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Facing Otherness: The Tragic Mask in Ancient Greece Author(s): Claude Calame Reviewed work(s): Source: History of Religions,

Vol. 26, No. 2 (Nov., 1986), pp. 125-142 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/06/2012 03:33
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Claude Calame




Understood from an anthropological perspective, the problem of the mask has long been treated as one of identification and dissimulation/ representation. To begin with identification, the wearer often regards the mask as the means whereby he abandons his own identity so as to integrate himself into a new, radically different reality within a mythologically defined order, and to incarnate one of its characters. The same notion informs Levi-Strauss's analysis of the "divided image" in the face and body painting of certain civilizations that are otherwise very distant from each other, both historically and spatially. The split representation derives ultimately from the need of the one painted to destroy the individuality with which he began in order to identify more fully with his social self. The divided image, as it appears in societies with a complex social hierarchy, would therefore signify, through a process of projection, the individual's identification with his social role, and the latter's integration into the world of myth.'
In writing this study I have greatly benefited from the critical comments and information given me by C. Berard, D. Bertrand, D. Lanza, F. Zeitlin, and, especially, H. Pernet. I thank them for their precious support. History of Religions wishes to thank Ann Hobart for her translation and for her generous help in editing the manuscript for publication. 1 On identification, see, e.g., R. Caillois, Les jeux et les hommes (Le masque et le vertige) (Paris: Gallimard, 1958), p. 136 ff.; C. Levi-Strauss, Anthropologie structurale (Paris: Plon, 1958), p. 288 ff.
@1986by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0018-2710/86/2602-0009$01.00


Facing Otherness

The identification function generally attributed to the mask has naturally been associated with its representational function: the mask's wearer incarnates for another the identity that his disguise confers on him. The abandonment of one's own identity, the self-dissimulation, goes hand in hand with the actualization of the social identity tied to the mask itself (and to the costume that is regularly worn with it). From an Eliadean perspective, the mask would then be a representation for the community of the sacred, mythological reality on which it is founded.2 It may be premature to judge these interpretations of the mask's representational function. In any case it is clear that a full analysis of the mask cannot ignore its role in the process of enunciation. Of course, in his recent work, Levi-Strauss has applied structuralist principles to try and show that every mask belongs to a system of masking elements, and that each mask's particular position within the system can be defined by a series of distinctive traits that divide into binary opposites. This semantic organization in pairs of opposable traits finds an echo in the mythic system to which they are connected and from which they derive their potential for transformation.3 But beyond the indispensable structural and semiotic approach (which must also place the mask in relation to the ensemble of its wearer's costume), a study of the mask's use and "activation" should also indicate that traditional ideas about the mask's identifying and representational functions are not adapted to express the subtle nuances of the process of masking. At any rate, the mask cannot be understood outside of the enunciative process of which it is a part.4

In this regard, let me advance a working hypothesis. Following E. Benveniste's study on signs in the production of discourse and the way A. J. Greimas and J. Courtes have extended his arguments, I want to make an initial distinction between the "real" process of a text's communication (for which the two protagonists are the enunciator and
2 Compare, e.g., J. Cazeneuve, Les rites et la condition humain d'apres les documents ethnographiques (Paris: PUF, 1957), p. 314; or M. Leenhardt, La structure de la personne en Melanesie (Milan: S.T.O.A., 1970), p. 26 ff. This conception of the "alienating" function of the mask is the one still underlying J.-P. Vernant's study, La mort dans les yeux: Figures de I'Autreen Grece ancienne (Paris: Hachette, 1985), p. 80 ff. 3 C. Levi-Strauss, La voie des masques: Edition revue, augmentee et rallongee de trois excursions (Paris: Plon, 1979), pp. 88-89. 4 Compare H. Pernet, "Masks and Women: Toward a Reappraisal," History of Religions 22, no. I (August 1982): 45-59, which shows that the mask's identity, an object of belief, is constructed as much by its wearer as by those who attend the ritual action of which he is the protagonist.

