Student Question

What is the third stasimon of The Phoenician Women by Euripides?

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The third stasimon of Euripides’s play comes at the end of the third episode. That episode brings Tiresias onstage, which precipitates a plot twist. Tiresias engages in a long narrative about relevant events. He concludes with a message that Creon did not want to hear: the gods have ordained that the safety of Thebes will be achieved by sacrificing Creon’s son Menoeceus.

Creon, understandably upset, challenges Tiresias, who explains the reason. His sacrifice will propitiate Ares, who was angered by Cadmus having killed the dragon. Creon’s immediate reaction is to save his son, which he tries to accomplish by sending him away. Menoeceus, however, does not comply with this plan. He is willing to become the sacrifice if doing so will save their city.

The third stasimon begins after that revelation. It is concerned with the Sphinx, whom Oedipus had killed. By killing the beast, he became the savior of Thebes. The Chorus compares Menoeceus’s selfless act to that of Oedipus because both of them act to save the city. The possibly optimistic tone is soon set aside, however, in favor of recollections of the havoc that Oedipus had inadvertently let loose. A fatalistic, not optimistic, atmosphere arises with the conclusion that the royal family of Thebes is destined for continued trouble.

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