Something To Make This Place a Home: Reading Greek Tragedy Online, LIVE

Sophokles, Philoktetes 32

“Is there nothing inside to make this a home?”

οὐδ᾿ ἔνδον οἰκοποιός ἐστί τις τροφή;

Sophocles, Philoktetes 234-235

“Loveliest sound, oh, to grasp the voice
of such a man after so long a time.”

ὦ φίλτατον φώνημα· φεῦ τὸ καὶ λαβεῖν
πρόσφθεγμα τοιοῦδ᾿ ἀνδρὸς ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ.

Today Reading Greek Tragedy Online returns to Sophocles’ Philoktetes  at 3 PM EDT Online, and LIVE at Harvard University’s Hilles Cinema, sponsored by the Division of Arts and Sciences and Department of the Classics at Harvard University and the School of Arts and Sciences and Department of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. Tune in Live, return for a recording, or, if you can make it, stop by in person and say, “ἆ ἆ ἆ ἆ.”

Sophocles, Philoktetes 971-2 

“You aren’t bad but by learning from wicked men you became used to pursuing wicked things”

οὐκ εἶ κακὸς σύ, πρὸς κακῶν δ᾽ ἀνδρῶν μαθὼν/ ἔοικας ἥκειν αἰσχρά:

RGTO is produced by a partnership of Out of Chaos Theatre, the Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Kosmos Society. This project started at the onset of COVID19 lockdowns in the US and UK and brings together actors and researches to stage scenes from the ancient stage and talk about how they impact us to this day. We have over 50 episodes posted already and will add a few more by the end of the year. In the first year of the Pandemic, we went through every extant Greek tragedy. As we have moved on, we have tried to broaden our scope, expanding the questions we ask of the past and reaching out to bring more people and perspectives into discussion.

Sophocles, Philoktetes 54-55

“You need to bewitch
Philoktetes’ mind with your words.”

τὴν Φιλοκτήτου σε δεῖ
ψυχὴν ὅπως λόγοισιν ἐκκλέψεις λέγων

This performance marks the first time many of us have met in person and the first time some of us have been together since before the start of the pandemic. As we have written about elsewhere, the process of putting on these readings has helped us to rethink Greek Tragedy. For me, it has forced a re-centering of performance and audience experience in creating a play’s meaning. Viewing and reflecting on tragic action together expands our emotional and cognitive grasp, helping us to see each other and ourselves through the characters on stage. In particular, the practice of listening to other peoples’ interpretations and using them as a sounding board for our own gives the moment of performance and its aftermath power that is often impoverished on a simple page.

Cast and Crew

Eunice Roberts
Damian Jermaine Thompson
René Thornton Jr.
Sara Valentine

Directed by Paul O’Mahony, translated by Ian Johnston.

With host Joel Christensen, and special guests, Naomi Weiss and David Elmer

Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Executive Producer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle

Sophocles, Philoctetes 86-95 (Neoptolemus to Odysseus)

“For my part, son of Laertes, I hate to carry out those plans which pain me to hear. I was not born to do anything from evil contrivance, nor was the one (as they say) who begot me. But I am always up to the task of taking a man by violence and not trickery. With his one foot, Philoctetes will not overwhelm us, who are so many, in a violent contest. Yet, since I was sent as your helpmate, I would rather not be called a traitor; but my lord, I would rather err while acting nobly than prevail while acting basely.”

ἐγὼ μὲν οὓς ἂν τῶν λόγων ἀλγῶ κλύων,
Λαερτίου παῖ, τούσδε καὶ πράσσειν στυγῶ:
ἔφυν γὰρ οὐδὲν ἐκ τέχνης πράσσειν κακῆς,
οὔτ᾽ αὐτὸς οὔθ᾽, ὥς φασιν, οὑκφύσας ἐμέ.
ἀλλ᾽ εἴμ᾽ ἑτοῖμος πρὸς βίαν τὸν ἄνδρ᾽ ἄγειν
καὶ μὴ δόλοισιν: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἑνὸς ποδὸς
ἡμᾶς τοσούσδε πρὸς βίαν χειρώσεται.
πεμφθείς γε μέντοι σοὶ ξυνεργάτης ὀκνῶ
προδότης καλεῖσθαι: βούλομαι δ᾽, ἄναξ, καλῶς
δρῶν ἐξαμαρτεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ νικᾶν κακῶς.

We first visited Philoktetes on the island of Lemnos in 2020 with special guest Norman Sandridge. At the beginning of the pandemic it was impossible not to see Philoktetes’ isolation and dehumanization as a way to think about the impact of COVID19 on our lives.

Sophocles, Philoktetes 446-452

“He would survive, since nothing rotten ever dies,
but the gods take good care of these things
and they love turning the wicked back from hell
even as they are always damning the just and good.
How can we make sense of this, can we praise it
when look close at their work and realize the gods are evil?”

ἔμελλ᾿· ἐπεὶ οὐδέν πω κακόν γ᾿ ἀπώλετο,
ἀλλ᾿ εὖ περιστέλλουσιν αὐτὰ δαίμονες,
καί πως τὰ μὲν πανοῦργα καὶ παλιντριβῆ
χαίρουσ᾿ ἀναστρέφοντες ἐξ Ἅιδου, τὰ δὲ
δίκαια καὶ τὰ χρήστ᾿ ἀποστέλλουσ᾿ ἀεί.
ποῦ χρὴ τίθεσθαι ταῦτα, ποῦ δ᾿ αἰνεῖν, ὅταν
τὰ θεῖ᾿ ἐπαθρῶν τοὺς θεοὺς εὕρω κακούς;

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1. 6-9

“We use ‘self-sufficient’ not to mean a person alone—someone living in isolation—but to include one’s parents, children, spouse, friends, and even fellow citizens, since a human being is a social creature by nature. Now, some limit needs to be observed in these ties—for it will go on endlessly if you extend it to someone’s ancestors and descendants.  But that’s a problem for another time.

We posit that self-sufficiency is something which in itself makes life attractive and lacks nothing and for this reason we think it is happiness, since we imagine that happiness is the most preferable of all things when it is not counted with others. It is clear that it is desirable even with the least of the goods—the addition of goods increases the total, since the greater good is always desirable.”

τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες λέγομεν οὐκ αὐτῷ μόνῳ, τῷ ζῶντι βίον μονώτην, ἀλλὰ καὶ γονεῦσι καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γυναικὶ καὶ ὅλως τοῖς φίλοις καὶ πολίταις, ἐπειδὴ φύσει πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος. τούτων δὲ ληπτέος ὅρος τις· ἐπεκτείνοντι γὰρ ἐπὶ τοὺς γονεῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀπογόνους καὶ τῶν φίλων τοὺς φίλους εἰς ἄπειρον πρόεισιν. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν εἰσαῦθις ἐπισκεπτέον, τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες τίθεμεν ὃ μονούμενον αίπετὸν ποιεῖ τὸν βίον καὶ μηδενὸς ἐνδεᾶ· τοιοῦτον δὲ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν οἰόμεθα εἶναι. ἔτι δὲ πάντων αἱρετωτάτην μὴ συναριθμουμένην—συναριθμουμένην γὰρ δῆλον ὡς αἱρετωτέραν μετὰ τοῦ ἐλαχίστου τῶν ἀγαθῶν, ὑπεροχὴ γὰρ ἀγαθῶν γίνεται τὸ προστιθέμενον, ἀγαθῶν δὲ τὸ μεῖζον αἱρετώτερον

John Donne, Meditation 17

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.