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Apollonius Rhodius as "Inventor" of the Interior Monologue

Apollonius Rhodius as "Inventor" of the Interior Monologue

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we turn to the more specific typology proposed by Dorrit Cohn,

which is limited to the presentation of consciousness in narrative,

interior monologue is seen as a specific case of "quoted monologue",

that is a "character's mental discourse",3 a technique which is widely

used in every kind of narrative, from Homer to the modern novel,

in order to communicate to the reader the thoughts, emotions and

inner life of the characters.

It is well known that literary criticism usually ascribes to the interior monologue another date of birth, 1887, when the French symbolist writer Eduard Dujardin published Les lauriers sont coupes, a short

novel consisting exclusively of a monologue in which the main character reveals his thoughts and emotions. It was notably James Joyce

who recognised Dujardin as the inventor of this technique, which is

widely used in many parts of Ulysses, especially in Molly Bloom's

long final monologue. Joyce thus preferred to take an obscure novelist as a model, rather than to attempt other, riskier solutions such

as might be suggested by the relatively new science of psychoanalysis, of which he was rather suspicious.4 Responding to Joyce's declarations and the suggestions of the prominent French critic and

writer Valery Larbaud, Dujardin wrote, in 1931, an essay entitled

Le monologue interieur, which gives the following definition:

Le monologue interieur est, dans 1'ordre de la poesie, le discours sans

auditeur et non prononce, par lequel un personnage exprime sa pensee la plus intime, la plus proche de 1'inconscient, anterieurement a

toute organisation logique, c'est-a-dire en son etat naissant, par le

moyen de phrases directes reduites au minimum syntaxial, de fagon a

donner Pimpression 'tout venant'.5

Even in this case, from an abstract and typological point of view,

we do not have a new form, but a simple variation. Genette calls

it "immediate discourse" (discours immediat) because of its basic lack

of any narrative mediation.6 The challenge involved in using such a

device lies in trying to communicate to the reader the pre-speech

level in its magmatic and alogical configuration.

The two very different dates of birth attributed to the interior

monologue correspond of course to two different narrative traditions.

Cohn (1978) 11-5, esp. 12.

Cf. De Benedetti (1971) 594-616.

Dujardin (1931) §2 (= [1977] 230).

Genette (1972) 193.



The type "invented" by Apollonius is always tragic and sublime. It

is entirely focused on a psychic conflict and an important crisis of

decision, and is dominated by strong rhetorical stylization. The type

"invented" by Dujardin and made famous by Joyce, also called

"stream of consciousness", has on the contrary a marked everydaylife nature. It describes no decisive tragic conflict, and is characterized by a fragmented style.7

One can, of course, find points of contact between the two traditions. We will see how certain Apollonian stylistic solutions seem

to prefigure the alogical stream, while authors like Schnitzler in

Frdulein Else make a clear contamination between the two. From a

historical point of view the turning point appears to be Tolstoy's

Anna Karenina. The heroine's last monologue before her famous suicide inherits on one hand the ancient epic tradition that goes back

to Apollonius and especially to Virgil's Dido, consciously imitated.

On the other hand it shows remarkable pre-Joycean elements in its

fragmented perception of metropolitan life. In any case, in spite of

the various anticipations and contaminations, the two traditions,

which obviously have very different historical backgrounds, must be

clearly distinguished. We will refer to the first, Apollonian one as

"interior monologue", and the second, Joycean one as "stream of


The two Homeric poems quite frequently use monologues to describe

the inner life of the characters (although the very concept of "inner

life" always has a problematic aspect in archaic culture). Usually

these monologues show a strict formalization, although there are

many nuances and some significant exceptions.8 In the Iliad we find,


On the historical development of stream of consciousness see Moretti (1994)

152-69, who links the Joycean technique to the Freudian "preconscious", while the

traditional interior monologue can be linked to the emergence of unconscious and

repressed matters.