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the enunciatee) and the text's enunciation in the utterance (narrator to narratee). Most important, in the utterance itself, the he, or acting subject, of the utterances that make up the narrative, and the linguistic markers of the spatiotemporal frame in which the narrative evolves (i.e., a character in a story and the spatiotemporal frame he inhabits), stand opposed to the I (or you), the acting subject who delivers the utterance, and the spatial and temporal indicators that refer to the here and now of the utterance's delivery (i.e., the person and the nonfictional world he inhabits). Following this second distinction, I want to describe the procedure of "shifting in" and "shifting out," which permits passage, by means of the signifying system mentioned above, from the I, or acting subject, who delivers the utterance to the narrative he, and vice versa.5 In this context one can say that the mask worn always corresponds to an actor's role or, for example, to the role of an actor/protagonist in a ritual sequence itself considered as a gestural and somatic utterance. If one were to draw an analogy between an actor and the role he plays, on the one hand, and a wearer and his mask on the other, then clearly an understanding of how the mask works would have to incorporate a number of different perspectives. Moreover, in acknowledging the mask's immanently fictive nature-similar to that characterizing a narrative protagonist-one can also compare, by analogy, the mask's wearer to the enunciator of a ritual and, therefore, to the enunciator of the corresponding narrative as well. The possible presence in a ritual sequence (considered as narration) of the I of the mask's wearer thus would correspond to the presence of the enunciator in the utterance (thus, as a narrator). As for the actor signified by the mask itself and incarnated in it, he would be comparable to the story's subject: he is a fictive being, a being "on paper," a subject of textual narration. The narrator's I, who is the mask's wearer/enunciator, therefore, in time joins the narrative he, who is, properly speaking, the ritual action's subject. Through a subtle process of shifting in and shifting out, the I of the mask's wearer and the he of the mask engaged in the ritual action would then come to coincide in the mask itself. Doubtless it is due to this coincidence that a contract of veridiction, as it were, can be established with the enunciatee, a contract that guarantees the "reality"
5 Compare E. Benveniste, Problemes de linguistique generale (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), 1:251 ff. and 258 ff., and Problemes de linguistique generale (Paris: Gallimard, 1974), 2:68-69, 82-83; as well as A. J. Greimas and J. Courtes, Semiotique: Dictionnaire raisonne de la theorie du langage (Paris: Hachette, 1979), pp. 94, 125-26. Regarding the mask, the enunciative approach was inaugurated by D. Bertrand, "Masques, sujet, representation" (paper presented at the colloquium on the mask, "La Maschera," Montecatini, October 1981).


Facing Otherness

or truth of the mask's fictive identity. Even if we must qualify these remarks by accounting for the I of the tragic text's author and by pointing out that, in the context of dramatic representation, the actor's he manifests itself linguistically by the form I, it is clear, nevertheless, that the problems of the mask's identifying and representational functions can be understood only through a study of this enunciative process, of the modalities of this "pronominal" syncretism, and of the contract of veridiction that it establishes.

Let us leave these provisional theoretical reflections for a moment in order to take up a concrete case: the mask of classical Greek tragedy and its complement in satyric drama. Why do I make such a restrictive choice within a civilization rich in masked expression: masquerades and animal faces in the cult of Demeter, masks of bears in the service of Artemis at Brauron, Dionysian religious masks and the grimacing mask of the Gorgon, not to mention the masks worn in the different forms of comedy and their innumerable representations? The reason is that the tragic Greek mask presents a series of significant "deviations" in regard to its supposed identifying and representational functions. We are obliged, then, to regard the aforementioned anthropological perspectives in a critical manner, if not actually to contest their validity. Our knowledge of the tragic Greek mask comes from figurative representations on vases and from texts of a generally later period that mention the wearing of masks; and our knowledge is obviously always mediated by the manner in which our sources have interpreted the mask: given the destructible nature of the materials out of which they were made, no classical mask has come down to us in its original state. But the earliest modes of "indigenous" interpretation of the mask, for the very fact that they depart from our own point of view, can provide the basis for a critical perspective.

If we can believe our sources, the tragic genre, from its appearance in the course of the sixth century B.C., is tied to the mask. But the first forms of the tragic mask, still attached to the burlesque procession honoring Dionysus, exist essentially to hide or dissimulate, rather than to permit any kind of identification. Thus, before the introduction of the mask proper, one completely hid the face-the text insists on this-with the help of leaves from the fig tree consecrated to Dionysus. Moreover, Thespis, who reputedly authored and staged the first tragic

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performance, whitened his face with ceruse. Later he began to cover his face with portulaca flowers and leaves, and finally he invented a mask of very fine fabric. As for the chorus that accompanied this as yet solitary actor, it seems that its members smeared their faces with the dregs of wine, or even with plaster.6 With the exception of the feminine protagonist (but not necessarily the feminine mask) introduced by Phrynichus, masks that have an expressive function (especially of strong emotion) appear on the Attic stage only at the beginning of the fifth century B.C., when Aeschylus, through his use of colors, introduced masks intended to incite fearful emotions.7 The material he used was still cloth. At the beginning of the classical period, then, the mask's wearer (its enunciator) merely veils, in the literal sense of the word, the civil identity, as it were, that his face designates. The coarse features that were drawn on this veil do not indicate the modes of existence that the dramatic actor is supposed to "incarnate" on the stage; they are not designed to superimpose a new identity on the I of the enunciator.

In the second century A.D., the lexicographer Pollux established a classification of the masks used on the tragic stage, a classification modeled on the taxonomical efforts of Alexandrian scholars.8 This method of classifying masks holds good, at least for a certain number of the masks described, until the end of the classical period; but it delimits human types only by sex and elementary age gradations, without in any way defining the identities of dramatic protagonists. I cannot enter here into the details of this classification, for which the criteria are far from consistent; but the distinct traits most frequently cited in the definitions of these category types are the mask's color and the arrangement of its hair. As a result, the taxonomy appeals to essentially formal criteria and gives no indication either of the modes of existence that the dramatic protagonist might incarnate or of the passions that might affect him.
6 Suda s. vv. thriambos (Th 494 Adler) and Thespis (Th 282 Adler) = Thesp. test. 1 Snell; Horatius, Ars Poetica 275 ff. = test. 14 Snell; Anthol. Pal. 7, 410 = test. 8 Snell; Plutarchus, Proverbia Alexandrina 30; see also Athenaeus 14, 622c. Compare A. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy and Comedy, 3d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 69 ff., 79 ff. 7 Suda s. vv. Phrtnichos (Ph 762 Adler) = Phrynichus test. 1 Snell and Aischulos (Ai 357 Adler). In this regard, see A. Pickard-Cambridge's remarks in The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 190 ff. 8 Pollux, Lexicon 4, 133 ff.; commentary in M. Bieber's "Maske," Realencyclopadie der Altertumswissenschaft 14.2 (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1930), cols. 2070-120 (col. 2077 ff.).


