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Copy of Dramaturg Jim Svendsen's Dramaturgical Note for Ion (produced last Fall of 2017)

The Elegant Structure of ’ Ion

Unlike most Greek whose plots are singular and linear, Euripides’ Ion has a multiple plot. A divine plot frames the with the god Hermes speaking the prologue and a deus ex machina as closure with the god Apollo lurking behind many of the scenes. A second plot focuses the young and innocent Ion, a coming-of-age plot marking his journey to identify and adulthood. A third plot follows the plight of Kreousa, a woman dealing with rape, a lost baby and infertility, who is the emotional center of the . The plot is also structured by a “doubleness,” characters and scenes which echo each other. There are two gods who frame the action, two , two arias, two long dialogues with stichomythia, two intrigues, two messengers. and two lengthy recognition scenes. Like Shakespeare, Euripides develops his plot structure through foils, characters both alike and opposite, and through scenes which mirror each other. . Modern critics often argue over the of the Ion and label it tragicomedy, romance or melodrama. For an ancient Greek, however, Euripides’ Ion remains a , a play performed in the theater of Dionysus in competition at a festival. Its plot structure with its prologue, parodos, episodes, choral odes and , follows the traditional pattern of all . Along with its multiple plot the Ion is unusual in two respects. It has the two longest passages of stichomythia in all of Greek tragedy and two ekphraseis (embedded descriptions of art or architecture) common in but very rare in Greek tragedy. The plot structure of the Ion falls into four movements: an opening movement of back story and , a long exchange between Ion and Xuthus resulting in a (false) recognition, a third movement consisting of intrigue and counter-intrigue, and a final movement building to a true recognition between mother and son. The action is punctuated by several plot points, a term derived from film criticism indicating dramatic moments where the plot radically changes: the false recognition, the revelation by the Old Woman and Chorus, the Messenger speech, and the revelation by the Pythia. The Ion, with its complex turns and its cross-cutting, is surely one of the most elegant plot structures in Greek tragedy.