Responses to Monstrosity

Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. 1297-1306. Chorus:

O Calamity, awful for people to see!
By far the most awful I’ve come upon yet!
Hapless man, what madness visited you?
What god has leapt farther than the farthest bound
Onto your jinxed life?
Alas, alas, disaster of a man!
I haven’t the strength to look at you,
Though there’s much I want to ask and hear.
I gawk instead–you make me shudder so.

Freud. The ‘Uncanny.’

The uncanny: “It undoubtedly belongs to all that is terrible–to all that arouses dread and creeping horror.”

“Everything is uncanny that ought to have remained hidden and secret, and yet comes to light.”

ὦ δεινὸν ἰδεῖν πάθος ἀνθρώποις,
ὦ δεινότατον πάντων ὅσ᾽ ἐγὼ
προσέκυρσ᾽ ἤδη. τίς σ᾽, ὦ τλῆμον,
προσέβη μανία; τίς ὁ πηδήσας
μείζονα δαίμων τῶν μακίστων
πρὸς σῇ δυσδαίμονι μοίρᾳ;
φεῦ φεῦ, δύσταν᾽:
ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐσιδεῖν δύναμαί σε, θέλων
πόλλ᾽ ἀνερέσθαι, πολλὰ πυθέσθαι,
πολλὰ δ᾽ ἀθρῆσαι:
τοίαν φρίκην παρέχεις μοι.

white theater mask crying tears of blood

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

The Cruelty Off Stage, Spoken Yet Unseen

Homer, Iliad 6.53-62

“And then [Menelaos] was intending to give Adrastus
To an attendant to take back to the Achaeans’ swift ships
But Agamemnon came rushing in front of him and spoke commandingly
“Oh my fool Menelaos, why do you care so much about people?
Did your house suffer the best treatment by the Trojans?
Let none of them flee dread death at our hands,
Not even  a mother who carries in her womb
a child that will be a boy, let not one flee, but instead
Let everyone at Troy perish, unwept and unseen.”

The hero spoke like this and changed his brother’s mind,
Since he advised properly…

καὶ δή μιν τάχ᾽ ἔμελλε θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
δώσειν ᾧ θεράποντι καταξέμεν: ἀλλ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων
ἀντίος ἦλθε θέων, καὶ ὁμοκλήσας ἔπος ηὔδα:
‘ὦ πέπον ὦ Μενέλαε, τί ἢ δὲ σὺ κήδεαι οὕτως
ἀνδρῶν; ἦ σοὶ ἄριστα πεποίηται κατὰ οἶκον
πρὸς Τρώων; τῶν μή τις ὑπεκφύγοι αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον
χεῖράς θ᾽ ἡμετέρας, μηδ᾽ ὅν τινα γαστέρι μήτηρ
κοῦρον ἐόντα φέροι, μηδ᾽ ὃς φύγοι, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα πάντες
Ἰλίου ἐξαπολοίατ᾽ ἀκήδεστοι καὶ ἄφαντοι.

ὣς εἰπὼν ἔτρεψεν ἀδελφειοῦ φρένας ἥρως
αἴσιμα παρειπών:

Schol, bT ad Il 6.58-59 ex [from the Erbse edition]

 “these words are hateful and ill-fit to a noble manner. For they indicate a savageness of spirit and any human audience member will hate the excess bitterness and inhumanity. This is why tragedians hide people who do these kinds of things on stage and signal what was done either through the sound of some voices or through messengers later, for no other reason than they might be hated for what was done”

μηδ’ ὅντινα<—μηδ’ ὃς φύγοι>: μισητὰ καὶ οὐχἁρμόζοντα βασιλικῷ ἤθει τὰ ῥήματα· τρόπου γὰρ ἐνδείκνυσι θηριότητα, ὁ δὲ ἀκροατὴς ἄνθρωπος ὢν μισεῖ τὸ ἄγαν πικρὸν καὶ ἀπάνθρωπον. ὅθεν κἀν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις κρύπτουσι τοὺς δρῶντας τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐν ταῖς σκηναῖς καὶ ἢ φωναῖς τισιν ἐξακουομέναις ἢ δι’ ἀγγέλων ὕστερον σημαίνουσι τὰ πραχθέντα, οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ φοβούμενοι, μὴ αὐτοὶ συμμισηθῶσι τοῖς δρωμένοις….

A few more glosses from the scholia

Schol b ad Il. 6.59

“Who is a boy”: because a female infant would be useless for battle

<κοῦρον ἐόντα:> ἄχρηστον γὰρ εἰς μάχην τὸ θῆλυ.

Schol bT ad Il. 6.60a

ἀκήδεστοι: “unmourned” for people who don’t have someone grieving them

ἄφαντοι: “unseen” because no one leaves behind a grave marker for them

ἀκήδεστοι: μὴ ἔχοντες τὸν κηδεύοντα.

