Abstract

This article argues that Statius manipulates constituent features of narrative in Jocasta’s efforts to forestall the conflict between Eteocles and Polynices, which creates a breach in the episode’s reception and the uncertainty necessary for suspense. Statius’ description of Jocasta’s efforts to prevent the conflict between her sons, one of many canonical action sequences in the Thebaid, invites comparison with antecedent versions found in the Lille fragments of Stesichorus as well as the Phoenissae of Euripides and Seneca. Judged against his predecessors, however, Statius’ treatment is unique because his Jocasta never stands between her sons as in Euripides and Seneca. Rather than a sheepish surrender to the productions of his predecessors, this deft occlusion of a canonical scene invalidates the anticipation of events the reader would enjoy from familiarity with the story’s plot. Moreover, in this breach of a traditional narrative sequence Statius achieves the uncertainty needed to make his revision of the events leading to the duel suspenseful and compelling.

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