The tension of the opening is never fully dissipated even as Achilleus shows his hospitality and makes certain promises to Priam about holding off the fighting for twelve days while the Trojans bury the son of their ruler. However, just as it appears that the situation is concluded, the god Hermes comes to Priam and warns him to leave now because if the Greeks find him asleep in the morning, they may decide he is worth more as a ransom and will not allow him to leave as Achilleus has promised.
The drama is characterized by language that often involves or approaches poetry, but the presentation differs greatly. An oral tradition of epic poetry places one "actor," the speaker before an audience as he recites the epic poem and so tells the story. Any dramatic element emerges from the characters and the story, carried by the poetry and involving images that can be created in the minds of the listeners. The drama creates images directly on a stage, making use of a number of actors who dress, speak, and behave like the characters whose roles they take on stage, in the Greek era using masks and exaggerating the action to convey the meaning. A fundamental element in both genres are scenes in which characters interact with one another, scenes described by the poet and acted out in the drama.
In a play like The Phoenician Women, the entire work is a contained drama with a more specific focus than is found in an epic poem, while a given scene may have the same sort of dramatic power and sustaining quality as the one scene from The Iliad has. One scene in the play, found in lines 446-638, three characters interact, Eteocles, Polyneices, and Jocasta. The play as a whole concerns the conflict between the two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices, and the interaction they have with their mother, Jocasta. The story of Oedipus was well-known and served as the source for a number of dramas of the time. The audience did not need to be told the story and instead would understand fully the interactions they saw among these characters and the background leading them to this situation. In this scene, the two brothers meet as their mother pleads with them to reconcile, making this a key scene in the story of this family. Eteocles arrives and states that he is doing so as a favor to his other, and he also says he is taking time off from the fight he is waging to do this. A sense of urgency is this given to the scene as this warrior tears himself away from the field of battle to cope with a family issue.
Jocasta makes a lengthy and impassioned plea to bother sons, a monologue that expresses her feelings and shows the way the tensions in the family are affecting her. Her other son, Polyneices, has also left the field of battle, and it is clear that the two brothers are fighting on opposite sides. This family meeting therefore has broader implications as to whether any more will die in this war. That subtext colors everything that takes place in the scene and heightens the interaction considerably. This scene is like the scene in The Iliad in that it also brings together two enemies and then shows how they interact away from the battlefield, in this case made all the more potent by the fact that they are brothers and that they are being told to make amends by their mother. The conflict is heightened all the more by an awareness of the family history and the way the father offended the gods and was punished, so that it is evident the mother has also been punished and is now trying to stop the conflict to achieve some peace. For all her efforts, though, she is rewarded only with a reassertion of the enmity of the two brothers as they return to the fighting.
Both these works involve drama because they involve human beings acting out their inner emotions in a public way and interacting with one another over emotions, ideas, and situations. Drama is inherent in human interaction, and the drama merely made this a focus rather than one element in a larger…