Unmasking Hercules: Tracing Comedy in Propertius’ Fourth Book

Vassiliki Kella

Abstract


This paper centers on the ninth elegy of Propertius’ fourth book, remaking a neglected case for a reading as paraclausithyron and establishing a further case for siting it in a comic dramatic frame. The aim is to reveal the importance of the comic background to elegy 4.9, particularly in the paraclausithyron topos and the use of a cross-dressed Hercules. The analysis emphasizes the elegy’s sources in stage comedy and contradicts the more typical claim that 4.9 absorbs Hercules into a specifically elegiac framework. Propertius 4.9, altogether, with its myth of Hercules, serves to acclimate an epic figure into the elegiac world, to explore the fluidity of gender in elegy as well as to access the specifics of comedy and mime as a genre important to Propertian poetics. The survey on paraclausithyron and gender play of transvestism in ancient poetry, shall indicate the relation of theatre with Propertius, who draws elegiac settings within the frame of a theatrical scene, veiling Hercules in the appearance of a comic lover.

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