“Poetics” by Aristotle

“Poetics” by Aristotle

1

  • Trying to tackle poetry, variations – giving the the essentials, structure of plot & parts of a good poem, etc.
  • Epics, tragedies, comedies, dithryambic poetry, flute & lyre music & all forms of imitation
    • differences – medium, objects & manner of imitation
  • People imitate, either consciously or unconsciously, through color, form, voice, rhythm, language or harmony
  • Flutes & lyres use harmony & rhythm – dancing using rhythm w/o harmony – with emotion, character & action
  • You can use any of these in combination with each other

2

  • Objects of imitation are men in action
    • must represent as better or worse than in real life
  • Each mode of imitation will exhibit the difference & become a distinct king of imitation of objects
    • can use with dance, music, verse, etc.
    • Homer makes men better than they are
    • Cleophon shows them as they are
    • Hegemon & Thasian did parodies
    • Nicochares made them worse
    • Use different tactics with respect to verse & language depending on now you wish to portray them

3

  • Another way to differentiate is how they are imitated
    • with same medium, objects, poets can imitate by narration
    • they can impersonate Homer or use their own voices
    • 3 differences – medium, object & manner
      • Sophocles imitated Homer with higher types of character
      • Aristophanes did too with people’s actions
    • Giving “drama” to poems – representing action
    • Dorians claim to have invented both tragedy & comedy
    • Megarians claim comedy
    • Peloponnesian Dorians claim tragedy

4

  • Reason for Poetry’s birth
    • 1 – Instinct of imitation implanted from childhood, learning earliest lessons
      • view with pain when we think of monstrous animals & dead bodies
      • we enjoy seeing imitation b/c when we think of ourselves learning & saying “I recognize that in my life!”
      • You might be taken in other ways, too
    • 2 – Imitation is in our nature, as are harmony & rhythm. They continued w/ dancing & music until poetry was born.
      • Poetry diverged
        • Graver spirits – imitate actions of good/noble men
        • Trivial – imitate mean people (satires), no earlier than Homer, as well as lampooning
      • Homer is preeminent b/c he excelled at imitation, laid out foundation of comedy by dramatizing the ludicrous
        • Lampooning turned into comedy
        • Epics led to tragedy (a higher form of art than comedy)
  • Tragedy & comedy began as improvization
    • tragedy began as dithryambic poetry
    • comedians sand phallic songs
    • tragedy advanced slowly but each step was a development & eventually found a natural form & stopped there.
  • Aeschylus – first to add a second actor, diminished the importance of the chorus & advanced dialogue
  • Sophocles – increased to 3 actors & used scene-painting
  • Once dialogue came about, nature sorted out the right meters
    • Iambic – colloquial/conversational
  • Number of episodes/acts & acts other accessories would be hard to do a history about

5

  • Comedy is an imitator of a lower type
    • The mask is ugly & distorted but no pain is implied
    • tragedy’s history is detailed but comedy’s isn’t b/c it was never taken seriously
    • comedy had already solidified in its form by the time any famous poets came around
      • plots started in Sicily but solidified by Athenians in its form
  • Epics are similar to tragedies – imitates higher characters
    • epic is narrated & in one king of meter
    • tragedies limit themselves to one day in the plot or a little more
    • epic has no limit in time
    • All elements of epics are in a tragedy but not vice versa

6

  • Tragedy – serious, complete, of magnitude, embellished language, in an artistic manner, action, non-narrative, & fear & pity play large
    • embellished language – with rhythm & harmony
    • tragic drama – spectacular equipment, song & diction – metrical arrangement of words
    • plot – action & arrangement of incidents
  • MUST HAVE 6 PARTS
    • 1 – Plot – the soul of tragedy
    • 2 – Character – same with painting, if you have beautiful colors but the picture/character is confused, it’s not as good as a chalk outline
    • 3 – Thought – saying what’s possible or pertinent in given circumstances. While character reveals moral purpose, thought is where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated
    • 4 – Diction – expression of words – essence in prose & verse
    • 5 – Song – chief place for embellishments
    • 6 – Spectacle – least artistic or least connected to poetry. Depends more on stage manager than the poet

