Sophocles, Elektra 20-22
“Before any man tries to leave this house
you need to plan: this is no longer the right time
for hesitation: now is the final of deeds”
πρὶν οὖν τιν᾿ ἀνδρῶν ἐξοδοιπορεῖν στέγης,
ξυνάπτετον λόγοισιν· ὡς ἐνταῦθ᾿ †ἐμὲν
ἵν᾿ οὐκέτ᾿ ὀκνεῖν καιρός, ἀλλ᾿ ἔργων ἀκμή.
Sophocles, Elektra 1070-1074
“Tell them that their home is already plagued,
and that the strife among their children
is no longer balanced out
by the fact that they all love life.”
ὅτι σφὶν ἤδη τὰ μὲν ἐκ δόμων νοσεῖται,
τὰ δὲ πρὸς τέκνων διπλῆ φύ-
λοπις οὐκέτ᾿ ἐξισοῦται
πρόδοτος δὲ μόνα σαλεύει
Sophocles, Elektra 71-76
“Do not send me from this land in dishonor,
but as a master of my wealth and the captain of my house.
I have said enough now. Old man, it is your task
to go and safeguard this need.
And the two of us will go: for it is the perfect moment
and the perfect moment is man’s greatest guide in every deed.”
καὶ μή μ᾿ ἄτιμον τῆσδ᾿ ἀποστείλητε γῆς,
ἀλλ᾿ ἀρχέπλουτον καὶ καταστάτην δόμων.
εἴρηκα μέν νυν ταῦτα· σοὶ δ᾿ ἤδη, γέρον,
τὸ σὸν μελέσθω βάντι φρουρῆσαι χρέος.
75νὼ δ᾿ ἔξιμεν· καιρὸς γάρ, ὅσπερ ἀνδράσιν
μέγιστος ἔργου παντός ἐστ᾿ ἐπιστάτης.
The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.”
Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.
Sophocles, Elektra 91-95
“This hateful bed in our painful house
shares the pains of all my nights
how much I mourn for my wretched father…”
τὰ δὲ παννυχίδων κήδη στυγεραὶ
ξυνίσασ᾿ εὐναὶ μογερῶν οἴκων,
ὅσα τὸν δύστηνον ἐμὸν θρηνῶ
This week we turn to the first of many plays set around the House of Atreus, Sophokles’ Elektra. This story follows Orestes’ return home to murder his mother (and her lover Aegisthus) for the killing of his father Agamemnon. For fans of tragedy, the tale is famous from our only full trilogy from ancient Athens, Aeschylus’ Oresteia. But it was legendary—and perhaps even paradigmatic—Homer’s Odyssey as well, where Orestes is held up repeatedly as a model of youthful initiative to Telemachus and Clytemnestra’s betrayal of her husband appears as a constant threat to Odysseus’ homecoming.
The story of Orestes is, like the end of the Odyssey, about the cycle of vengeance and the dangerous narrative pull of the call to revenge. In Aeschylus’ Eumenides, Orestes ends up in Athens where he is judged by a jury for his mother’s murder: his story pits the orders of one god (Apollo) against he claims of others (the Furies) and the loyalty of a son to mother or father. The story of the Elektra is a prolonged rumination on the choices made before that crises. This version of the tale is often dated to the end of Sophocles’ life, during the middle of the Peloponnesian War. It features Orestes returning with Pylades in disguise to announce his death. The title character, Electra, has been mourning her father’s murder and longing for her brother’s return. Once she finds out about Orestes’ true identity, the play turns to the murder, but prior to that ever delayed moment of recognition, the audiences witnesses Orestes’ hesitation and Electra’s sorrow.
Sophocles, Electra 1047
“Nothing is more hateful than a bad plan.”
βουλῆς γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστιν ἔχθιον κακῆς.