Facing Otherness

The few notations there are that refer to a trait and begin to define the identity of a particular protagonist have an absolutely marginal place in Pollux's classification. On a mask denoting a young man, for example, the color of the mask refers to skin color, which in turn refers to a complexion expressive of a physical or moral state: sickness, gaiety, sadness, love. Also, Pollux carefully places in a special category masks designating either characters defined by a special feature (Acteon by his horns, the blind Phineus, Tyro with her cheeks bruised by her mother, Sidero), or anthropomorphized entities like Justice, Death, and the Furies, or, again, monsters like the Centaurs, Titans, and Giants. If one accepts Pollux's taxonomic criteria, there is no case in which the tragic Greek mask functions as an anthroponym; it does not identify. It therefore does not denote, apart from rare exceptions, any individual or any stage character; it corresponds, rather, to formal classes that delimit sex and age.9 The few figurative representations of masks that remain to us, dating from the fifth century, largely confirm this observation.10

From Pollux let us turn to Aristotle. It is surprising that, although the philosopher makes a brief allusion in his Poetics to the mask in relation to comedy, he does not mention it in the detailed definition he gives for tragedy.1 Central to that definition are the notions of action (praxis) and imitation (mimesis) (which is of particular importance for the study of the mask). Thus, in the celebrated Aristotelian definition, tragedy is the imitation by "actors" (drontes, prattontes) of an action that aims at the equally celebrated katharsis, that is, the purgation of pity and fear by means of those passions themselves. Moreover, Aristotle insists both on the visual aspect of the drama (opsis) and on what motivates its characters. He attributes two causes to the action: the ensemble of dispositions (ethos), which correspond to the character's self to the degree that they bring him to act, and intentions (didnoia), which really amounts to the justifications that the characters give for their actions when speaking of themselves.12
9 Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that modern attempts to identify the masks worn by the protagonists of classical tragedies have been largely arbitrary; see, e.g., Bieber's attempts; and those of Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, p. 192; and, above all, those of T. B. L. Webster, Greek Theatre Production (London: Methuen, 1970), p. 45 ff. 10References and reproductions of iconographical documents are cited in PickardCambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, pp. 191-92. 11Aristoteles, Poetica 1449b, 21 ff.; on the mask in comedy, cf. 1449a, 35 and 1449b, 4. 12 On &thos and didnoia, cf. ibid. 1449b, 36 ff. with the numerous parallels drawn between the two essential concepts of Aristotelian anthropology by D. W. Lucas in Aristotle: Poetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 64, 106, 107-8.

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But there is a second cause for surprise. Although Aristotle, speaking as an anthropologue, initially claims that disposition and intention are the causes of action, he eventually reverses this causal relation when speaking of tragedy. In tragedy the actors are constituted by the action: their respective modes of existence, their "characters," come about by "inclusion," by virtue of their actions (praxeis).13 The actor's competence therefore seems to be born during the performance: hence Aristotle's conclusion that "without action it is impossible to have tragedy, but without dispositions, it can exist"; and hence the importance of the plot (muthos) understood as an assemblage of actions (sustasis ton pragmdton). According to Aristotle, tragedy, like other poetical forms, is an imitation of actions, but from the point of view of the devices that it uses-unity of action, music, spectacle (opsis)-it surpasses epic.14 To pursue Aristotle on this point would take us beyond the limits of the present study, but his value judgment definitively links tragedy to narrative, and to a form of narrative in which action is the most important thing and in which the mask is inextricably involved.

The iconographical representations that we possess of the fifth-century Attic stage and, therefore, of the tragic mask are not numerous."5On examination of the masked figures, however, one is struck by a remarkable characteristic. In figural representations generally, there is a marked respect for facial representations in profile; only masks are represented frontally.'6 And, on further examination, one notices that this frontal representation is reserved not for the mask worn by the
13R. Dupont-Roc and J. Lallot in their commentary on Aristote: Lapoetique (Paris: Seuil, 1980), p. 202 ff. have demonstrated very clearly that here one passes from the realistic plane (or ethical domain) to that of fictional characters presented in tragedy (poetic and mimetic domain). On the mimetic status of tragic action, see also P. Ricoeur's reflections in Temps et recit (Paris: Seuil, 1983), 1:58 ff. Finally, on the ambiguity of the terms ethos and prdxis referring alternately to man's real, morally designated action and to its production on stage, see D. Lanza's remarks in "Aristotele e la poesia, un problema di classificazione," Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica 42 (1983): 51-66. 14Aristoteles, Poetica 1450a, 15 ff. and 1461b, 26 ff. 15Apart from the classic works of M. Bieber, Die Denkmdler zum Theaterwesen im Altertum (Berlin and Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1920), p. 87 ff., and The History of the Greek and Roman Theater, 2d ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 8 ff., see especially Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festival of Athens, p. 180 ff.; and T. B. L. Webster, Monuments Illustrating Tragedyand Satyr Play, 2d ed., Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies London, suppl. 20 (1967), p. 10 ff. 16 On the significance of the exceptions to the rule of facial representation in profile found in classical iconography, see finally F. Frontisi-Ducroux, "Au miroir du masque," in La cite des images: Religion et societe en Grece antique, ed. C. Berard and J.-P. Vernant (Lausanne and Paris: Nathan, 1984), pp. 147-61.