7

  • Plot – tragedy must be imitation of action, complete, whole & of a certain magnitude
    • Whole – must have a beginning, middle & end
      • Beginning – doesn’t need something to precede it
      • Middle – must have something before it & something after it. The plot can’t end haphazardly.
      • End – must have something before it but nothing follows it
    • Must have an orderly arrangement of parts & be of a certain magnitude [beauty requires a bigness]
      • not too small or trivial & not too large as to confuse or overwhelm the audience.
      • has a length that can be embraced by memory – all are mostly the same length
      • must have a change from good to bad fortune or bad to good

8

  • Plot’s unity doesn’t need to rely on a hero’s unity of character
    • you can’t reduce a man’s life to a single unit
    • Some poets imagine Heracles as 1 man & think that his story must be written as a unity – far too long!
    • Homer didn’t include all Odysseus’s adventures but made the Odyssey & Iliad center around a single action
    • Plot must imitate one subject, one action & the whole forms a structural union around it such that removing any part of it will cause the plot to be disjointed.
    • If something’s presence or absence makes no difference, then it’s not an organic part of the whole

9

  • It’s not the poet’s job to relate what happened but what might happen – what’s possible according to probability or necessity
    • the poet & history are the same in this
    • Herodotus – could put history into verse but it’s still history
    • Difference is history actually happened, drama might happen
    • Poetry is higher & more philosophical b/c it tends to be more universal
      • Shows how a person may speak or act based on probability or necessity
    • comedy is around probability then inserts names & characters
    • Tragedy uses real names to be more credible & make the story seem more plausible
      • Some tragedies use a couple of real names & the rest are fictitious
    • You don’t have to stick to legends – the usual subjects of tragedy
    • Poets should write poems around plots & not write plots around poems
      • If historical subject, write poetry but stick to what’s possible or necessary
    • Epeisodic – worst king
      • acts succeed each other without probable or necessary sequence
      • bad poets compose them by their own fault
      • good poets compose them to please actors but stretch beyond its natural capacity
    • Tragedy must inspire fear or pity using surprise, & cause & effect

10

  • Plots – simple or complex based on real life
    • Simple – change of fortune happens without situation reversal or recognition
    • Complex – change of fortune happens with situational reversal or recognition

11

  • Reversal of situation – change by which action switches around to its opposite
    • Oedipus – messenger comes to cheer him up & relieve him of alarms about his mother
    • Lynceus – being led to his death & Danaus goes with him to kill him but Danaus is the one who’s killed & Lynceus ends up being spared
  • Recognition – change from ignorance to knowledge – producing love or hate between people
    • Oedipus – coincidental with situation reversal
    • in inanimate objects too
    • must be connected with the plot & action
    • should produce fear or pity
    • causes/leads to a good or bad fortune
    • maybe only one person recognizes
      • Iphigenia – is revealed to Orestes by sending a letter
      • later Orestes is revealed to her
    • 2 parts cause plot to turn on surprise
      • another is a scene where a destructive or painful action happens on stage – death, agony, wounds (scene of suffering)

12

  • Now to quantitative parts – separate parts of tragedy
    • Prologue – precedes parode of chorus
    • Episode – entire part of tragedy between complete choric songs
    • Parode – first undivided utterance of chorus
    • Stasimon – choric ode without anapaests or trochaic tetrameters
    • Commos – joint lamentation between chorus & actors

13

  • What a poet should be aiming for & should avoid
    • Perfect tragedy – in complex form, provoke fear or pity
      • Change of fortune – DO NOT take a man of prosperity from prosperity to adversity – it’s not tragic, only shocking
    • No bad man from adversity to prosperity – pisses the audience off
    • Pity for unmerited misfortune & fear misfortune for a man just like us
    • Character – between 2 extremes – a man not eminently good or bad but one whose misfortune is brought about by error or frailty, not vice or depravity
    • Single in issue – not from vice but error, fortune from good to bad
    • Like Euripides – he followed these principles, ending unhappily
    • With double threads, catastrophe for good & bad
      • Poets write for the audience & detracts from tragic form

