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Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature$
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Lesel Dawson and Fiona McHardy

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414098

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414098.001.0001

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‘The Power of Our Mouths’: Gossip as a Female Mode of Revenge1

‘The Power of Our Mouths’: Gossip as a Female Mode of Revenge1

(p.160) Chapter 8 ‘The Power of Our Mouths’: Gossip as a Female Mode of Revenge1
Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Fiona McHardy

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines gendered methods of revenge as depicted in ancient Greek literature and court trails. While men favour physical attacks or judicial processes when taking revenge on an enemy, women are typically thought to be too weak to attack in these ways and are shown using persuasion or trickery to achieve revenge or bringing up their children as future avengers. Gossip provides another mechanism by which women and other disempowered individuals, such as slaves, can take revenge: either directly, by damaging an individual’s reputation, or indirectly, by provoking others to violent behaviour. Focusing on literary texts (such as Aeschylus’ Choephori, Euripides’ Andromache and Hippolytus, and Chariton’s novel Chaereas and Callirhoe) and legal revenge narratives (such as Lysias’ On the Murder of Eratosthenes) the chapter demonstrates how women find circuitous and covert ways to achieve revenge, while simultaneously showing how women’s reputation for gossip allows them to be used as scapegoats for men’s violence. 

Keywords:   Gossip, Aeschylus, Choephori, Euripides, Andromache, Hippolytus, Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe, Lysias, On the Murder of Eratosthenes

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