On Homeric monologues the first and basic contribution is Hentze (1904), who

states a too rigid distinction between description ("betrachtend") and meditation

monologues ("erwagend"). On the four more formalized decision monologues see

Voigt (1934), still deeply influenced by Bruno Snell's famous and controversial conception of Homeric psychology (there should be no real monologue, but a dialogue

between autonomous parts of personality); and the completely different analyses by



first of all, a pattern of monologues which illustrate the act of making a decision. The hero analyzes two alternatives of action in a

dubitative way, and then, after a formulaic verse, chooses the best

one. But this rather rigid pattern shifts from a very simple and linear version (//. 11.404-10 Odysseus; 17.91-105 Menelaos) to a more

complex one, where the alternatives become three and show interesting expansions (//. 21.553-70 Agenor; 22.99-130 Hektor). There

is then a second pattern which is based upon the perception and

evaluation of a new situation, usually still connected with a pragmatic choice. Two examples belonging to this second pattern, both

characterized by the death theme, have a particularly pregnant nature.

Their effective brevity seems to reproduce the rise of thoughts and

emotions thanks to the lack of a logical syntactical articulation and

to the use of paratactical and nominal phrases: they really sound

like the embryo of the modern stream of consciousness. In the first

of these, Hektor reacts to the frustration caused by the disappearance of Deiphobos and the consequent sensation of being tragically

close to death (//. 22.297-305). The second involves the poem's main

character, Achilles, whose emotionalism dominates a large part of

the narration. This is the Homeric monologue which is closest to

those of Apollonius. It can be defined as an interior monologue if

we intend by this expression not the tradition singled out by Scholes

and Kellogg, but a narrative form representing a character's emotional life and released by a strong pragmatic finality, such as the

need to make a decision, an element which is present in most of

the other Homeric monologues (including the last one by Hektor)

(//. 18.5-15):

6%0T|aoc<; 8' apa EITIE Jtpo<; ov (a,eyaXf|i:opa

"toum eycfl, T( T' ap' ame Kocpr) KOUOCOVTEC; 'A^atoi

vryuaiv em KA,ov£ovtat aTt>^6|a,£voi 7i£8toto;

JJ.TI 8f| noi T£A,£acoai Qeol KCCKCX icr|8£a 6\)p.cp,

COt; 71OTE M,0l (rT|Tr|p 8t£7l£(ppa8£, KOU (4.01 EEtTlE

MiipiJiSovcov TOV aptcrcov m ^COOVTO<; ejiao

UTIO Tpcotov A-EUJ/EW (pdo<; riEAiovo.

5ri T£6vr|K£ MEVOITIOD ocA,Ki|j.o<;

- r\ T' £K£A,£i>ov a7ta>aoc|j,£vov S

ay £7il vfja<; i'|j,ev, jj.r|8' "Eiccopi 191


Ho<; 6 ToruO' cop^awE KCXTCX (ppsva mi KOCTCX 0i>|a6v . . .

Petersmann (1974) and Fenik (1978). In general on all kinds of monologues see the

contributions by Medda (1983) 11-57; Di Benedetto (1994) 158-74.



Disturbed, Achilleus spoke to the spirit in his own great heart:

"Ah me, how is that once again the flowing-haired Achaians

are driven out of the plain on their ships in fear and confusion?

May the gods not accomplish vile sorrows upon the heart in me

in the way my mother once made it clear to me, when she told me

how while I yet lived the bravest of all the Myrmidons

must leave the light of the sun beneath the hands of the Trojans.

Surely, then, the strong son of Menoitios has perished.

Unhappy! And yet I told him, once he had beaten the fierce fire

Off, to come back to the ships, not fight in strength against Hektor."

Now as he was pondering this in his heart and his spirit. . . (transl.

