Personation

One of these typical 'epic' features is the inclusion of speeches exchanged by characters in the action. I referred earlier to a genre of literature in which only the characters' speeches or songs are in verse, with a prose narrative constructed around them. There is another genre in which they stand alone, or with a short introduction. The background events are taken as known, and the poet's aim is to see them through the eyes and hearts of those involved. It might be, for example, the lament of someone condemned to tragic suffering. Such compositions are typically songs in strophic form.

It is often an exchange between two people that marks a dramatic high point in the story, and dialogue songs are found widely. There may be a regular alternation of voices in alternate stanzas, or a longer series of stanzas may be given to one or both. The tone and content of each stanza make it clear enough who is speaking in each case, and it is not necessary to specify this in the text (though in manuscripts, for example of the Eddic poems, the information tends to be interpolated in prose). We are familiar with the convention in ballads, and we might designate this as 'ballad style', except that its applicability is wider than that term would suggest. A number of the Vedic

110 It is listed among poetic genres at AV 15. 6. 4; SB 11. 5. 6. 8. Cf. Dum├ęzil (1943), 70-98; Schmitt (1967), 29 f., 96-101; Durante (1976), 50-3.

hymns are in dialogue form, and there are elements of dialogue in some of the Gathas. Most of these early Indo-Iranian examples are theological rather than narrative in essence, but several have a mythological setting (RV 3. 33; 4. 18; 10. 10, 95, 108), and this use of dialogue poetry is evidently as old as any. The tradition continues in the Mahabharata and Puranas. More instances can be cited from Irish saga and from early Welsh poetry.111

One recurrent type is the dialogue of a man and a woman, or a boy and girl, in some sort of erotic situation. The setting may be mythological or ideal. Examples occur already in the Rigveda, and we find them also in archaic Greece and in Lithuanian folk song. The type is not exclusively Indo-European, as it appears also in Sumerian and Akkadian poetry, in the Song of Solomon, and in Egypt.112

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