Facing Otherness

actor but for the mask held as an object, as an element of a costume. As soon as the mask is worn, it is represented in profile. In the iconography of the fifth century, the facial representation of the masked dramatic actor is in general indistinguishable from that of the protagonists of any scene taken from legend or from everyday life, for that matter. Without exception, no trait of the mask distinguishes the dramatic actor from the protagonist of a mythological scene: regarding the satyrs, of which representations from the classical epoch are relatively numerous, it is the phallic belt and not the mask that distinguishes them-if it distinguishes them-as the protagonists of a

The famous crater of Pronomus, which probably dates from the end of the fifth or the beginning of the fourth century B.C., perfectly illustrates these elementary semiotic considerations.18 Between the chorist/satyr dancing the sikinnis among chorists and actors celebrating their victory at a satyrical competition on one side of the vase and the satyrs animating the mythological Dionysian scene that adorns the other side, the sole difference is that the former wears a phallic loincloth. Apart from this, nothing in the design allows one to guess that the chorist, as opposed to the mythological satyrs, in fact wears a mask. An analysis of this exceptional artifact allows us to go even farther and to discover what will become a consistent pattern in the way masks are depicted: when not represented frontally or in three-quarter position, the tragic mask, treated as an object detached from its wearer, often faces the latter. Thus, .there are two modes for representing the mask when it is not worn: either the vase's viewer faces the mask head on, or, by turning the mask 90 degrees, the actor who holds it does. As long as the rule for representing the human face in profile is respected, the mask's representation distinguishes itself by its facial angle, an angle that disappears as soon as it is worn. The absence of a distinguishing mark, either in shape or color, between the human face and the worn mask can be considered a partial confirmation of the highly vaunted process of identification between the mask's wearer and the
17 This exception is represented by the image that figures on the crater of Valle Pega, Ferrara T. 173 (pl. 33 in Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens [n. 7 above]); here one can clearly see the mask's border overlaid upon the actor's face. 18 Vase called "the Pronomus vase," volute-crater, Naples, Museo Nazionale 3240, ARV2 1336, 1 (pls. 31-33 in Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater). In this regard, see the enunciative analysis of these images which I attempted to set out in "Quand regarder, c'est 6noncer; la vase de Pronomos et le masque," to appear in Actes du colloque "Images et societes en Grece ancienne" (colloquium held in Lausanne, February 1984).

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character that he incarnates or between the enunciator/narrator and the protagonist of the narrative, to speak in terms of enunciation. But the iconic representations of masks have not yet revealed to us what they incarnate.

Without taking into account local differences in the spheres of activity attributed to each member of the Greek pantheon, it seems fair to say that the ritual use of the mask in Greece is generally limited to the cults of three divinities: Artemis, Demeter, and, especially, Dionysus.19 In the cult of Artemis, the best known rites were staged in the Spartan sanctuary of Orthia in a swampy area situated at the point marked by the city wall where civilized territory ended. Excavations there have unearthed terra-cotta masks dating from the seventh century B.C. that were votive offerings to the goddess. They display the features of either old women or young children and give tangible evidence for the wooden masks that, according to written sources, were worn in the cult and used at the time of tribal initiation rites for adolescents held at Artemis Orthia's sanctuary. Moreover, at Lycosoura in the land of Arcadia, which the Greeks thought of as a primitive or even savage place, the cults of Demeter and Despoina, the "Mistress"whom the ancients compared to Core, gave rise to masquerades in animal dress. As for Dionysus, the masked rites that his cult staged, even exluding the ritual dramatic representations at Athens, enjoyed a panhellenic distribution. The clownish processions of satyrs, as well as the innumerable representations of the god himself in the form of a mask, should also be mentioned here.20 At the risk of certain oversimplification, each of these divinities can be said to open a passage, according to his own mode of action and
19See H. Jeanmaire, "Antiquite hellenique," in Le masque, Catalogue du Musee Guimet (Paris: Editions des Musees Nationaux, 1959), pp. 67-78; W. Burkert, Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche (Stuttgart and Berlin: Kohlhammer, 1977), p. 169 ff.; and F. Frontisi-Ducroux and J.-P. Vernant, "Figures du masque en Grece ancienne," Journal de psychologie 76 (1983): 53-69. 20 On the masks discovered in the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, cf. G. Dickins, "Terracotta Masks," in R. M. Dawkins, ed., "The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta," Journal of Hellenic Studies (London), suppl. 5 (1929), pp. 163-86; other references to this cult can be found in C. Calame, Les choeurs dejeunesfilles en Grece archaique (Rome: Ateneo, 1977), 1:276 ff. On the cult of Lycosoura, cf. Pausanias 8, 37, 1 ff. together with the archaeological references given by Burkert, p. 418. For Dionysus, see especially H. Jeanmaire, Dionysos: Histoire du culte de Bacchus (Paris: Payot, 1951), p. 6 ff., and W. F. Otto, Dionysos: Le mythe et le culte (Paris: Mercure de France, 1969), p. 93 if; 1st ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1933), p. 81 ff.; while depending on the interpretation of the mask as the representation and the incarnation of the divinity in question, Otto nevertheless reveals the duality instituted by the mask: the latter is the expression of the dual traits of proximity and distance specific to Dionysus.