R. Lattimore)

Achilles' central position in the Iliad largely involves his intense relationship with Patroklos. In the pivotal moment of the plot, immediately before he hears the tragic news of his friend's death, the

interior monologue expresses his emotional foreboding. This is an

almost unique case in Homer of a monologue totally focused on a

character's mental discourse.9

Generally speaking, in the Odyssey we find a use of monological

techniques similar to those of the Iliad, but with a preference for the

short monologue describing the rise of thoughts and almost lacking

in the process of making a decision.10 Two important examples are

Odysseus' frustrated reaction to the tempest in the fifth book (Od.

5.299-312), and his famous dialogue with his heart (Od. 20.18-21),

both focused on the main character's emotional life. But the most

interesting one, especially from the point of view of possible links to

Apollonius, involves Odysseus' wife. Penelope's monologue at her

awakening expresses, with a precious stylistic texture rich in alliteration and enjambement, her desire for death, linked to a strong

erotic nostalgia (Od. 18.200-05):

KCU p' dnouop^orco x£Pai napeiac; (pwvnaev xe"f) (a.e fiocA,' aivonaOfj uaXaicov jtepl KCOJO,' eKaXxixi/ev.

od'0e urn (he, uaXaicov Gavaiov nopoi "ApTeuic; ayvfi

comica vvv, wa UTJKET' 68i)po|j.evr| tcata 6i)uov

airova (pGivuGoo, TIOOICX; noGeouaa 91X010

7tavTovr|v dpenyv, enei e^o^cc; fjev '


Di Benedetto (1994) 169-70 speaks of "sperimentazioni formal!" and of "esasperata emotivita"; see also Scully (1984) 19, who generally stresses "the uniqueness of



See Petersmann (1974) 157-65.



She rubbed her cheeks with both her hands, and spoke aloud, saying:

"That was a strange thing, that soft sleep, that shrouded me.

How I wish chaste Artemis would give me a death so

soft, and now, so I would not go on in my heart grieving

all my life, and longing for love of a husband excellent

in every virtue, since he stood out among the Achaians." (transl.

R. Lattimore)

Thus we have once again a monologue whose essential function is

to give poetic space to a character's inner life, without a strict formalized structure and with an unusual effect of immediacy.

With their clear focus on emotionality, the two last Homeric examples we have quoted—Achilles' and Penelope's monologues—are the

basic starting point for Apollonius' "invention". However, far from

being mere episodic means of characterization, as was the case in

the archaic epic, Medea's three monologues in the third book of the

Argonautica assume a new semantic relief, contributing to the Apollonian

transformation of the epic genre. Taken from Euripides' tragedy, but

further developed and refined, the element of inner conflict becomes

central to the whole narration: Medea is no mere magical adjuvant,

but a true main character. If the interior monologues we pointed

out in Homer are basically exceptions to the prevalence of pragmatic aspects in both of his poems, Apollonius' epic appears on the

contrary to be completely dominated by psychological factors: he

always focuses on the emotional reactions to an event rather than

on its fulfilment. This general feature can be clearly observed in

some famous scenes, characterized by frustration and melancholy and

by the total absence of pragmatic finality: Iphia's kiss in the first book

(1.311-4); Apollo's epiphany, Smenelos' appearance from Hades, and

the torture of Prometheus in the second (1.674-85, 911-23, 1246-59);

the failed encounter with the Amazons in the second (1.985-1000)

and with Herakles in the fourth (1.1461-84).u From this point of

view the narration of Medea's inner story is simply the most evident example of a deep and general trend.

Cf. Handel (1954) 46-9; Herter (1955) 314-5; Fusillo (1985) 266-71.



The narrative technique of the third book becomes rather more

sophisticated, based on a complex of simultaneous actions. The action

takes place in three basic spaces: Medea's room, the Argonauts' camp

and Aietes' palace, while Phrixos' sons act as mediators. This division creates a significant contrast between Medea's absolute solipsism on one hand, and collective dialogical dynamics on the other.

All the scenes devoted to the heroine have a fine elaboration. They

culminate in the monologue, and together form a fascinating crescendo.

