Monday, June 1, 2015

I am trying to avoid goddesses

This weekend I read Euripides' "Hippolytus," and now I'm reading Aeschylus' "Agamemnon." I am looking at these plays as being primarily about the leading women: Phaedra in the Euripides, Clytemnestra in the Aeschylus. At some point this summer, I will write something comparing these Greek wife/mother figures with Gertrude in "Hamlet." I won't write it here on this blog; I'll write it into Chapter 14, I think, of my novel Mona in the Desert, which novel I will begin revising next week or so. I don't know why I mention any of this here except that this blog, for better or worse, has become where I save these sorts of progress notes about my novels. Anyway, I plan to read a number of Greek tragedies in the coming days, ignoring any that don't feature a central wife/mother character. So this will be an interesting week. Hecuba? Aethra? Jocosta? Atossa? Alcmena? Hera, even? I am trying to avoid goddesses. We'll just see, though. I let the reading guide the reading, if you know what I mean.

8 comments:

  1. Remarkable how many wife / mother centered plays there are, and how few gods and goddesses. No idea if that is an artifact of which plays happened to survive, or if it is representative.

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    1. From that fifth-century BC golden age of Greek theater there are only what--about fifty? plays surviving out of the hundreds that were written or performed. So who knows. But I have an intuition that it's more interesting--more satisfying to the playwright and the audience--to have a play about humans bearing up under the gods than it is to have a play about the gods themselves, whose behavior and attitudes must've been fairly limited, untouchable. You can stand on the stage at Athens and call Theseus a jerk, but you can't call Aphrodite a bitch. Maybe. "Job" is a pretty fair imitation of a Greek drama, and Yahweh is barely in it.

      Still, out of my depth here. I know my Bulfinch far better than I know my Greek theater, though I'm working on that.

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  2. Medea. It doesn't get any better than that. Euripides, of course.

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  3. I've always been struck by the many ironies involved in the ancient Greeks' male-centered polis and their perspectives on goddesses and women. Good luck with your invocation of the gods/goddesses into your writing. May the muses sing well!

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    1. In the end, the Greek gods don't seem to represent anything beyond the limits nature places on human life, and so they become less interesting. They're mere props in the plays, and the women are the real sources of energy. Or at least, in my present reading, I'm only interested in the women.

      Heroes are always dull, you know, and always end up dead from either violence or old age, but dead nonetheless, and almost all heroism looks the same. The most interesting male characters in "Agamemnon" are the old men who stay behind, exempt from the Trojan expeditionary force.

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    2. Irony = Women portrayed by men in masks in the orchestra ("dancing place") while thousands of men (and perhaps no women) watched from the theatron ("seeing place").

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    3. Correction: Portrayed is the wrong word since no representation was intended; instead I should have said presented.

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    4. Oh, *that* irony. I see what you mean. But if I think about it, I'm not sure it's any more unrealistic or ironic than a man reading Madame Bovary.

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