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Aristophanes and Euripides : a palimpsestuous relationship

May, Gina (2012) Aristophanes and Euripides : a palimpsestuous relationship. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86521) (KAR id:86521)


Aristophanes allows Euripides to interrupt constantly. In Athenian comedy of the fifth century they are on stage together, both literally and figuratively. Despite Aristophanes’ comedies having a meaning of their own, Euripides’ lines are so clearly visible underneath them that they can only be described as the verbal equivalent of a palimpsest. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a palimpsest as a manuscript or piece of writing on which later writing has superimposed or effaced earlier writing, or something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form. It is clear that a palimpsest is the product of layering that results in something as new, whilst still bearing traces of the original. Dillon describes the palimpsest as " ... an involuted phenomenon where otherwise unrelated texts are involved and entangled, intricately interwoven, interrupting and inhabiting each other". Aristophanes takes texts, particularly those of Euripides, which may otherwise have been unrelated, and weaves them together to form something new. I will show that in a number of cases Aristophanes offers scenes that have already been performed in Euripides’ plays but lays his own plot over the tragedian’s, whilst at the same time drawing the audiences’ attention to the original. The nature of this borrowing overwrites Kristeva’s theory of ‘intertextuality’ and provides a new and more apposite name for the permutation of texts in which the geno-text corresponds to infinite possibilities of palimpsestuous textuality (and the pheno-text to a singular text, which contains echoes of what it could have been). The plurality of Euripides’ texts, whilst engendering those of Aristophanes, constantly interrupts them. Through the consideration of ancient and modern literary theory and by a close analysis of Aristophanes’ and Euripides’ plays, this thesis sets out to offer a new reading of the relationship between these two poets. It shows that they were engaged in a dialogue of reciprocal influence that came to a head at the end of the Peloponnesian War.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86521
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Classical philology
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Classical and Archaeological Studies
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 13:55 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2021 12:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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