Apparently we’re going to be ringside for the fight between King Pantheus of Thebes and Dionysus…”Eurpides tells the story in a masterpiece of Greek drama.” (Vol. 8, pp. 368-372 – only 5 pages, Harvard Classics? Ha! I laugh in advance! Now it’s going to be in Greek or something)
The volume is called “Nine Greek Dramas,” and it would be great if “Seven Against Thebes” was in “Nine Greek Dramas.” On second thought, no it wouldn’t. I’m not funny anymore. At least I have my nascent liberal education to fall back on.
This is the opening of the Bacchae, which was produced after the death of Euripedes by his son in 405 B.C.
I forgot, from my religious studies training, that Dionysus was referred to as “God’s Son.” Then, in line two, we get these Paris Hilton-esque lines: “Whom the brand/Of heaven’s hot splendour lit to life.”
Who translated this, anyway? Why, Gilbert Murray, of course! Must Google it after reading.
One of the things in the opening is that Dionysus tells us 1) who he is and 2) what he’s doing here “thus I must speak clear/To save my mother’s fame, and crown me here/As true God”. See, coming out of TV, I was taught that you must disguise your exposition a little better. But Euripedies goes for it. Shakespeare does too. Is it a theater thing – you’re so interested to see these other people projecting into the second balcony that you’ll listen to them“lay pipe” (as we say in TV)? TV and movies are necessarily more intimate. Maybe it’s also that the theater is more like a conference room – we all need to be got up to speed. Watching stuff on screens is more one-to-one. Maybe.
Turns out Dionysus (and if I’ve learned nothing else today, it’s how to spell “Dionysus”) has a beef with Pentheus, who “thrusteth me away/From due drink-offering”.
Only now, because of all the enjambment, do I realize that this is in rhymed couplets. They certainly don’t write them like that anymore, except in hip-hopera, that is.
Dionysus leaves and fifteen Eastern Women come in, “the light of the sunrise streaming upon their long white robes and ivy-bound hair…Many bear the sacred Wand (heh heh – ed.) They begin their mystic song of worship and the rhyme scheme changes (and we learn that “Dionysus” rhymes with “espies us.” Wait a minute, these are the title characters – the Bacchae (or “Dreamgirls”).
The segment ends, suddenly, with the end of the story of Dionysus’ birth, so we’re not going to see King Pantheus at all in this go-round. As compensation I think I'll post this picture of Reggie Theus:
Stuff I decided to Wikipedia: 1. Bacchae (which redirects to "Maenad"):
"Their name literally translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in copious amounts of violence, bloodletting, sexual activity, self-intoxication, and mutilation."Like Lake Havasu at Spring Break, right!? I disgust myself. SPOILER: the Bacchae kill King Pentheus.
2. Gilbert Murray. There's quite a sizable entry, as befits the leading classical scholar of the first half of the twentieth century (and, perhaps ironically for this project, someone involved with the temperance movement).
Great footnote from this entry: "From the 1880s onwards, amateur performances in Greek had been popular, particularly for students dramaticals." Also like Lake Havasu at Spring Break!