Jan 18 (19): Origins of Yale's "Brekekekex"

That’s right, I missed a day. I work worked all day and then fell asleep early. If you’re hoping to see me beat myself up about it, guess what: you’re barking up the wrong kettle of fish. Aristophanes waited over 2000 years for me to read an excerpt from his work, he can wait another day.

What I love is that this excerpt in the DRG is titled, “Origins of Yale ‘Brekekekex-Ko-Ax.” This is what they say at Yale, is it? Well, by all means, I must take a look! Actually, I get it; I remember doing research for a project that was set in 1962, and in Sports Illustrated and places like that there was still this patina that hung around “college” in general and the Ivies in particular; a patina that would wear away when more people got to college and failed to see what all the fuss was about.

Anyway, Xanthias and Dionysus are supposed to be “an up-to-date vaudeville team,” so it should be pretty enticing. Vol 8 pp. 439-499 it is, then….

-- I like in the introductory note that the “undoubted coarseness of many of the jests” is ascribed to the audience (festival of Dionysus, don’t you know), rather than “the individual taste of the poet.” I don’t believe it. But then I also don’t believe, as our introducer does, that this is a mark against “a man of noble character.”

-- This is from the “Frogs,” by the way, which I’ve never read (of course), but appears to be an early example of meta, which appropriately enough is a Greek prefix.

-- Indeed, they’re starting off talking about what jokes to do. I myself like the idea that a god has a slave. I thought we were all slaves (God as LBJ: “they’re all my helicopters, son.”) It’s like God having a personal copy of the Bible; what if he loses it?

-- Xanthias manages to sneaking in a joke (“I’m getting crushed”) that Dinoysus told him not to do – nice. Jack Benny would approve.

-- Dionysus (who doesn’t much seem like a god, maybe that’s why he was popular as a god) has had his heart broken by Euripedes – there’s the famous Greek man-love! Is this the kind of stuff the Introductory Note was warning us about?

-- It turns out Dionysus wants to go to Hades to find Euripedes, and there follows a long discussion of the best way to commit suicide to do so, which, while not so funny to read, would still be pretty funny in the hands of the right, indecisive actor.

-- And here’s the famous “Brekekekex.” A little disappointing. The stuff on suicide was better, honestly.

-- And then Xanthias and Dionysus are afraid, like a good comedy team ought to be (think Coen Brothers).

-- Then it ends with the chorus calling Iacchus – Bacchus, I guess.

I like the ideas of a bunch of plays around some event which the audience all knows, allowing for a bunch of references and in-jokes. Maybe there ought to be a Super Bowl drama festival in the future.

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