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with the particular figure that emerges from it, between the savage and civilized domains: Artemis, because she protects during the immersion in noncultivated nature that is a part of the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood; Core and Demeter, as patronesses of the mystic mediation between above and below, that figures so prominently in the growing of cereals and in agricultural activity; and, finally, Dionysus, because, with the help of products having ambiguous virtues like wine, he allows man to bring about in himself the transition between submission to civilized order and the liberation of natural forces leading to otherness. The use of the mask therefore seems reserved in ancient Greece to the cults that define and protect the different limits of civilization: cults of the margin, of the passage from interior to exterior, from the self to the other-and vice versa.

The convergence of information revealed by the documents mentioned thus far, despite their completely heterogeneous nature and historical insertion, permits an attempt at a definition of the tragic mask based on the categories of the culture that makes use of it. The mask's first dissimulating forms amount to a veil covering the face. In addition, the formal criteria of Pollux's classification suggest a negative definition of the tragic mask: that is, the tragic Greek mask does not incarnate or represent any individual identity; it is therefore not comparable to a proper name; and it seems, moreover, to have no "modalizing" function. This observation also applies to Aristotle's reflections on the tragic actor who, lacking prior competence, acquires modalities and ways of existence in the progress of the action itself. The tragic Greek mask tends, in the first place, to efface the identity of its wearer in order to allow a new character, independent of any given figure and of original competence, to be constituted through the dramatic action; but above all, it permits a reversal in the representation of the action. The mask thus allows the action to be turned, in a sense, to face its enunciatee (or its enunciator). The tragic mask is, at least in iconography, the operator of a confrontation, a confrontation with the spectator of the action being played out on the stage, as well as with the wearer of the mask. It is not surprising that such a reversal can occur only in the cults of divinities that, at the margin of the civilized world, bring about a passage from interior to exterior and from the self to the other. These few observations, while leading to a conception of the mask as a simple presupposition of the construction of a fictive identity and competence through a reversal of the representative function, far from

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exhaust the question of the nature of the enunciation that the mask allows. But we must go one step further.

In the Greek representation of tragic theater, it is the action, therefore, that makes the character. From the standpoint of the enunciative analysis mentioned above, and in light of D. Bertrand's work on relations between "actants"in the masked enunciation, the wearing of a mask corresponds to the procedure of enunciative shifting out and shifting in; it therefore permits the I of its wearer to efface itself in the not-I, the he of the protagonist of the action played out upon the stage. But in the case of Greek tragedy, this process of shifting out/ shifting in assumes a singular form. Wearing the Greek mask, in fact, involves the effacement of the subject I without conferring either identity or competence, as has been said above, to the utterance's subject, the dramatic he. The tragic Greek mask therefore does not bring to its wearer any kind of magical power, nor does it enrich the modal competence of the ritual utterance's subject. The only modality that the tragic mask confers on its wearer, within the enunciative shifting in that it brings about, is the power not to be, but to become another. Thus the I of the mask's enunciator/wearer always remains present in the progressive constitution, through the action, of the he; in a sense the I supports the he. This imperfect assimilation between enunciator and actor, their less than transparent identification, can permit the enunciator to appear as a narrator in the utterance. Doubtless the enunciative mark of this narrative role is the one that materializes in the look that, appearing from behind the two holes made in the mask, belongs to the enunciator. Of course, it is also due to the partial character of this assimilative process and the corresponding shifting in in the utterance that the same enunciator can incarnate several characters in turn, regardless of sex, on the Attic stage.21 This potential for transformation, including transvestism, confirms the importance of the space that the tragic mask opens between the enunciator and the actor; in any case, realistic fiction is not the first concern of the representation of Greek tragedy.
21 It should be remembered that the first tragic performances included only one actor, the author himself; a second actor is said to have been introduced by Aeschylus: cf. Them. Orat. 26, 316d and Diog. Laert. 3, 56. It is only with Sophocles that a third actor appears: Suda s. v. Sophokles (S 815 Adler); in this regard, see A. Lesky, Die tragische Dichtung der Hellenen, 3d ed. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), p. 52 ff. On the different attempts by the moderns to divide between two or three actors the numerous roles in classical tragedies, cf. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy and Comedy (n. 6 above), p. 130 ff.


