Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Jonathan Fenno

Second Advisor

Molly Pasco-Pranger

Third Advisor

Timothy Yenter

Relational Format



This thesis will examine the female characters of the extant and fragmentary plays of the 5th-century BC Athenian poet Sophocles. These plays’ composition date ranges from the second half of the 5th century BC. Not every play will be considered for this study, as some do not contain female characters or female characters cannot be ascribed to a fragmentary play. Only plays that feature female characters or plays in which female characters and their actions can be reasonably estimated will be used in this study. For the fragments and their information, I shall default to Hugh Lloyd-Jones’ 1996 Sophocles: Fragments. To ascertain which fragmentary plays and quotes are relevant, I read Lloyd-Jones’ description for each play which he believes existed and can provide evidence written by Sophocles. In my study I use the kurios as a reference point for each female character, which is how I divided each character as “good” or “bad” in theirrespective role. Some characters can take multiple roles, such as being both a mother and wife, and will be judged by each role, as some characters will appear twice in this paper. Although I am labeling the characters good or bad, I am not condemning nor endorsing their actions but am labeling based on their actions related to their kurios. I have divided each chapter based on the progression of a typical Athenian woman’s life, starting with girlhood, then marriage, and finallymotherhood. The most important theme in Sophocles’ work is passion, which brings out the worst and the best in different characters. Overall, I believe my thesis works the same way, showing Sophocles’ female characters at their best and worst. Passion is a neutral force in Sophoclean drama; it is the characters themselves that decide to wield it for good or bad, and no characters exemplify this more than the Sophoclean women.

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