Immediately after the choral scene in which Aietes orders Jason to

provide the impossible proof, the narrator focalizes on Medea's erotic

suffering; at the end of this long subjective sequence, which we will

deal with later, we find the first monologue (Arg. 3.463-71):

8e |j/i>pop,evr|, Xvyeooc; ocveveiKcao jruGov

"Kjrce jae 8etA,our|v 168' e^ei a^oc,', El' 6' o ye TIOCVTCOV

(pSeiae-cca fipcocov npocpepeaTocxoc; el' xe

eppetco . . . 7H (lev 6(peA,^ev aicr|pio<;

Nod 8t| lomo ye,TCOTVOC6ea FIepar|{, nekono,

S|j,r|Gf|voa t>Tco POX>O{, To8e upoTtdpoiGe 8aeiri,

oiJveKev o\> ol eycoye KaKp eTiayaiojiai arr|."

'H jj,ev ap' 6i<; e6Xt|To voov |j.eA,e8fi

She wept softly and sobbed in lamentation: "Alas, why do I feel this

grief? Whether he will die as the very best of all heroes or quite worthless, let him perish! Ah, if only he could have escaped safe . . . Please,

lady goddess, daughter of Perses, let this happen, let him escape death

and return home. But if it is his fate to be killed by the bulls, may

he first know that I at least take no pleasure in his awful destruction".

So the young girl's mind was tortured by love's cares, (transl. R. Hunter)

From a stylistic point of view we already find here important constants that will characterize the tradition of both interior monologue

and stream of consciousness: parataxis, self-questions, absence of a

logical consequentiality, emotional pathos, effect of immediacy and

associative presentification.12 Noteworthy from a thematic point of

view is the strong interconnection between the language of repression and the language of desire, which recalls the Freudian concept

of Kompromissvorstellung.^ After the topos-like Homeric introductory


For a stylistic analysis of Apollonius' monologues see Campbell (1994) 376 ad



Paduano (1972) 19-22.



interjection, still varied by Apollonian allusive art, Medea begins in

fact her monologue with an aggressive curse: an eppeioo which recalls

one of Achilles' describing monologues in the Iliad (20.349)14 and

which will be re-echoed and further developed in the third monologue. But if the Homeric hero uses the expression merely to protest

against an unexplicable event, its use in Apollonius is much more

complex. The passionate nature of the curse already reveals the presence of censorship: it is a Freudian negation which affirms a strong

unauthorized desire. This is clearly confirmed by the subsequent

exclamation (3.466), wishing for Jason's salvation. Here we have

another stylistic feature that will remain constant in ancient and

modern interior monologues: an abrupt passage from one topic to

the opposite one, with flagrant self-contradiction. The technique

"invented" by Apollonius is in fact particularly apt for the expression of unconscious logic, the "symmetrical" logic which does not

acknowledge the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction.13 Modern

editors often use suspension points to highlight the sudden break of

the end of this passage—the same solution that will be used by modern writers of interior monologues (together with other graphic experiments, such as Faulkner's extraordinary poetic use of italics, or the

total lack of punctuation that is often associated with stream of consciousness). After this first immediate and almost unconscious exclamation, the expression of desire becomes much stronger in the second

part of the monologue: from the unreal ocpeAAev to the potential

mood of rceXoiio, and to the culmination point of imagining a possible contact and communication. At the same time censorship is

still very active—in the idea that Jason might go back to his native

country, and in the final wonderful litotes, a true Kompromissvorstellung

between the forces of repression and the forces of the repressed, condensing the ambiguous meaning of the whole passage. The brevity

of this first monologue recalls the Homeric perception monologues,

especially the one by Penelope quoted above, but the Apollonian re-


"A somewhat coarse word" according to Campbell ([1994] 378), who quotes

Macleod's commentary on //. 24.239. Hunter's commentary quotes as close parallel Od. 5.139-40, which does not come from a monologue, but from the speech of

"a bitter Calypso about Odysseus".


