chapter  1
7 Pages

The Third Actor

We have seen what Aeschylus did in the Oresteia with this Sophoclean invention. Sophocles must have seen it too, with some surprise, for assuredly it was not his conception that the third actor should be grafted on to Old Tragedy and used to extend the lyrical part. Why did Sophocles make this decisive innovation r Although the first twenty years ofhis dramatic activity are practically a blank, we can answer the question with some confidence: he wanted the third actor in order to do what Aeschylus resolutely refuses to do with him in the Agamemnon J namely to illuminate the chiefcharacter fronl several points ofview. The Aeschylean conception implies the single-minded tragic hero, one who is all afLafYTla - or rather one in whom the aJLafYTla is all that concerns us. "Y{1p£s is done, and Heaven smites, through its chosen instrument. Sophocles sees not the simplicities but the complexities oflife. Certain persons, because they are like this and not like that, and because their circumstances are these and not those, combine to bring about the catastrophe. Had any detail been different the disaster would not have occurred. The working of Law is seen in the way in which all these delicate complexities dovetail, to make a pattern which is suddenly seen to be inevitable.