Hypsipyle, daughter of Thoas, was the leader of the women of Lemnos when they killed all the men on the island (see introductory note to LemnianWomen). Our only information about the play, apart from two single-word quotations, comes from a scholium to Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.769–773. In Aeschylus’ play, according to this scholium, when the Argonauts were caught in a storm off Lemnos and hoping to come in and land there, the Lemnian women “came against them in arms” and refused to let them put in unless they swore to have intercourse with the
Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles (in that chronological order) all dramatized the story of how Philoctetes, who had been abandoned on the island of Lemnos by the Greeks on their way to Troy, was persuaded, tricked or forced, nine years later, into rejoining the expedition, because the Greeks had learned that his presence, or at least that of the bow and arrows of Heracles which he possessed, was essential if Troy was to be captured. Only Sophocles’ play survives complete, but we are provided with much information about the other two by Dio Chrysostom, whose 52nd Oration is a comparison of the three plays. Dio notes that in comparison with his successors, Aeschylus is sometimes a little insouciant about questions of realistic probability. For example, whereas in Euripides’ play Odysseus was transformed by Athena so as not to be recognized by Philoctetes, and in Sophocles he keeps out of Philoctetes’
women as soon as they landed. Such an episode, taking place at sea, is not suitable for direct dramatic treatment in tragedy, and must therefore have been narrated retrospectively, perhaps in a prologue.
Hypsipyle was probably part of an Argonautic tetralogy, Following LemnianWomen and preceding Cabeiri and The Argo (qq.v.)
Recent discussions: B. Deforge, “Eschyle et la légende des Argonautes”, REG 100 (1987) 30–44, at 36–38.
way until the bow is safely in the hands of his confederate Neoptolemus, Aeschylus simply did not allow the issue to be raised of whether Philoctetes would have recognized his old enemy (§§5–6). Likewise, Aeschylus brought on a chorus of Lemnians without raising the issue of why they had done nothing for nine years to help Philoctetes (§§6–7); in Euripides the chorus apologize for their neglect, while Sophocles cuts the knot by making Lemnos an uninhabited island. Philoctetes gave a full narrative of his abandonment and subsequent experiences to the chorus (§9), doubtless before meeting Odysseus. Odysseus had come to Lemnos alone (§14), whereas in Euripides he was accompanied by Diomedes, in Sophocles by Neoptolemus; he “tried to win Philoctetes over” by spinning a tale of a series of disasters that had befallen the army—Agamemnon dead, Odysseus apparently executed for “an utterly disphizes