ἄφαντοι: ὡς μηδὲ μνημεῖον αὐτῶν παραλείπεσθαι.

 

Schol bT ad Il. 6.62

αἴσιμα παρειπών: “fated things” or “things proper for people who have done wrong”. The poet bears witness to how correctly Agamemnon has ordered his speech.”

αἴσιμα παρειπών: εἱμαρμένα, ἢ τὰ πρέποντα τοῖς ἀδικουμένοις. ἐμαρτύρησε δὲ ὁ ποιητὴς αὐτῷ ὡς καλῶς διαθεμένῳ τοὺς λόγους.

black-figured amphora: the death of Priam; Priam is being battered to death with the body of his grandson Astyanax. BM 1842,0314.3

 

Frying Fish and Accepting People as they Are

Terence, Adelphoe 420-432

“JFC, I don’t have the time to listen to you.
I have the fish I was thinking about and now
My main concern is that they don’t go bad.
That would be as big a crime on our part, Demea,
As ignoring everything you were just talking about.

As far as I can, I give my fellow enslaved friends this advice
“Too much salt or overcooked or undercleaned, ooh that’s perfect–
Remember what you did next time!
I am serious about giving them as much wisdom as I can.

Finally, I say “gaze into the saucepan as if into a mirror!”
And I tell them what they should do as practice.

I know that all these things we do are foolish—
But what would you do? You need to take each person as they are.
What else do you want?”

… non hercle otiumst
nunc mi auscultandi. piscis ex sententia
nactus sum. hi mihi ne corrumpantur cautiost.
nam id nobis tam flagitiumst quam illa, Demea,
non facere vobis quae modo dixti. et quod queo
conservis ad eundem istunc praecipio modum.
“hoc salsumst, hoc adustumst, hoc lautumst parum.
illud recte, iterum sic memento.” sedulo
moneo quae possum pro mea sapientia.
postremo tamquam in speculum in patinas, Demea,
inspicere iubeo et moneo quid facto usu’ sit.
inepta haec esse nos quae facimus sentio.
verum quid facias? ut homost, ita morem geras.
numquid vis?

Assailing the Salted Sea

Euripides, Trojan Women 86–97

“These things will happen: for the favor needs
No long speeches. I will assail the salted Aigaian sea.
The cliffs of Mykonos and the Delian reefs,
The reefs of Skyros and Lemnos and the Kaphêrian peaks
Will bear the bodies of many dying corpses.

So go to Olympos and grab your father’s
Lightning bolts from his hand and keep a careful watch
For the time when the Greek army leaves in ease.

It is a fool who tries to sack mortals’ cities,
Their shrines and tombs, the sacred places of the dead.
Eventually he gives himself to a desert when he dies.”

ἔσται τάδ᾽: ἡ χάρις γὰρ οὐ μακρῶν λόγων
δεῖται: ταράξω πέλαγος Αἰγαίας ἁλός.
ἀκταὶ δὲ Μυκόνου Δήλιοί τε χοιράδες
Σκῦρός τε Λῆμνός θ᾽ αἱ Καφήρειοί τ᾽ ἄκραι
πολλῶν θανόντων σώμαθ᾽ ἕξουσιν νεκρῶν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἕρπ᾽ Ὄλυμπον καὶ κεραυνίους βολὰς
λαβοῦσα πατρὸς ἐκ χερῶν καραδόκει,
ὅταν στράτευμ᾽ Ἀργεῖον ἐξιῇ κάλως.
μῶρος δὲ θνητῶν ὅστις ἐκπορθεῖ πόλεις,
ναούς τε τύμβους θ᾽, ἱερὰ τῶν κεκμηκότων,
ἐρημίᾳ δοὺς αὐτὸς ὤλεθ᾽ ὕστερον.

File:Hecuba.jpg
Hecuba kills Polymestor, by Giuseppe Crespi

Sing the Rage! Returning to the Iliad with Reading Greek Tragedy Online

Tomorrow we return to the Iliad with Reading Greek Tragedy Online, a series produced in partnership with 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 45 episodes posted already and will add 5 more before the end of the year.

We return to book 1 of the Iliad, the scene of the crime.

4 PM EST, Live and Archived

Homer, Iliad 1.1-9

Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω ᾿Αχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ ᾿Αχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς ῎Αϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή,
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
᾿Ατρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος ᾿Αχιλλεύς.

“Goddess, sing the rage of Pelias’ son Achilles,
Destructive, how it gave the Achaeans endless pain
And sent many brave souls of heroes to Hades—
And it made them food for the dogs
And all the birds as Zeus plan was being fulfilled.
Start from when those two first diverged in strife,
The lord of men Atreus’ son and godly Achilles.”

