Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2014

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Performing Arts: Theater and Performance Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



In researching the original performances of Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus, contemporary composer Lee Breuer concluded that Ancient Greek productions were “close to rock concerts” full with “responses from the audience like choral or choir responses in the church.” What Breuer recognized was that Sophoclean performances were lively and engaging to their audiences, inviting them to participate and help tell the story being dramatized on stage. What he also recognized was the sacramental power of performance in Ancient Greek tragedies, when a spirit is gifted from performer to viewer. This spirit is passed through the rhythm and meter of the language, but only as sung, as embodied. This focus on the performance of the Sophoclean piece shifted importance from the meaning of the words used to the ways in which the words were being sung. Because Breuer grasped the power of music in Sophoclean tragedy, his re-creation of Sophocles’s play, Gospel at Colonus, unearthed a sacramental capacity in the original Sophoclean text.

By comparing Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus and Breuer’s Gospel at Colonus, we can begin to see how music works to imbue a sacramental power in the story of Oedipus. As I propose to demonstrate, the conclusions of both Sophocles’s and Breuer’s plays relate the embodiment of Oedipus by the chorus. But that embodiment does not simply occur within the narrative or even within its dramatization by actors on stage; it occurs within the music, allowing us—as scholars—to be enlightened about the role of music in Ancient Greek tragedy, and—as audiences—to be enlivened by the sacramental power of performance.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Julia Walker

Committee Members

Robert Henke, Tim Moore


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