Scenes (Using Paul Woodruff’s translation)
86-230, Electra, Chorus
328-471, Electra, Chrysothemis, Chorus
516-659, Electra, Clytemnestra, Chorus
871-1055, Electra, Chrysothemis
1098-1264, Electra, Orestes, Chorus
1385-1510: Electra, Chorus, Aegisthus, Orestes, Clytemnestra
Sophocles, Elektra 1082-1089
“No noble person wants
to ruin their good reputation by living badly
namelessly, my child.
So you have accepted for yourself
a life of fame and constant sorrow,
making a weapon from a noble cure–
with one strike you win two prizes
to be called a child excellent and wise.”
οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀγαθῶν
ζῶν κακῶς εὔκειαν αἰσχῦναι θέλοι
νώνυμος, ὦ παῖ παῖ·
ὡς καὶ σὺ πάγκλαυτον αἰ-
ῶνα κλεινὸν εἵλου,
ἄκος καλὸν καθοπλίσα-
σα δύο φέρειν ἑνὶ λόγῳ,
σοφά τ᾿ ἀρίστα τε παῖς κεκλῆσθαι.
Electra – Evelyn Miller
Chrysothemis – Tabatha Gayle
Chorus – Sara Valentine
Orestes – Tim Delap
Clytemnestra – Eunice Roberts
Aegisthus – René Thornton Jr.
Special Guests, Amy. R. Cohen
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Sophocles, Elektra 1282-1287
“My love–I am hearing a voice
I never hoped to hear,
but still I kept my eagerness quiet.
I heard with no cry in response.
But now, I have you. You are clear as day,
holding the dearest vision before me,
something I never could forget in any troubles.”
ὦ φίλ᾿, ἔκλυον
ἃν ἐγὼ οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἤλπισ᾿ αὐδάν.
έσχον ὀργὰν ἄναυδον
οὐδὲ σὺν βοᾷ κλύουσ᾿ ἁ τάλαινα.
νῦν δ᾿ ἔχω σε· προὐφάνης δὲ
φιλτάταν ἔχων πρόσοψιν,
ἇς ἐγὼ οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἐν κακοῖς λαθοίμαν.
Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)
Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris, August 19th
Euripides, Hippolytus, August 23rd
Aeschylus, Suppliants September 2nd
Euripides, Electra September 9th
Sophocles, Elektra 1325-1330
“What the greatest mob of fools and senseless wastes!
Don’t you care at all about your life
Or are you incapable of any thought at all,
When you cannot recognize that you aren’t just close,
but You’re in the middle of the worst shit there is?”
ὦ πλεῖστα μῶροι καὶ φρενῶν τητώμενοι,
πότερα παρ᾿ οὐδὲν τοῦ βίου κήδεσθ᾿ ἔτι,
ἢ νοῦς ἔνεστιν οὔτις ὑμὶν ἐγγενής,
ὅτ᾿ οὐ παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἀλλ᾿ ἐν αὐτοῖσιν κακοῖς
τοῖσιν μεγίστοις ὄντες οὐ γιγνώσκετε;
Euripides, Ion, June 17th
Euripides, Hecuba June 24th
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th
Aristophanes, Clouds July 15th
Euripides, Alcestis July 22nd
Sophocles, Elektra 1390-1394
“The clever defender of the dead goes
into the home, to to his father’s long-wealthy foundation,
he carries a weapon just now sharpened for blood.”
παράγεται γὰρ ἐνέρων
δολιόπους ἀρωγὸς εἴσω στέγας,
ἀρχαιόπλουτα πατρὸς εἰς ἑδώλια,
νεακόνητον αἷμα χειροῖν ἔχων·
Sophocles, Elektra 119-120
“I can’t hold out any longer
bearing the weight of my grief alone.”
μούνη γὰρ ἄγειν οὐκέτι σωκῶ
λύπης ἀντίρροπον ἄχθος.
Sophocles, Elektra 1038
“When you’re in your right mind, then you can lead us.”
ὅταν γὰρ εὖ φρονῇς, τόθ᾿ ἡγήσῃ σὺ νῷν.