Youtube Link:

Homer, Iliad 1.158–168 [Achilles addressing Agamemnon]

“But, you great shamepot, we follow you so that you feel joy,
As we collect honor for Menelaos and you, dog-face,
From the Trojans—you don’t shudder at this, you don’t care.”

ἀλλὰ σοὶ ὦ μέγ’ ἀναιδὲς ἅμ’ ἑσπόμεθ’ ὄφρα σὺ χαίρῃς,
τιμὴν ἀρνύμενοι Μενελάῳ σοί τε κυνῶπα
πρὸς Τρώων· τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπῃ οὐδ’ ἀλεγίζεις·

Performers and Artists
Musical guest and performer: Bettina Joy de Guzman
Paul Hurley
Paul O’Mahony
Rene Thornton Jr.
Damian Jermaine Thompson
Sara Valentine
Special Guests: Jared Simrad and Maria Xanthou

Iliad 1.224–228 [Achilles Addressing Agamemnon]

“Wine-sod! Dog-eyes! You have the heart of a deer!
You never suffer to arm yourself to enter battle with the army
Nor to set an ambush with the best of the Achaeans.
That seems like death itself to you!”

οἰνοβαρές, κυνὸς ὄμματ’ ἔχων, κραδίην δ’ ἐλάφοιο,
οὔτέ ποτ’ ἐς πόλεμον ἅμα λαῷ θωρηχθῆναι
οὔτε λόχον δ’ ἰέναι σὺν ἀριστήεσσιν ᾿Αχαιῶν
τέτληκας θυμῷ· τὸ δέ τοι κὴρ εἴδεται εἶναι.

Crew and Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (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

Eustathius, Commentary to Homer’s Iliad, 1.14

“That Homer was an Achilles-lover will appear in thousands of ways. Homer would have readily named the Iliad the Achillea, just as he named the Odysseia (Odyssey) after Odysseus, if it were not for the fact that he would thus slight and insult the rest of the Greek nobility by naming the poem after one person.”

῞Οτι δὲ φιλοαχιλλεὺς ὁ ποιητής, μυριαχοῦ φανήσεται, ὃς τάχα, ὥσπερ ἐξ ᾿Οδυσσέως τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν, οὕτω καὶ τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα ἐξ ᾿Αχιλλέως ᾿Αχίλλειαν ἐπέγραψεν ἄν, εἰ μὴ τὸ πρεσβεῖον τῆς ῾Ελλάδος οὕτως ἤμελλε καταβαλεῖν  καὶ ταπεινῶσαι τῇ ἐξ ἑνός τινος ἐπιγραφῇ.

Future episodes

All start times are 3pm ET unless otherwise noted. Live stream available at chs.harvard.edu and on YouTube.

November 17 Goddess and The Women of Gods, conceived and directed by LeeAnet Noble, with Suzanne Lye (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Jackie Murray (University of Kentucky)

December 1 The Laodamiad by Chas LiBretto

December 15 An Ancient Cabaret

Media preview

Mayhem, Murder, AND Music: Returning to Euripides’ Bacchae!

Today we return to Reading Greek Tragedy Online, a series produced in partnership with 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 40 episodes posted already and will add 5 more before the end of the year.

We return to that most mysterious and maddening tragedy, Euripides’ Bacchae. Today’s performance is a The Bacchae, a musical adaptation by J. Landon Marcus and Johanna Warren, with special guest Emma Cole (University of Bristol).

Here’s a sneak peak

Eur. Bacchae 196

“We alone are right-minded; everyone else is wrong.”

μόνοι γὰρ εὖ φρονοῦμεν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι κακῶς.

Amazing artwork by John Koelle and design by Allie Marby

Youtube Link:

Euripides, Bacchae 386–401

The fate for unbridled mouths
And lawless foolishness
Is misfortune.
The life of peace
And prudence
Is unshaken and cements together
Human homes. For even though
They live far off in the sky
The gods gaze at human affairs.
Wisdom is not wit;
Nor is thinking thoughts which belong not to mortals.

Life is brief. And because of this
Whoever seeks out great accomplishments
May not grasp the things at hand.
These are the ways of madmen
And wicked fools, I think.

ἀχαλίνων στομάτων
ἀνόμου τ’ ἀφροσύνας
τὸ τέλος δυστυχία·
ὁ δὲ τᾶς ἡσυχίας
βίοτος καὶ τὸ φρονεῖν
ἀσάλευτόν τε μένει καὶ
ξυνέχει δώματα· πόρσω
γὰρ ὅμως αἰθέρα ναίον-
τες ὁρῶσιν τὰ βροτῶν οὐρανίδαι.
τὸ σοφὸν δ’ οὐ σοφία,
τό τε μὴ θνατὰ φρονεῖν
βραχὺς αἰών· ἐπὶ τούτωι
δὲ τίς ἂν μεγάλα διώκων
τὰ παρόντ’ οὐχὶ φέροι; μαι

νομένων οἵδε τρόποι καὶ
κακοβούλων παρ’ ἔμοιγε φωτῶν.