14

  • Fear & pity – come about through spectacle but result from inner structure
    • Plot to be constructed so if you only just hear the play, you’ll hear it with terror & melt with pity [Oedipus]
    • less about artistry & more about extraneous aids
    • sense of terrible & monstrous
    • pleasure of spectator from pity & fear
    • Actions happen between friends, enemies or those indifferent
      • Enemies – killing each other don’t evoke pity except for suffering
      • Indifferents – don’t evoke pity either
      • Friends & family – because they’re near & dear to each other
        • don’t even have to tinker with legends – Clytamnestra was killed by Orestes & Eriphyle killed by Alcmaeon
        • Poet shows his genius by setting up the situation himself
    • Action cause consciously
      • How Euripides got Medea to kill her kids
    • May also be done in ignorance or tie of kinship or friendship is discovered afterwards [Oedipus]
    • Another form – about to act with knowledge &then doesn’t act
    • Another form – about to do irreparable deed through ignorance & makes discovery before deed’s done
    • Shock isn’t necessarily tragic because there’s no disaster – rarely use
    • Better is deed is perpetuated, especially in ignorance & discovered later
    • Best  – in Cresphontes, Merope is about to kill her son but recognizes him & ends up sparing him
    • Iphigenia recognizes Orestes in time

15

  • Character – FOUR AIMS
    • Must be good – speech or action manifesting moral purpose exposes character -> If good purpose -> good character, even slaves & women
    • Propriety – valor for men but not for women or unscrupulously clever
    • Character – true to life – believable
    • Consistency – if inconsistent, be consistently inconsistent
      • motive – less degradation of character [Menelaus in Orestes] of indecorous & inappropriate character
      • lament of Odysseus in the Scylla
      • Iphigenia at Aulis – doesn’t resemble her later suppliant self
      • Always aim for necessity & probabilty
        • speak in a way that is probable & the event must be followed by necessary/probable sequence
    • In unraveling of plot, must come out of the plot itself & not from Deus ex Machina, e.g. Medea, Return of Greeks in Iliad
      • Deus ex Machina – only for events external to drama – antecedent/subsequent events beyond human knowledge & needing to be foretold
      • Within action – nothing can be irrational
    • Tragedy is about people above common level – true to life yet more beautiful
    • Poet is to represent man as irascible, indolent or with other defects, preserve the type & ennoble it [Achilles by Homer]

16

  • Kinds of Recognition
    • 1 – least artistic – from ignorance, by signs, stars – could be congenital, maybe acquired after birth – bodily marks, scars, necklaces
      • Odysseus is recognized by a scar by his nurse & swineherds
      • Use of tokens as proof
      • Bath scene in Odyssey
    • 2 – Invented by poet, not artistic ether, done as poet requires in play
      • Orestes just tells Iphigenia who he is
      • She reveals herself in a letter
    • 3 – Depends on memory – when the sight of something awakens a feeling [Cyprians of Dicaeogenes] or Lay of Alcinous, where Odysseus hears a lure, recalls the past & weeps – recognition
    • 4 – Reasoning [Choephori] – Iphigenia realizes that Orestes looks like her & that he must be her brother
      • Maybe a composition of recognition based on a false inference by one character
      • Odysseus disguised – nobody could bend a bow but Odysseus & only he would know that the bow, which was unseen & reveals who he is
      • Recognitions are best when they come from incidents & discovery is done naturally [Oedipus]
        • Iphigenia sens a letter – natural occurrence
      • Dispense with artificial tokens, amulets, etc