On this kind of logic, which can be only verbalized by Aristotelian dominant

asymmetrical logic through intermediate concepts such as the infinite, see Matte

Blanco (1978); for an application of this interpretative model to Apollonian monologues see Paduano (1985).



writing has a remarkable new depth, which also includes an element

of decision: the reference to Hekate is in fact a prefiguration of the

magical help Medea will give to Jason.

After two long scenes which strongly characterize the two other

actors of Medea's story—Jason's durixavia and Aietes' oppressive

power —the second monologue inaugurates the second day of the

central episode. It expresses the heroine's emotional reaction to her

dream, which is by the way another impressive Apollonian innovation. Influenced by the medical research of his contemporary,

Herophilus—an interesting figure quoted by Freud himself as a precursor of his own interpretation of dreams—Apollonius creates in

fact a true dream of desire, absolutely unique in all of ancient poetry.16

Medea dreams what psychic censorship and social constraints do not

yet allow her to admit that she desires: that the stranger has come

because of her and will fight to marry her, and that she will choose

him against her parents' will. At this point of the action the monologue is necessarily a self-analysis of disclosed unconscious feelings

(Arg. 3. 634-44):

u6A,t<; 8' eaayeipocTO

Ttdpoq EV crcepvou;, d8tvnv 8' avevetKato cpoovriv

eycbv, oiov JJ.E fiapetq ecpoprjaav ovetpoi.

Aet5toc ut| |J.£ya Sri TI cpepfi KCCKOV i^Se KeA,e"D0o<;

fipcocov. Tlzpi uoi ^eivco 9pevec; f]epe6ovrai. —

MvdaGoo eov icaid Sfjuov 'AxcmSa TT|A,60i

a(X|j.t 8e 7iap6evvr| TE uiA,ot Kai Scbua

"Eurca ye \ri\v, 0e(a.evr| KVVEOV Keap, O^KET' av£\)6ev

amoKaatyvritriq neipriaoum, et KE jj,' de0X,(p

XpatO|j,eiv dvTtaCTTioiv, ini a^eiepOK; dxeouaa

jiaun- TO KEY (j.oi Xxiypov Evi Kpa8iri apEooi

With a struggle she gathered again the spirit in her breast and spoke

in sobs of lamentation: "Alas, how frightening are these grim dreams!

I fear that this expedition of heroes may cause some terrible disaster.

How the stranger has set my heart fluttering! Let him woo an Achaian

girl far off among his own people: maidenhood and my parents' home

should be my concern! All the same, however, I shall banish shame


Cf. the threefold dream typology by Herophilus fr. 226b von Staden (= Ps.-Plu.

Placita 5.2), quoted by Freud in a note added to the fourth edition of the Traumdeutung

([1914] 130 n. 1); on the whole question see Fusillo (1994); the specific contribution by Kessels (1982) defends the traditional proleptic nature of this dream, but

prolepsis is in fact a totally interiorized element. On the extreme novelty of the

Apollonian dream see Frankel (1968) 364; see also Zanker (1987) 3 and 75 n. 73.



from my heart and, no longer remaining apart, I shall test my sister

to see whether she will beg me to offer help in the contest, panicked

as she is for her sons. This will quench the bitter pain in my heart."

(transl. R. Hunter)

The initial topos-like interjection is here extended, by developing the

theme of fear, while the abrupt juxtaposition of thoughts is amplified

by asyndeton. The first monologue began with an aggressive negation of desire, followed by a pathetic and spontaneous exclamation

which negated the previous statement. Since desire has meanwhile

become much more explicit thanks to the experience of the dream,

here the order is reversed: first we have a clear acknowledgment of

erotic involvement (3.638), immediately followed by a tribute to the

forces of repression, now explicitly focused on basic oppositions such

as marriage/virginity, stranger/native. In this case, too, modern editors highlight the abrupt mental wavering using a graphic device,

the slash, which is likewise used by many modern authors of interior monologues, for example Arthur Schnitzler. The second part is

devoted to pragmatic aspects: compared to the mention of Hekate

in the first monologue, actually a minimal element, here the decision to help Jason is much more thoroughly developed. This does

not yet mean, of course, a free and autonomous choice: censorhip

still forces Medea to use the alibi of her sister's sons, again veiling

the expression of her desire. But the last verse clearly shows the

emotional nature of this alibi, confirming at the same time the intermingling in the Apollonian monologues of the two basic Homeric

patterns, decision and perception.17

In any case pragmatic aspects still remain completely in the background: the semantic centre of the Colchian episode is Medea's psychic conflict, not her contribution to the conquest of the Golden