Performers and Artists
Dionysus – J Landon Marcus
Agave – Johanna Warren
Pentheus – Johanna Warren / Sung by J Landon Marcus
Maenads – Aimée Cornwell, Gracel Delos Santos, Imogen Alice Grace, Jane Lu, Avery Rabbitt, Claire Rhiannon
Bacchae – Helen Campbell, Sophie Ferrier, Hannah Padgett
Guards – Owen Harris, Dan Lee
Lyrics by J. Landon Marcus
Music by Johanna Warren and J. Landon
Director of Photography – Ren Faulkner
Director – Johanna Warren
Dionysus Director – Madeleine Hamer
Dionysus filmed on location at Epiphany Sanctuary
Music recorded by J Landon Marcus and Johanna Warren
Mixed by Eric Crespo
Props and masks handmade by: Kate Cornish
Costumes by Kate Cornish, Hannah Padgett, Johanna Warren and the Maenads
Makeup by Johanna Warren
Cadmus’ hands – Richey Beckett
Production Assistant – Ryan James
Title Screen Art by Scarlett Cussel (scarlettcussell.com)
“Enemy of Obscenity” Projections – Mohammad Fakhori
Scenes
The Primal Drum: Maenad gathering and ritual invoking Dionysus
I Am: Dionysus appears and delivers his opening monologue.
The Enemy of Obscenity: Pentheus’ manifesto against Dionysus
Justice: Maenads and Bacchae on the mountain, Pentheus discovers them and is dismembered
Exceptional Kill: Agave with the chorus, returning to Thebes with the head of Pentheus
Funeral Hymn: The lacuna of The Bacchae, Agave comes out of the spell and grapples with saying a funeral prayer for Pentheus
Crew and Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (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

Euripides Bacchae, Fourth Chorus (862-912)

“Will I ever lift my white foot
As I dance along
In the all night chorus—
Shaking my head at the dewy sky
Like the fawn who plays
In a meadow’s pale pleasures
When she has fled the frightful hunt
Beyond the well-woven nets of the guard—
With a holler, the hunter
Recalls the rush of his hounds
And she leaps
With the swift-raced lust of the winds
Across the riverbounded plain,
Taking pleasure in the places free
Of mortals and in the tender shoots
Of the shadow grove?

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Scarcely, but still surely,
The divine moves its strength
It brings mortals low
When they honor foolishness
And do not worship the gods
Because of some insane belief
They skillfully hide
The long step of time
As they hunt down the irreverent.
For it is never right
To think or practice stronger
Than the laws.
For it is a light price
To believe that these have strength—
Whatever the divine force truly is
And whatever has been customary for so long,
This will always be, by nature.

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Fortunate is the one who flees
The swell of the sea and returns to harbor.
Fortunate is the one who survives through troubles
One is greater than another in different things,
He surpasses in fortune and power—
But in numberless hearts still
Are numberless hopes: some result
In good fortune, but other mortal dreams
Just disappear.

Whoever has a happy life to-day,
I consider fortunate.

Χο. ἆρ’ ἐν παννυχίοις χοροῖς
θήσω ποτὲ λευκὸν
πόδ’ ἀναβακχεύουσα, δέραν
αἰθέρ’ ἐς δροσερὸν ῥίπτουσ’,
ὡς νεβρὸς χλοεραῖς ἐμπαί-
ζουσα λείμακος ἡδοναῖς,
ἁνίκ’ ἂν φοβερὰν φύγηι
θήραν ἔξω φυλακᾶς
εὐπλέκτων ὑπὲρ ἀρκύων,
θωύσσων δὲ κυναγέτας
συντείνηι δράμημα κυνῶν,
μόχθοις δ’ ὠκυδρόμοις ἀελ-
λὰς θρώισκηι πεδίον
παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα
βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο-
κόμοιό τ’ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας;
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
ὁρμᾶται μόλις, ἀλλ’ ὅμως
πιστόν <τι> τὸ θεῖον
σθένος· ἀπευθύνει δὲ βροτῶν
τούς τ’ ἀγνωμοσύναν τιμῶν-
τας καὶ μὴ τὰ θεῶν αὔξον-
τας σὺν μαινομέναι δόξαι.
κρυπτεύουσι δὲ ποικίλως
δαρὸν χρόνου πόδα καὶ
θηρῶσιν τὸν ἄσεπτον· οὐ
γὰρ κρεῖσσόν ποτε τῶν νόμων
γιγνώσκειν χρὴ καὶ μελετᾶν.
κούφα γὰρ δαπάνα νομί-
ζειν ἰσχὺν τόδ’ ἔχειν,
ὅτι ποτ’ ἄρα τὸ δαιμόνιον,
τό τ’ ἐν χρόνωι μακρῶι νόμιμον
ἀεὶ φύσει τε πεφυκός.
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
εὐδαίμων μὲν ὃς ἐκ θαλάσσας
ἔφυγε χεῖμα, λιμένα δ’ ἔκιχεν·
εὐδαίμων δ’ ὃς ὕπερθε μόχθων
ἐγένεθ’· ἕτερα δ’ ἕτερος ἕτερον
ὄλβωι καὶ δυνάμει παρῆλθεν.
μυρίαι δ’ ἔτι μυρίοις
εἰσὶν ἐλπίδες· αἱ μὲν
τελευτῶσιν ἐν ὄλβωι
βροτοῖς, αἱ δ’ ἀπέβασαν·
τὸ δὲ κατ’ ἦμαρ ὅτωι βίοτος
εὐδαίμων, μακαρίζω.

