I'm currently writing about characterization in Euripides' Iphigenia among Taurians and I'm having some problems. I can't see clearly anymore, and have difficulties with defining terms like 'plot' and 'character'.
There has been written a lot of stuff about Medea, Agamemnon, Clytaimnestra etc., but for some reason the IT has been a minor work in the eyes of a lot of critics. This makes it even more difficult.
Kyriakou has recently (2006) written a commentary on the tragedy in question, and she writes the following words about characterization:
''Characterization, roughly in the sense of presenting a fictional hero with a unique mind, psychology or idiosyncrasy and personal history, including circumstantial details, is notoriously not a (major) concern of Greek literature in general and Greek drama in particular ... IT is not untypical in these respects, but its characters, especially that of Iphigeneia, are sufficiently delineated as so not the be the product of a mere dramatic distillation of mythic figures and literary precedents or mere examples of standard moral types. Euripides' decision to handle a particular moment in a very popular myth by introducing various innovations probably dictated many of his choices in the presentation of character but it is far from clear or self-evident whether or not the plot could not work with fewer or other details. If so, then the characterization seems to have been pursued, to some extent at least, for its own sake and may be counted among the play's innovations and peculiarities.''
(some examples of such well-chosen but not necessarily plot-dictated details are Iphigeneia's magnanimity toward her father, and her respect for Thoas' life, Orestes' concern for Electra, Pylades' fear of public slander, and Thoas' esteem for the priestess. Also, and in a similar vein, most of the plot-dictated details, e.g. Iphigeneia's dismissal of the escorts of the captives of Iphigeneia's change of heart after her declaration of ruthlessness, are not particularly surprising or impossible to explain in psychological or characterological terms.)
Now, to come down to my question in general: how does one decide what and what isn't part of the plot? If I am able to show what the plot of the story is, then I'm also able to show what these idiosyncrasies of certain characters are, right? I'm kind of stuck here and really having problems with these kind of vague terms. I have read the Poetics several times, made use of Freytag's pyramid etc., but am still in the dark. Especially the use of the term plot-dictated is very confusing to me. Which details are plot-dictated and which aren't?
Any comments are very much appreciated.
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