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The only partial shifting out that wearing the mask achieves contrasts with the complete identification brought about between actors/ wearers of the tragic mask and the protagonists of the mythological scenes depicted in relief on vases. The contradiction here is only apparent, for in the case of the representation on the vase, it is the iconic representation that brings about a distanciation from "reality," whereas in dramatic representation, "reality" is represented by fleshand-blood actors. In other words, there is an essential difference between a semiotic object (like a vase) that displays actors "on paper" (literally "in paint") and an event that depends on gestural and somatic language for its realistic effect. In the second case, at least, the shifting out that the mask achieves plays an essential role. However, the signs that reveal an enunciation in the utterance cannot fulfill, in the case of the dramatic performance, the criteria defined by E. Benveniste. In fact, from the linguistic point of view, the deictic markers of the action played out in the drama correspond exactly to those of the enunciation: I(and not he), here (and not there), now (and not then). Clearly, tragic action unfolds through actors that say I in the here and now of dramatic action. To the mask, then, and to the costume that accompanies and completes it, devolves the essential role of shifting from the I of the narrator/enunciator and distinguishing between the level of the utterance and that of the enunciation in the utterance. However, the tragic Greek mask, in its essentially veiling and nonfigurative nature, actually allows a great ambiguity to hover over the subject of that operation of shifting out: the substitution of the I/he of the actor for the I of the enunciator/narrator remains indistinct.

Why is there such ambiguity in the process of enunciative shifting out? To dwell for too long on the different relationships between enunciator and actor would be to forget the fundamental link that connects the enunciator with the enunciatee, the second actor in the communicative relationship. If we are to believe the classic analysis of Greek tragedy, this enunciatee might well be present on the stage, too, represented by the members of the chorus and thus appearing in the guise of narratee.22A modern critic would perhaps hesitate over the ambiguity surrounding this narratee's linguistic sign and, as a result, over the
22 M. Kaimio, The Chorus of Greek Drama in the Light of the Person and Number Used (Helsinki and Helsingfors: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1970), pp. 36 if., 239 ff.; but also W. Rosler, "Der Chor als Mitspieler," Antike und Abendland 29 (1983): 107-24.

History of Religions


identity attributed to tragedy's choral I: that is, does the choral group incarnate the action's protagonist and actor (and therefore correspond to a he) or, on the contrary, does it incarnate the enunciatee in the guise of a narratee I? In other words, does it incarnate the audience to which the tragedy is addressed? Are not the members of the chorus masked in just the way the actors are, and can that observation lead us to a more precise distinction? Here again the pronouns and spatiotemporal deictics do not define the level at which the dramatic discourse situates itself. Is it simple utterance or uttered enunciation that we have before us? Generally speaking, the content may help us to distinguish between what the chorus says in the guise of the narrated action's protagonist and what it affirms as a narratee representing the enunciatee or audience. The shifting in of the utterance that wearing the mask sets in motion allows us, first of all, to situate the dramatic action, and therefore the utterance, in front of the audience/enunciatee. In this confrontationin the literal sense of the word-the partial shifting in of the utterance brought about by the mask allows the enunciator to appear as other and the same simultaneously: other, because the mask veils the enunciator's face and confers upon him the quality of actor; the same, to the extent that his own being remains perceptible beneath a mask. If the mask permits the enunciator to acquire a second identity through the play's action, then the masked enunciator has a disclosive or instructive role with respect to the enunciatee. I spoke earlier of a contract of veridiction that guarantees the "reality" or truth of the mask's fictive identity. Here the terms of the contract become a little clearer: the disclosive or instructive role of the mask joins its other role as guarantor of "reality."It allows the enunciator to address the audience/ enunciatee through the mask's mediation. In this way the dramatic action played out upon the stage becomes the source of an event. In spite of gestural and somatic appearances in a performance, the dramatic action itself is always fictive, but it opens onto a pragmatic event whose subject is the party to which the tragedy is addressed. Thus the "event" to which I refer naturally situates itself off the stage and outside fiction. Through its disclosive or instructive function, the dramatic action in fact contributes to the enunciatee's growing awareness or competence. The enunciatee is thereby drawn to consider the larger implications of his own actions within society, and the shape those actions will take depends in part on the awareness or competence acquired through the drama. That would account for the civic value of Greek tragedy and for its role as a model-though not as a model that exactly mirrors the enunciatee's life, for it operates only through a series of mediated transpositions and deformations.