Euripides, Bacchae 1388-1392

Many are the forms of divine powers
Many are the acts the gods unexpectedly make.
The very things which seemed likely did not happen
but for the unlikely, some god found a way.
This turned out to be that kind of story.

πολλαὶ μορφαὶ τῶν δαιμονίων,
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀέλπτως κραίνουσι θεοί·
καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ᾿ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ᾿ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.
τοιόνδ᾿ ἀπέβη τόδε πρᾶγμα.

Image result for agave pentheus vase

Future episodes

All start times are 3pm ET unless otherwise noted. Live stream available at chs.harvard.edu and on YouTube.

October 13 The Bacchae, a musical adaptation by J. Landon Marcus and Johanna Warren, with Emma Cole (University of Bristol)

November 3 The Iliad, Scroll 1, with Jared Simard (New York University) and Maria Xanthou (University of Leeds)

November 17 Goddess and The Women of Gods, conceived and directed by LeeAnet Noble, with Suzanne Lye (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Jackie Murray (University of Kentucky)

December 1 The Laodamiad by Chas LiBretto

December 15 An Ancient Cabaret

Last Year’s version of the Bacchae

The Cruelty Off Stage, Spoken Yet Unseen

Homer, Iliad 6.53-62

“And then [Menelaos] was intending to give Adrastus
To an attendant to take back to the Achaeans’ swift ships
But Agamemnon came rushing in front of him and spoke commandingly
“Oh my fool Menelaos, why do you care so much about people?
Did your house suffer the best treatment by the Trojans?
Let none of them flee dread death at our hands,
Not even  a mother who carries in her womb
a child that will be a boy, let not one flee, but instead
Let everyone at Troy perish, unwept and unseen.”

The hero spoke like this and changed his brother’s mind,
Since he advised properly…

καὶ δή μιν τάχ᾽ ἔμελλε θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
δώσειν ᾧ θεράποντι καταξέμεν: ἀλλ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων
ἀντίος ἦλθε θέων, καὶ ὁμοκλήσας ἔπος ηὔδα:
‘ὦ πέπον ὦ Μενέλαε, τί ἢ δὲ σὺ κήδεαι οὕτως
ἀνδρῶν; ἦ σοὶ ἄριστα πεποίηται κατὰ οἶκον
πρὸς Τρώων; τῶν μή τις ὑπεκφύγοι αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον
χεῖράς θ᾽ ἡμετέρας, μηδ᾽ ὅν τινα γαστέρι μήτηρ
κοῦρον ἐόντα φέροι, μηδ᾽ ὃς φύγοι, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα πάντες
Ἰλίου ἐξαπολοίατ᾽ ἀκήδεστοι καὶ ἄφαντοι.

ὣς εἰπὼν ἔτρεψεν ἀδελφειοῦ φρένας ἥρως
αἴσιμα παρειπών:

Schol, bT ad Il 6.58-59 ex [from the Erbse edition]

 “these words are hateful and ill-fit to a noble manner. For they indicate a savageness of spirit and any human audience member will hate the excess bitterness and inhumanity. This is why tragedians hide people who do these kinds of things on stage and signal what was done either through the sound of some voices or through messengers later, for no other reason than they might be hated for what was done”

μηδ’ ὅντινα<—μηδ’ ὃς φύγοι>: μισητὰ καὶ οὐχἁρμόζοντα βασιλικῷ ἤθει τὰ ῥήματα· τρόπου γὰρ ἐνδείκνυσι θηριότητα, ὁ δὲ ἀκροατὴς ἄνθρωπος ὢν μισεῖ τὸ ἄγαν πικρὸν καὶ ἀπάνθρωπον. ὅθεν κἀν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις κρύπτουσι τοὺς δρῶντας τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐν ταῖς σκηναῖς καὶ ἢ φωναῖς τισιν ἐξακουομέναις ἢ δι’ ἀγγέλων ὕστερον σημαίνουσι τὰ πραχθέντα, οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ φοβούμενοι, μὴ αὐτοὶ συμμισηθῶσι τοῖς δρωμένοις….