Fleece. Her tormented decision to go to Chalkiope, taken at the end

of the second monologue, is negated immediately afterwards by a

complete mental block, described by the narrator as a conflict between

ai8co<; and ifiepoq and finally solved by an external intervention. Even

after the long dialogue with her sister, and therefore after her promise

to help Jason, Medea's psychological situation is far from being less

anguished. On the contrary, the tribute given to repressed desire has

to be counterbalanced by an increasing repression. She goes back

On this basic feature see Paduano (1972) 23~27.



to her solipsistic room and falls into an even more desperate d|ir|xav{a.

At this point in the plot we have the third and last monologue, the

only one that Scholes and Kellogg consider a true interior monologue,18 the first of a long, rich literary tradition (Arg. 3.770—801):

Full of doubt she sat down and said: "Alas, which of these miseries

am I to choose? My mind is utterly at a loss, nor can I find any way

to stop the pain: it burns constantly, always the same! Would that I

had first been killed by Artemis' swift arrows before I saw him, before

Chalkiope's sons reached the Achaian land. From there a god or some

Fury brought them here to cause me much weeping and grief. Let

Scholes-Kellogg (1966) 182.



him die in the contest, if it is his fate to perish in the ploughland! For

if I devised aid with my drugs, how could my parents fail to notice?

What could I say? What trick, what concealed plan can help them?

Shall I meet him alone, without his companions? Ah, I do not imagine that even his death will stop the terrible ache; that is just when

he will bring me pain, when he no longer lives! Away with shame,

away with fine reputation! My efforts shall save him, and then he may

go off safe wherever he wishes; on that very day, when he has accomplished the task, may I find death, either hanging myself from the

ridge-beam or swallowing drugs which crush out life. But even after

my death they will mock and reproach me in the future; the whole

city will scream of my fate far off, and wherever they go the Colchian

women will speak of me and accuse me of shamelessness, 'she who

cared so much for a foreign man that she died, who disgraced her

home and her parents in giving way to her lust'. Of what disgrace

will I not be accused? Alas, for my mad folly! Much better would it

be to end my life here in my room on this very night, in a death

without explanation, and thus to escape all the bitter accusations before

doing these awful, unimaginable things." (transl. R. Hunter)

Here the structure is obviously less linear and more complex. It is

dominated by a fragmentation of thoughts and emotions, particularly evident in the paratactical accumulation of self-questions. Medea

begins by describing her psychological situation, and then proceeds

abruptly to the imperative cpGeiaGco, which is parallel to the aggressive eppEico against Jason in the first monologue and to the |j,voca0co

in the second19—these three expressions of distance latently affirm,

by contrast, a desire for closeness. Nevertheless there is an important difference between the three passages, apart from a different

degree of verbal violence. Since Medea has already taken her decision and promised her help to Ghalkiope, the expression in this

monologue sounds like an act of repentance. Whether Jason dies or

not now depends totally on her divided self. According to the usual

oscillation, the subsequent series of self-questions is a counterbalance

of repressed forces: the interrogative form barely veils the pragmatic

decision to achieve her plans and communicate directly with Jason.

The pathetic exclamation of 3.783 marks a new incipit. The malediction against shame and fame is now a clearly reversed echo of

the curse against Jason in the first monologue. From the point of

view of plot evolution this reversal obviously means that Medea has

Cf. Paduano (1985) 42, stressing the common dependence from Euripidean

of Medea's famous monologue (E. Med. 1044).

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