Verbal repetition in Greek tragedy
This thesis examines the ways in which critics, ancient and modem, have looked at verbal repetitions in the texts of Greek tragedy, in particular those repetitions of lexical words which may seem careless or unintentional. It compares surviving plays (taking a sample of those of Euripides). An index of repetitiveness for each play is calculated; it emerges that while Aeschylus' plays have a wide range, there is a statistically significant difference between those of Sophocles and those of Euripides, the latter being more repetitive. The Prometheus, whose authenticity has been doubted, has a much lower index than any other tragedy examined (though that of the Alexandra of Lycophron is much lower still). A comparison of repetitiveness within a small sample of plays has failed to find systematic differences between passages of dialogue and continuous speeches, or according to the category of word. Some verbal repetitions may not have been in the original texts of tragedies, but may appear in manuscripts because of errors made by copyists. A systematic examination has been made of the manuscript tradition of selected plays to identify the instances where some manuscripts have a reading with a repetition, while others do not. The circumstances in which erroneous repetitions are introduced are identified; one conclusion reached is that copyists sometimes remove genuine repetitions. Modem psychological research has thrown light on the processes of language comprehension and production, in particular a process known as 'priming' whereby an earlier stimulus facilitates the naming of an object. The thesis discusses the relevance of this research to the observed phenomena of verbal repetitions by authors and copyists. The thesis concludes with a detailed examination of passages in three plays, and the remarks of commentators on them. Aesthetic and textual matters are discussed.