A few more glosses from the scholia

Schol b ad Il. 6.59

“Who is a boy”: because a female infant would be useless for battle

<κοῦρον ἐόντα:> ἄχρηστον γὰρ εἰς μάχην τὸ θῆλυ.

Schol bT ad Il. 6.60a

ἀκήδεστοι: “unmourned” for people who don’t have someone grieving them

ἄφαντοι: “unseen” because no one leaves behind a grave marker for them

ἀκήδεστοι: μὴ ἔχοντες τὸν κηδεύοντα.

ἄφαντοι: ὡς μηδὲ μνημεῖον αὐτῶν παραλείπεσθαι.

 

Schol bT ad Il. 6.62

αἴσιμα παρειπών: “fated things” or “things proper for people who have done wrong”. The poet bears witness to how correctly Agamemnon has ordered his speech.”

αἴσιμα παρειπών: εἱμαρμένα, ἢ τὰ πρέποντα τοῖς ἀδικουμένοις. ἐμαρτύρησε δὲ ὁ ποιητὴς αὐτῷ ὡς καλῶς διαθεμένῳ τοὺς λόγους.

black-figured amphora: the death of Priam; Priam is being battered to death with the body of his grandson Astyanax. BM 1842,0314.3

 

Play The Part You’re Given: Epictetus, Teles, and Shakespeare

Epictetus, Encheiridion, 17

“Remember that you are an actor in a drama, whatever kind the playwright desires. If he wishes it to be short, it is short. If he wants it to be long, it is long.

If he wants you to act as a beggar, act even that part seriously. And the same if you are a cripple, a ruler, or a fool. This is your role: to play well the part you were given. It is another’s duty to choose.”

Μέμνησο, ὅτι ὑποκριτὴς εἶ δράματος, οἵου ἂν θέλῃ ὁ διδάσκαλος· ἂν βραχύ, βραχέος· ἂν μακρόν, μακροῦ· ἂν πτωχὸν ὑποκρίνασθαί σε θέλῃ, ἵνα καὶ τοῦτον εὐφυῶς ὑποκρίνῃ· ἂν χωλόν, ἂν ἄρχοντα, ἂν ἰδιώτην. σὸν γὰρ τοῦτ᾿ ἔστι, τὸ δοθὲν ὑποκρίνασθαι πρόσωπον καλῶς· ἐκλέξασθαι δ᾿ αὐτὸ ἄλλου.

On Facebook M. L Lech let me know that this sentiment appeared in the work of an earlier cynic philosopher

Teles the Philosopher, On Self-Sufficiency (Hense, 5)

“Just as a good actor will carry off well whatever role the poet assigns him, so too a good person should manage well whatever chance allots. For chance, as Biôn says, just like poetry, assigns the role of the first speaker and the second speaker, now a king and then a vagabond. Don’t long to be the second speaker when you have the role of the first. Otherwise, you will create disharmony.”

Δεῖ ὥσπερ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ὑποκριτὴν ὅ τι ἂν ὁ ποιητὴς περιθῇ πρόσωπον τοῦτο ἀγωνίζεσθαι καλῶς, οὕτω καὶ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα ὅ τι ἂν περιθῇ ἡ τύχη. καὶ γὰρ αὕτη, φησὶν ὁ Βίων, ὥσπερ ποιήτρια, ὁτὲ μὲν πρωτολόγου, ὁτὲ δὲ δευτερολόγου περιτίθησι πρόσωπον, καὶ ὁτὲ μὲν βασιλέως, ὁτὲ δὲ ἀλήτου. μὴ οὖν βούλου δευτερολόγος ὢν τὸ πρωτολόγου πρόσωπον· εἰ δὲ μή,  ἀνάρμοστόν τι ποιήσεις.

Diogenes Laertius, Ariston 160

“[He compared] the wise man to a good actor who could take up the role of both Thersites and Agamemnon and play either appropriately

εἶναι γὰρ ὅμοιον τὸν σοφὸν τῷ ἀγαθῷ ὑποκριτῇ, ὃς ἄν τε Θερσίτου ἄν τε Ἀγαμέμνονος πρόσωπον ἀναλάβῃ, ἑκάτερον ὑποκρίνεται προσηκόντως.

