Grief Lessons

The classical education I never had: Hippolytos

paris-exposedHippolytos, the insufferable son of Theseus, was a celebutard of antiquity. In Euripides’ play, the dandy loves only two things: himself and the goddess Artemis. He’s even got an entourage to follow him around and tell him how great and pure he is. Yes, pure. He is untouched by woman, devoting himself exclusively to his chosen deity. The problem is, his chastity and vomit-inducing self-regard has pissed off Aphrodite, who takes his piss-poor attitude as an affront. Theseus is out of town, and Aphro believes the time of her revenge is at hand. Did I mention that Hippolytos’ stepmother is in forbidden love with her stepson? READ MORE >

Behind the Scenes & Technology / 2 Comments
April 18th, 2009 / 8:09 am

The classical education I never had: Hekabe

Thus was Hector smote. Smoten?

Thus was Hector smote. Smoten?

After reading Herakles, a play in which a man-god returns from hell only to savagely, accidentally kill his beloved wife and children, I figured I had seen the worst that Euripides’ Grief Lessons had to offer. I was wrong.

I have had for some years on my computer a file called “unpleasantness of Euripides,” in which I place at random thoughts on this subject, in hopes that the file will someday add up to an answer to the question, Why is Euripides so unpleasant? Certainly he is. Certainly I am not the only person who thinks so. Not the only person whose heart sinks at the prospect of reading, teaching or attending one of his plays.

Nice introduction. Anne Carson will translate Euripides, but she doesn’t have to like him. I respect that. In the second of four Grief Lessons, Carson introduces us to Hekabe, who bore many brave sons to Priam, the slain king of Troy (she also apparently “knew” some other fella and consequently popped out some “baggage” named Polydoros). After the sack of Troy, the ghost of Achilles shows up and demands a blood sacrifice. Hekabe’s daughter Polyxena pulls the short straw, and compounded as it is with news of her son Polydoros’s death by betrayal and drowning at the hands of the thrice cursed goat of a Thracian, Polymestor, you know Hekabe is gonna get pre-medieval on some poor fool. But who? READ MORE >

Author Spotlight / 5 Comments
March 31st, 2009 / 11:08 pm

The classical education I never had: Herakles

One half of Power & Glory

One half of Power & Glory

I don’t know balls about the Greeks or antiquity, friezes or columns. I sort of remember reading Antigone in school, but don’t remember being all that interested in the degenerate offspring of Oedipus. Still, knowing the difference between the major Greek playwrights, or even just a workable understanding of the mythology, seems one of the marks of an educated person, and I find myself in the possession of two collections translated by the wonderful Anne Carson. The one, a collection of four plays by Euripides, is called Grief Lessons. Here, my internship begins with Herakles—Euripides’ take on the half-human son of Zeus, once ably portrayed by television star Kevin Sorbo. I wonder, was anything lost between the fifth century BC and mid-nineties USA programming? READ MORE >

Behind the Scenes / 4 Comments
March 27th, 2009 / 8:47 am