October 24: Did Cassandra Have It Coming?

So cute! Who's a little prophet of doom? Who's a little prophet of doom?

The fate of Cassandra is the topic of today's reading, a rather dreary translation of Aeschylus's Agamemnon (FACT: the original production was supposed to have songs written by a very young Noel Coward, but Aeschylus vetoed this. Gertrude Lawrence, however, was ravishing at Clytemnestra when it opened at, appropriately enough, the Palladium.)

The fate of Cassandra is certainly very pitable. Nobody deserves to have their native city sacked and burned, and then taken as the general's slave girl, and then killed by the general's wife. But think of how annoying she must have been. She is 1) very hot. God-besotted-with-her-hot. Plus 2) she has the gift of prophecy, so she is -- literally -- a know-it-all. And then she jilts Apollo! She has stones, that one. No wonder Agamemnon took her -- she probably reminded him of his wife Clytemnestra, who proves to be no shrinking violet either, what with committing the double murder and all. The alpha males have types, you know. The point is that she has the total package to make her not care a bit what anyone else thinks of her, and you know how appealing that is.

So then Apollo curses her by saying that no one will ever believe her prophecies. And her woes begin. Yet, perhaps to her credit, although it would have been intensely off-putting in person, apparently it pumps up her screw-all-y'all attitude even more:
Nay, then, believe me not: what skills belief
Or disbelief? Fate works its will—and thou
Wilt see and say in ruth, Her tale was true.
Confidential to Cassandra: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (I think that first appeared in the ancient Greek syndicated column "Hints from Hesiod.") At some level I get it, though -- it is so satisfying to be right when everyone else is wrong, that one often forgets that being right is not enough, you must be persuasive also. I also think that the Trojans actually did believe Cassandra but just couldn't man up enough to act on what they knew. I say this because I hate balancing my checkbook these days, as if the numbers will magically change for the better while I'm not looking.

The other thing I noticed in this reading is that Cassandra completely breaks it down for the Chorus -- there's going to be some blood spilled tonight -- and, even though the chorus seems to believe her, they're still surprised. Once the deal goes down, they start running around like panicky CNBC personalities:
I know not what ’twere well to counsel now—
Who wills to act, ’tis his to counsel how.

Thy doubt is mine: for when a man is slain,
I have no words to bring his life again.

What? e’en for life’s sake, bow us to obey
These house-defilers and their tyrant sway?

Unmanly doom! ’twere better far to die—
Death is a gentler lord than tyranny.

Think well—must cry or sign of woe or pain
Fix our conclusion that the chief is slain?
The last one is my favorite. Agamemnon has just cried out that he's recieved a fatal blow and this guy is like, "But how do we know it's a fatal blow?" He's like a climate change denier (speaking of disasters everyone saw coming).

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