Epictetus, Discourses 1.29

“There will soon be a time when the tragic actors will believe that their masks and costumes are their real selves. You have these things as material and a plot. Say something so we may know whether you are a tragic actor or a comedian. For they have the rest of their material in common [apart from the words]. If one, then, should deprive the actor of his buskins and his masks and introduce him to the stage as only a ghost, has the actor been lost or does he remain? If he has a voice, he remains.”

ἔσται χρόνος τάχα, ἐν ᾧ οἱ τραγῳδοὶ οἰήσονται ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι προσωπεῖα καὶ ἐμβάδας καὶ τὸ σύρμα. ἄνθρωπε, ταῦτα ὕλην ἔχεις καὶ ὑπόθεσιν. φθέγξαι τι, ἵνα εἰδῶμεν πότερον τραγῳδὸς εἶ ἢ γελωτοποιός· κοινὰ γὰρ ἔχουσι τὰ ἄλλα ἀμφότεροι. διὰ τοῦτο ἂν ἀφέλῃ τις αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰς ἐμβάδας καὶ τὸ προσωπεῖον καὶ ἐν εἰδώλῳ αὐτὸν προαγάγῃ, ἀπώλετο ὁ τραγῳδὸς ἢ μένει; ἂν φωνὴν ἔχῃ, μένει.

 W. Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7 (spoken by Jaques)
                                        All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…
Image result for ancient greek vase actors

Madness and Ecstasy: Reading the Bacchae

Reading Euripides’ Bacchae 

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes, Euripides’ Herakles (in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). Our basic approach is to have actors in isolation read parts with each other online, interspersed with commentary and discussion from ‘experts’ and the actors. This week, we turn to the Bacchae (text to be used here).

Eur. Bacchae 196

“We alone are right-minded; everyone else is wrong.”

μόνοι γὰρ εὖ φρονοῦμεν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι κακῶς.

Scenes to be Read

1-64
170-329
460-518
775-1024
1167-end

 

Euripides, Bacchae 386–401

The fate for unbridled mouths
And lawless foolishness
Is misfortune.
The life of peace
And prudence
Is unshaken and cements together
Human homes. For even though
They live far off in the sky
The gods gaze at human affairs.
Wisdom is not wit;
Nor is thinking thoughts which belong not to mortals.

Life is brief. And because of this
Whoever seeks out great accomplishments
May not grasp the things at hand.
These are the ways of madmen
And wicked fools, I think.

ἀχαλίνων στομάτων
ἀνόμου τ’ ἀφροσύνας
τὸ τέλος δυστυχία·
ὁ δὲ τᾶς ἡσυχίας
βίοτος καὶ τὸ φρονεῖν
ἀσάλευτόν τε μένει καὶ
ξυνέχει δώματα· πόρσω
γὰρ ὅμως αἰθέρα ναίον-
τες ὁρῶσιν τὰ βροτῶν οὐρανίδαι.
τὸ σοφὸν δ’ οὐ σοφία,
τό τε μὴ θνατὰ φρονεῖν
βραχὺς αἰών· ἐπὶ τούτωι
δὲ τίς ἂν μεγάλα διώκων
τὰ παρόντ’ οὐχὶ φέροι; μαι

νομένων οἵδε τρόποι καὶ
κακοβούλων παρ’ ἔμοιγε φωτῶν.

Actors
Dionysus – Tony Jayawardena
Agaue – Janet Spencer-Turner
Pentheus – Richard Neale
Kadmos – Vince Brimble
Tiresias – Paul O’Mahony
Chorus – Nichole Bird and Sarah Finigan

Euripides Bacchae, Fourth Chorus (862-912)

“Will I ever lift my white foot
As I dance along
In the all night chorus—
Shaking my head at the dewy sky
Like the fawn who plays
In a meadow’s pale pleasures
When she has fled the frightful hunt
Beyond the well-woven nets of the guard—
With a holler, the hunter
Recalls the rush of his hounds
And she leaps
With the swift-raced lust of the winds
Across the riverbounded plain,
Taking pleasure in the places free
Of mortals and in the tender shoots
Of the shadow grove?

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Scarcely, but still surely,
The divine moves its strength
It brings mortals low
When they honor foolishness
And do not worship the gods
Because of some insane belief
They skillfully hide
The long step of time
As they hunt down the irreverent.
For it is never right
To think or practice stronger
Than the laws.
For it is a light price
To believe that these have strength—
Whatever the divine force truly is
And whatever has been customary for so long,
This will always be, by nature.

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Fortunate is the one who flees
The swell of the sea and returns to harbor.
Fortunate is the one who survives through troubles
One is greater than another in different things,
He surpasses in fortune and power—
But in numberless hearts still
Are numberless hopes: some result
In good fortune, but other mortal dreams
Just disappear.

Whoever has a happy life to-day,
I consider fortunate.

