Nonverbal behaviour of characters in the Iliad as a form of prolepsis

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2015, vol. 20, iss. 2, pp. [17]-31
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
In recent years a great effort has been devoted to the study of non-verbal behaviour, especially in the context of communication and interpersonal relations. It is worth pointing out that non-verbal language also plays a crucial role in ancient Greek literature. The goal of this paper is to examine the description of the non-verbal behaviour of the characters in the Iliad within the frame of the theory of oral-formulaic composition of the epos. Gesture could function as a kind of prolepsis – a sign which foreshadows further events. The gestures used as prolepsis convey many more associations than the words uttered by the characters; especially gestures, which are independent or contrary to a character's words, could imply an autonomic message and reveal the events, which go beyond the frame of the episode or even the entire Iliad. The poet applies gestures to enrich the verbal message of the characters and encode additional implications. On the other hand, gestures could depreciate the character's speech as well as disguise its actual meaning. Finally, it should be pointed out that the poet, by application of particular gestures, responds to the expectations and emotions of the listening audience.
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