Facing Otherness

The thymic effects of terror and pity, of which Aristotle speaks, accompany the enunciator's instructive disclosure: we should not forget that Aeschylus's biographer attributed the function of inspiring terror in the audience precisely to the mask. In classical theory, these effects in a sense prepare the way for the masked enunciator's disclosure; they guarantee its effectiveness. The mask plays an essential role here because it not only brings about the confrontation of the action played out upon the stage and the enunciatee, and consequently ensures the possibility of a mediated disclosure, but it also allows this disclosure to be brought about through the passions mentioned. Consider in this regard the function attributed to the Gorgon's face: as J.-P. Vernant has shown, the deformed face of a terrible monster, always represented frontally, acts just as the mask does.23Confronting the protagonist, this grimacing face simultaneously looks at him and sends back his own reflection though a completely deformed one. What the face/mirror of the Gorgon sends back to its viewer is the foreign Other, who, like tragedy itself, inspires horror and terror. Moreover, etymological analysis confirms the essential "frontality" of the Greek mask and the importance of the look or gaze. The lexeme most frequently used in Greek to signify the mask is identical to the Greek word designating the face (prosopon) or the derivative word prosopeion. The root meaning of all these terms may be transcribed simply as "that which faces the eyes (of another)" (pros-ops).24 By frontality, I allude to what happens under the gaze. In the case of the Gorgon, the gaze inspires terror as it gives the spectator an image of his other, of what is beyond him. By analogy, the same could be said of dramatic representation. We should also recall that Aristotle himself made opsis, or the visual aspect, one of the five distinctive traits that The visual aspect has two parts. On the permit a definition of tragedy.25 one hand, the eyes of the Greek mask are empty and so help to guarantee the fictional reality that the mask and the stage costume give to the actors. On the other hand, the eyes of the tragic mask allow the gaze of its wearer to show through and so affirm the enunciator's
23J.-P. Vernant, "L'autre de l'homme, la face de Gorg6," in Le racisme-mythes et sciences (Pour Leon Poliakov), ed. M. Olender (Brussels: Complexe, 1981), pp. 141-55; cf. as well La mort dans les yeux (n. 2 above), p. 31 ff. It should be added that, from the point of view of its modalization, the masked enunciator fits into the typology of "scopic" subjects and modalities defined by E. Landowski in "Jeux optiques: Une dimension figurative de la communication," Documents du groupe de recherches semiolinguistiques (Paris, 1981), vol. 3, fascicle 22. 24 Compare P. Chantraine, Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue grecque (Paris: Klincksieck, 1974), 3:942. 25 Aristoteles, Poetica 1449b, 33 and 1450bc, 17 ff.; Pollux, Lexicon 4, 115; and Lucas's commentary (n. 12 above), p. 99.

History of Religions


reality as well. The completely partial nature of the shifting out is therefore inevitable.

The dramatic form marks a complete departure from the narrative form through which the Greeks of the archaic period apprehended their legendary past; in fact, it reverses the enunciation of that mythical past. Whereas, before, the myth was recited or sung, now it is presented on stage. Its spatiotemporal frame and its protagonist's he are brought into conjunction with the here and now of dramatic spectacle and the I of its actor. The myth's visual and somatic presentation in the here and now partly suppresses the shifting out that any narrative would effect in relation to its enunciative proceedings. Moreover, such a visual and somatic presentation is bound to affect the sort of oral/ aural transmission usually found in a poetic tradition still in large part oral. Accordingly, the dramatic communication of a myth differs from its iconic representation in that the latter's one-dimensional portrayal of the action tends to strengthen the shifting out effect. By contrast, in a dramatic narrative, the enunciatee meets the protagonists of his legendary past face to face. Now it is clear that the actions of the heroes and gods of Greek legend can only assume paradigmatic significance through a series of reversals: Oedipus's crimes are only the imaginary negations of the civil order that should be affirmed.26It is only within the framework of a cult that confers institutional and sacred value to a reversal that the audience can be directly confronted, without the mediation of narrative shifting out, by that Other that the characters of its legendary past incarnate. But undoubtedly the Dionysian cult, for example, was able to absorb the shock of a confrontation that was visual as well as aural. The mask, essential to the cult of the god, is there precisely to reestablish, partially, at any rate, the process of shifting out vis-a-vis the enunciation's proceedings; and even if it is limited, this shifting out operates precisely on the visual level. As we have seen, the tragic Greek mask, even if it does not manage to be the equivalent of the narrative he, at least contributes to the creation of a certain distance, from the perspective of the enunciatee, between the enunciator's I and the protagonist's I/he. Confronting the enunciatee, the mask in part
26 In this regard, finally, see Ch. Segal, Tragedy and Civilization: An Interpretation of Sophocles (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 13, 43 ff. For the comedy, see F. Zeitlin, "Travesties of Gender and Genre in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazousae," in Reflections of Women in Antiquity, ed. H. Foley (London: Gordon & Breach, 1982), pp. 119-67.


Facing Otherness

reestablishes by visual means (and no longer by linguistic signs) the mythical narrative's actorial and spatiotemporal framework and the world of possible others that it constructs. By the shifting out that it permits, the mask partially restores the distance created in the narrative by otherness, itself defined by the use of pronouns and spatiotemporal deictics different from those of the "uttered" enunciation. The mask interposes a present visually concealed between the legendary past and the audience: even if he is now present on stage, the mythic action's protagonist is kept at a good distance from the enunciator and, above all, from the enunciatee.