17

  • Poets should place the scene as far away as possible from his eyes, as if he’s a spectator & unlikely to overlook any inconsistencies
    • Found in Carcinus – audience saw inconsistencies & hated the play
    • Most show, to those who are likely to feel emotion, a play most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters.
    • All audience’s emotions must be properly brought out when appropriate
      • Poet should write an outline & fill in action & details afterwards
      • Give names & fill in episodes
    • In Tragedy, brief summary – Orestes is captured by madness & delivered by a purification rite
    • In Epic, brief summary – Odysseus is away for years, watched jealously by Poseidon, his home is depleted by his wife’s suitors who are plotting against his son. He finally gets home, meets up with friends, attacks the suitors & gets his life back

18

  • Tragedies have 2 parts
    • Complication – incidents extraneous to action & bit of action
    • Unravelling/Dénouement – extends from beginning of change of fortune until the end
  • Four Kinds of Tragedy
    • 1 – Complex – depends entirely on situation reversal & recognition
    • 2 – Pathetic – motive is passion [Ajax, Ixion]
    • 3 – Ethical – motive is ethical [Phthiotides, Peleus]
    • 4 – Simple – w/o situation reversal & recognition
  • Try to combine all elements or as many as possible
  • Make complication & dénouement both good – both parts must be mastered!
  • Don’t turn an epic into a tragedy & a tragedy into an epic
  • Epics are so because of length & each part has its own magnitude
  • Those who try to dramatize the Fall of Troy instead of just parts fail utterly or the play does badly on stage
  • Don’t forget to use the Chorus like Sophocles used it. They should be a part of all this not just interludes

19

  • Thought – every thought produced by speech – proof, refutation, excitation of pity & fear, anger, suggestion of importance
    • dramatic incidents must do the same as speech in evoking emotion
    • Incidents speak for themselves without speech
    • Speech must be produced by the speaker
  • Diction – art of delivery – what are prayer, statement, threat, question, answer, etc.?
    • Not to know this is no huge crime – Homer uses a prayer as a commend to a god

20

  • Letter – indivisible sound
  • Syllable – one beat of speech
  • Connecting word – prepositions connect 2 words
  • Noun – subject, object
  • Verb – word of action
  • Inflection – in Greek grammar, changes the case of a word to change or give a word additional significance
  • Sentence/phrase – composition of words to give one or more ideas

21

  • Compound word – 2 or more words combined together to have a new or different meaning
  • Current word – word commonly used today
  • Metaphor – a concept/word not to be taken literally
  • Analogy – makes a comparison between 2 different things or ideas
  • New word – never been used before & made up by the poet
  • Lengthened word – adding extra syllables to a word
  • Altered word – recast parts of a word for a different meaning

22

  • Perfection of style – bearing clear without being too Laconic. Use proper or current words
    • Clear diction raised above commonplace & may use unusual words [strange, metaphor, etc.]
    • Style made from unusual words is a riddle if it’s made wholly of them
    • Riddle – expresses true facts under impossible combinations (only in metaphor)
    • Diction of strange terms is jargon – may be necessary
    • Deviating from normal language gives it distinction, while conformity gives it clarity
    • To use all of these types too much would be obnoxious but some use is good & gives the language distinction
    • Compounds & lengthened words help the text match or fit with the rhythm & harmony of the meter

23

  • Plot ought to be built on dramatic principles
    • Subject to have a single action
    • Whole with beginning, middle & end
    • Resembles life & gives the audience some pleasure
    • Historical events should have some basis in reality but also possibility
      • Homer’s example – Whole Trojan war wasn’t the plot – war had no beginning or end but plot focuses on one section [also w/ Cypria]

24

  • Epics must be simple, complex, ethical or pathetic
    • They have 4 of the 6 parts of tragedy – NOT song & spectacle but has reversals, recognitions, suffering [Best example is Homer]
    • Different to tragedy on scale & meter, has larger dimensions
      • Tragedy can’t have all those plot lines
      • Tragedy must confine action to players & on a stage
    • Epics’ events can occur simultaneously, if relevant – diverts the mind & conduces to grandeur, story’s relieved by episode
    • Poet shouldn’t speak for himself – only narrate
    • Many actions couldn’t occur on stage [Pursuit of Hector]
    • Homer tells lies skillfully (secret is fallacy)
      • Assume that if one thing is, then a second thing is seen to be there -> not necessarily true but the author pulls you along
      • Prefer probably impossibilities to improbably possibilities
      • Don’t compose plot with irrational parts
        • If irrational – exclude it from events/action of the play
      • Diction to be elaborated in pauses of action where there’s no character or thought

