The Bed and the Tomb
Building on recent work on the materiality of props in Greek tragedy, this article focuses attention on Proteus’ tomb in Euripides’ Helen as a potent stage property that becomes central to the play’s developing discourse of recognition tokens. Analyzing the play’s allusions to Odyssey 23, this article argues that Helen raises expectations of a bed as sign in the recognition scene between Helen and Menelaus, an expectation that the recognition scene fulfills by positing the eidolon as an ‘empty bed’. After the couple’s delayed recognition, the tomb of Proteus replaces the phantom as material sign of the couple’s union, a solid ‘bed’ that enables their escape and is subsequently incorporated into an evolving discourse of signs known only to them. The cenotaph employed in the couple’s escape plan troubles this discourse of signs by replacing the material tomb with an empty one.
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