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Sophocles's Play: Greek Theater and Psychological Game Theory

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Laurent Gauthier

Abstract

The application of economic approaches, in particular game theory, to literature (Brams 2011) or to historical narratives (Mongin 2018) has seen some development over time but has generally remained an off-the-run endeavour, one important issue being that they may reflect the authors' interpretation more than the underlying texts. A loosely related body of research, focused on quantitative approaches to character relations in literature, has shown their complexity but not provided any theoretical framework (Kenna, MacCarron, and MacCarron 2017; Labatut and Bost 2019). We aim to bridge this gap by focusing on decision in drama as devices for writers to produce works of optimal interest to their audience. We use the apparatus of psychological game theory (Gilboa and Schmeidler 1988; Battigalli and Dufwenberg 2020) in order to represent the tension between surprise and convention in literary work, and obtain certain theoretical optimal patterns. We test this model on the earliest plays available, from the Greek theater of the 5th century BC, which were produced in a highly competitive environment. We show that the frequency of refusals and of important decisions, the unpredictability of these important decisions, the distribution of decisions among characters, and of the timing between actions, all behave in a manner consistent with the model.
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hal-03754913 , version 1 (20-08-2022)

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  • HAL Id : hal-03754913 , version 1

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Laurent Gauthier. Sophocles's Play: Greek Theater and Psychological Game Theory. 2022. ⟨hal-03754913⟩
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