25

  • Solutions to Difficulties – must imitate 1 of 3 things
    • 1 – Things as they are or were
    • 2 – Things as they are said or thought to be
    • 3 – Things as they ought to be – using language [current, rare, metaphors]
  • 2 Kinds of faults in poetry
    • 1 – Those concerning its essence (plotholes or terrible characters or language)
    • 2 – Those concerning details (anachronisms, continuity mistakes)
      • if a poet wants to imitate something but does so incorrectly, the error is inherent in the poetry
      • if a poet makes a wrong choice – represents a horse throwing out both its off legs at once or technical inaccuracies – error is not essential
      • if a poet describes the impossible – guilty of an error but may be justified if goal is attained – embellished action
        • Does the error affect the essentials of the poem or are they accidental?
      • if a description isn’t true – could reply but they’re as they ought to be [Sophocles & Euripides] -> Is it poetically good or bad?
      • Punctuation may answer questions
      • Ambiguity needs to be cleared up
      • Make metaphors clearly understood to be metaphors
      • Contradictions should be examined with the same rules as dialectic refutation
  • 5 Critical Objections
    • Impossibility
    • Improbability
    • Morally harmful
    • Contradictory
    • Contrary to artistic correctness

26

  • Epic v Tragedy
    • High refinement appeals to better sort of audience
    • Art that imitates anything & everything is unrefined
    • Audience is supposed to be too dull to understand something on their own – restless movements by performers confuse the audience
      • Bad musicians distract physically to distract from bad play
      • Tragedy has that defeat
    • Epics addressed to a cultivated audience who don’t need gesture
      • Tragedy is lower mostly due to histrionic art – gesticulation can be overdone
      • Not all action is overdone but there are bad performers
    • Tragedies would not make good epics
      • imagine Oedipus as long as the Iliad
    • Epic has less unity – can furnish several tragedies
    • Tragedy is superior in all respects & fulfills function of better arts – produces pleasure proper to it
      • Attains its end more perfectly

The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 2 – “Oedipus at Colonus”

The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 2 – “Oedipus at Colonus”

[At Colonus ~ 1 mile NW of Athens in a grove sacred to the Furies. Enter Oedipus and daughter, Antigone]

Oedipus – Where are we? Can you see if there’s somewhere to rest? Maybe someone can tell us where we are?

Antigone – Any life seems far away. It appears to be sacred. Have a seat. We’re in Athens but I don’t know where. But here comes someone [Stranger enters]

Oedipus – Stranger, tell me something…

Stranger – Before you say anything, you can’t sit there. It’s illegal. It’s the ground of the Eumenides, daughters of the Earth and darkness

Oedipus – Good, let them receive a suppliant. Please, I’m a traveler in need of gods’ help. Where are we?

Stranger – It’s called Colonus, a land holy to many gods

Oedipus – Who’s the king around here? I’d like to speak with him

Stranger – Theseus, son of Argus. Why do you wish to speak with him?

Oedipus – I think I can help him

Stranger – A blind man’s going to help him?

Oedipus – It’s advice from when I wasn’t blind

Stranger – I’ll see what I can do. Stay here and I’ll try to get someone to come here [leaves]

Oedipus – Is he gone?

Antigone – Yes, we’re alone again

Oedipus – Oh, Furies… Apollo told me I’d come here to die in your holy spot. There’ll also be either earthquakes or lightning. Please have pity on me in Athens.