Χο. ἆρ’ ἐν παννυχίοις χοροῖς
θήσω ποτὲ λευκὸν
πόδ’ ἀναβακχεύουσα, δέραν
αἰθέρ’ ἐς δροσερὸν ῥίπτουσ’,
ὡς νεβρὸς χλοεραῖς ἐμπαί-
ζουσα λείμακος ἡδοναῖς,
ἁνίκ’ ἂν φοβερὰν φύγηι
θήραν ἔξω φυλακᾶς
εὐπλέκτων ὑπὲρ ἀρκύων,
θωύσσων δὲ κυναγέτας
συντείνηι δράμημα κυνῶν,
μόχθοις δ’ ὠκυδρόμοις ἀελ-
λὰς θρώισκηι πεδίον
παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα
βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο-
κόμοιό τ’ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας;
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
ὁρμᾶται μόλις, ἀλλ’ ὅμως
πιστόν <τι> τὸ θεῖον
σθένος· ἀπευθύνει δὲ βροτῶν
τούς τ’ ἀγνωμοσύναν τιμῶν-
τας καὶ μὴ τὰ θεῶν αὔξον-
τας σὺν μαινομέναι δόξαι.
κρυπτεύουσι δὲ ποικίλως
δαρὸν χρόνου πόδα καὶ
θηρῶσιν τὸν ἄσεπτον· οὐ
γὰρ κρεῖσσόν ποτε τῶν νόμων
γιγνώσκειν χρὴ καὶ μελετᾶν.
κούφα γὰρ δαπάνα νομί-
ζειν ἰσχὺν τόδ’ ἔχειν,
ὅτι ποτ’ ἄρα τὸ δαιμόνιον,
τό τ’ ἐν χρόνωι μακρῶι νόμιμον
ἀεὶ φύσει τε πεφυκός.
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
εὐδαίμων μὲν ὃς ἐκ θαλάσσας
ἔφυγε χεῖμα, λιμένα δ’ ἔκιχεν·
εὐδαίμων δ’ ὃς ὕπερθε μόχθων
ἐγένεθ’· ἕτερα δ’ ἕτερος ἕτερον
ὄλβωι καὶ δυνάμει παρῆλθεν.
μυρίαι δ’ ἔτι μυρίοις
εἰσὶν ἐλπίδες· αἱ μὲν
τελευτῶσιν ἐν ὄλβωι
βροτοῖς, αἱ δ’ ἀπέβασαν·
τὸ δὲ κατ’ ἦμαρ ὅτωι βίοτος
εὐδαίμων, μακαρίζω.

Euripides, Bacchae 1388-1392

Many are the forms of divine powers
Many are the acts the gods unexpectedly make.
The very things which seemed likely did not happen
but for the unlikely, some god found a way.
This turned out to be that kind of story.

πολλαὶ μορφαὶ τῶν δαιμονίων,
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀέλπτως κραίνουσι θεοί·
καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ᾿ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ᾿ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.
τοιόνδ᾿ ἀπέβη τόδε πρᾶγμα.

Image result for agave pentheus vase

Videos of Earlier Sessions
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th 
Upcoming Readings

 

Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, April 22nd

Sophocles, Women of Trachis, April 29th

Euripides, Orestes, May 6th

Aeschylus, The Persians May 13th

Gazing Upon Achilles’ Murderer

Euripides, Andromache 610-619 (Peleus to Menelaus)

“But you did not steer your thought in that way—
Instead you lost many good lives
And left old women childless in their homes
And deprived their grey fathers of good offspring.

I am one of those wretches—when I look at you
It is like I am looking at Achilles’ murderer:
You returned alone from Troy unwounded,
Carrying your pristine armor back home
in the same case it was in when you left here.”

ἀλλ᾽ οὔτι ταύτῃ σὸν φρόνημ᾽ ἐπούρισας,
ψυχὰς δὲ πολλὰς κἀγαθὰς ἀπώλεσας,
παίδων τ᾽ ἄπαιδας γραῦς ἔθηκας ἐν δόμοις,
πολιούς τ᾽ ἀφείλου πατέρας εὐγενῆ τέκνα.
ὧν εἷς ἐγὼ δύστηνος: αὐθέντην δὲ σὲ
μιάστορ᾽ ὥς τιν᾽ εἰσδέδορκ᾽ Ἀχιλλέως.
ὃς οὐδὲ τρωθεὶς ἦλθες ἐκ Τροίας μόνος,
κάλλιστα τεύχη δ᾽ ἐν καλοῖσι σάγμασιν
ὅμοι᾽ ἐκεῖσε δεῦρό τ᾽ ἤγαγες πάλιν.

Painting of the Feast of Peleus by Edward Burne-Jones, ca. 1872/1881.