non ducere, sed sequi debeat, “As for rumour and reputation, let us consider them as matters that must not guide but follow our actions”; Ep. 107, 10‑11; Vit. 15, 6.

104 Causam timoris ipse quam ignoro exigis. / nihil timendum uideo, sed tamen timeo (434-435).

105 Aygon (in this volume), following Marchetta, 2010, p. 185-207 and 299-341, argues for conscious dissimulation : “Thyeste ne veut pas dire toute la verité sur la gravité du conflit qui l’a opposé a son frère, car, en ce cas, ses fils comprendraient les dangers qui les menacent et choisiraient peut-être de s’enfuir”.

106 Degl’Innocenti Pierini, 2008, p. 1338-1340.

107 Both Atreus and Thyestes refer to themselves in the third person, as though observing themselves from outside (176-180, 937).

108 Thyestes’ image sed iam saeui nubila fati / pelle pointedly echoes Atreus’ gloating discutiam tibi / tenebras, miseriae sub quibus latitant tuae, “I shall dispel for you the darkness that conceals your sorrows” (896‑897): Thyestes is co-operating in his own punishment. The “tokens of bad times” here put aside include the exile’s rags that were exchanged for royal finery (524-526, 955-956), to Thyestes’ own undoing. The regal makeover does not sit comfortably; as Calder, 1983, p. 190 remarks, “The crowning of the false king (544‑546) externalizes the moral ruin of Thyestes”.

109 Eructat. o me caelitum excelsissimum, / regumque regem! (911-912). The art here lies in the exquisite juxtaposition of vulgar belch and elative paronomasia: cf. Schäfer, 1974, p. 11-12, 69-75; Mader, 2003.

110 Segal, 1984, p. 313. Cf. Shelton, 1979, p. 54, “His style is a style of rhetorical abundance, perhaps of ‘too-muchness’”.

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Gottfried Mader, « Hoc quod uolo / me nolle: Counter-Volition and Identity Management in Senecan Tragedy », Pallas, 95 | 2014, 125-161.

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Gottfried Mader, « Hoc quod uolo / me nolle: Counter-Volition and Identity Management in Senecan Tragedy », Pallas [En ligne], 95 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2014, consulté le 21 juillet 2017. URL : http://pallas.revues.org/1704 ; DOI : 10.4000/pallas.1704

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Gottfried Mader

Professeur d’Histoire et d’Archéologie classique
Birkbeck College, University of London
madergj@gmail.com

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