Aeschylus must have been responding to an analogous problem when, in 472 B.C., he attempted to represent the victory of his fellow citizens at Salamine on the Attic stage. How could one confront the public with contemporary events while respecting the rules of narrative shifting out? Aeschylus focused the action not on the Athenians but on the Persians, thus introducing geographical and actorial distance. Because it was recounted at the court of Xerxes, the victory was therefore seen through its reversal, defeat; and its exemplary values were apprehended through the intermediaries that incarnated them: the foreigner, the enemy, the barbarian, all of them examples par excellence of the Other. The paradigmatic axiology of The Persians therefore establishes itself through a reversal that, rather than coming about in time, occurs at the visual and actorial level-in a manner of speaking, under the influence of the Other's gaze. Aeschylus thus sets in motion, within the utterance itself, a process of distanciation analogous to that which the mask brings about in the process of enunciation. As do other poetical forms, Greek tragedy appears, in Aristotle's definition, as an imitation that aims to produce an affective response in the audience. But although epic poetry and tragedy are both the imitations of action, the former has recourse to verbal narration, while the latter shows men performing (prattontas) or "in action" (energountas).27 While, for the first, a procedure of shifting in and shifting
27 Aristoteles, Poetica 1447a, 13 if. and 1448a, 19 ff.; on this difference between poetry in general and tragedy, cf. Plato, Respublica 394b, 8 ff. On the thymic aspects of mimesis in historical discourse, cf. B. Gentili and G. Cerri, Storia e biografia nelpensiero antico, 2d ed. (Bari: Laterza, 1983), p. 13 ff. It should be observed that the Aristotelian theory of tragic action corresponds to the Greek conception of an action identifying with the functional sphere of its agent or, on the contrary, defined as an object attributed to an agent; this conception inscribes itself even at the level of language in very specific forms, as E. Benveniste has shown in Noms d'agent et noms d'action en indo-europeen (Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1948), p. 45 if.; see also J.-P. Vernant's reflections in Religions, histoires, raisons (Paris: Maspero, 1979), p. 85 ff.

History of Religions


out at the level of language is sufficient, the second needs an analogous procedure at the visual level. The mask fills that need in a situation where mimesis is not just a simple reproduction of reality but the creation of a new reality that is both fictional and normative at the same time. The mask not only veils and transposes, but it also directs the fiction performed on the stage to its intended audience. In fact, in the theory developed by Aristotle himself, it is owing to the play of mimesis that the negative passions excited by the tragic action-fear and pity-can be purified and transmuted into pleasure.28 What one cannot stand to see in reality becomes a source of pleasure when it is transposed into the visual and somatic fiction of a dramatic spectacle. The purpose of a dramatic spectacle is indeed to transform, through mimesis, reality into representation in order to make it bearable to watch. The mask appears as one of the privileged instruments of this double process of distanciation and of mirror presentation, a process that is achieved through the reversal of the thymic values that engender it. Paradoxically, it is through this distanciation and transposition brought about by the mask in particular that the enunciator's "causing-to-believe" and the enunciatee's "believing-it-is-true" are realized. These joint procedures are the foundations of the contract of veridiction on which the success of the tragic spectacle depends. Only Dionysus, the god of possession and Otherness, is able to guide one out of this game of deforming mirrors; he ensures not only safe passage from the Same to the Other, but from the Other to the Same as well. By elaborating on Vernant's reflections on the face of the Gorgon, one can demonstrate that frontal representation is limited in classic Greek iconography to all those characters who exceed the assigned limits of human behavior, Dionysus being the central figure among them.29 The God of Wine stands for the possibility that myth can be enacted and presented to the audience through the intermediary of the mask. He guarantees the copresence in the mask of the enunciator (incarnation of the Same) and the actor (incarnation of the Other). He therefore assures the Other's recovery in the Same.30He is, finally, the
28On the transposition of reality brought about by the mimesis, cf. Aristoteles, Poetica 1448b, 6 ff. with the detailed commentary of Dupont-Roc and Lallot (n. 13 above), p. 188 ff.; and, above all, that of Ricoeur (n. 13 above), p. 82 ff. 29 Compare Frontisi-Ducroux (n. 16 above), as well as J.-L. Durand and F. FrontisiDucroux, "Idoles, figures, images: Autour de Dionysos," Revue archeologique 1 (1982): 81-108. On Dionysus and the gaze, see Otto, pp. 97-98. 30 In this regard see J.-Th. Maerten's remarks in Ritologiques 3: Le masque et le miroir (Paris: Aubier, 1978), pp. 89 ff., 107 if., even if the psychoanalytic categories and evolutionist schema that underlie this study often render Maerten's remarks singularly reductionistic.


Facing Otherness

guarantor, through the detour of imitative reversal, of tragedy's normative and civic value. The shifting out that occurs between the enunciator and actor would seem to suggest that the tragic Greek mask has a "demodalizing" function. But it is the distancing effect of the shifting out that permits the actor on the stage to disclose or instruct and to add another-a deontic-modality, for the disclosure gives rise to a sense of duty: and it is precisely in the process of katharsis that the sort of disclosure I mean can evolve into a sense of duty. Moreover, this sense of duty can act upon an enunciatee only when the enunciatee is freed from the thymic effects produced by the disclosure through the mask. While relegating the action played to the level of appearances through the shifting out, the tragic mask assures, by the thymic effects it engenders, a successful contract of veridiction with the audience. Facing the citizens assembled in the theater, which originally merged with the agora, the place of public and political debates, the tragic mask allowed the Same to be realized through the intermediary of the Other.3' University of Lausanne
31 Compare Kolb,"PolisundTheater," Das grieschische F. in Drama,ed. G. A. Seeck Wissenschaftliche (Darmstadt: Buchgesellschaft, 1979),pp. 504-45.