Antigone – Shh! Some old men are coming to have a look at you

Oedipus – OK. Let’s hide over there and hear what they say [Both hide in the corner]

[Chorus of Elders enter, searching around]

Chorus – Who was that? Where’d he go? Look for him. He must be from out of town. No local would hang around here. The awful women are here. I heard a rumor that someone would come. But I don’t know [Oedipus comes out]

Oedipus – I’m the guy. Don’t look at me. I’m a criminal. But I’ve received an even worse punishment. I’m blind and completely harmless, and dependent on others.

Chorus – Were you born blind? Anyway, as wretched as you are, you really ought not to be here. If you like to speak with us, let’s go somewhere else. [They move to another spot]

Oedipus – Sorry, I was tired and wanted a rest.

Chorus – This is better. You must understand what is holy and unholy here in Athens [Oedipus sits down]. Who are you? Where are you from?

Oedipus – I’m in exile and probably should not say more.

Chorus – Who are your family?

Oedipus – Oh, all right. I’m the son of Laius, of the family of Labdicidae… My name is Oedipus

Chorus – Oedipus? You’re him? [Screams and Wails]

Oedipus – Yes… Antigone, what’s going on?

Chorus – We don’t want you here. You must be a wicked man to have all that shit happen to you. Nothing but misery will result from your visit. Please leave.

Antigone – I see. You’ve had a rough time with your father being Oedipus but we really ought not to talk to you.

Oedipus – Athens is meant to be virtuous and that includes pity and help. Is my name enough to stop that? But my acts are nothing but suffering. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was ruined by others. You claim to honor the gods and that means charity. Gods please guide them to help me.

Chorus – I see your point but our rules must decide this.

Oedipus – Where is your lord?

Chorus – In the city. He’ll come once he’s heard it’s you.

Oedipus – I hope he won’t mind me

Antigone – I see a woman coming on a horse… I think I recognize her. It IS her! Ismene! [Ismene enters]

Ismene – I can’t believe you’re here! How wonderful!

Oedipus – Where are your brothers?

Ismene – It’s a sad story…

Oedipus – I was afraid that this would happen. I left the kingdom to them to take care of it and it’s my daughters who are doing all the heavy lifting.

Ismene – Creon is running the show while Polyneices and Eteocles are fighting over who’ll be ruler. Polyneices is in exile in Argos and is planning to fight back. The curse continues

Oedipus – I had hoped that the misery would end.

Ismene – The Oracle says you’re wanted both dead and alive – They want you dead to finish the curse. They want you alive to use you to win power. Creon wants to bury you on the edge of town – not in town – to avoid further curses and nearby to use your popularity and legitimacy

Oedipus – Bury? But I’m not dead. I want to be buried in my town. Fuck those boys. Fuck Creon too. I might be cursed but I never behaved like an animals. They didn’t even wait for me to die to start fighting. Poor girls. At least I have you. Sorry that this has happened to you.

Chorus – We can help with your situation. You’ll have to pray and sacrifice to cleanse yourself of this mess.

Oedipus – Sounds complicated. Can’t the girls do this? I’m old, weak and blind

Ismene – I’ll do it. Antigone, watch Dad [leaves]

Chorus – That’s some shitty life for you and your family [Theseus enters]

Theseus – All right. I’ve come to meet you, Oedipus. Just to make sure it’s you and it’s you. What do you want in Athens?

Oedipus – I’ve come to offer my services to you. Well, I wish to offer my support for you by giving you my burial site in Athens that will help Athens if it ever fights Thebes. Please let me stay here until I die

Theseus – This is a kind offer. You may stay as long as you like. You’ll be protected and fed [leaves]

Chorus – Oedipus, you’re going to love Athens

Antigone – Sounds great but here comes Creon

Oedipus – Elders, am I really safe with you?

Chorus – Of course

Creon – [enters] I see that you look worried Oedipus, don’t be. I’m not here to fight you. I’m too old for that shit. We want you to come home. It’s sad to see a king as a beggar. Please come home where you belong.

Oedipus – I wanted this. After all that shit in Thebes, I’ve been invited to stay here and now you want me back in Athens. It’s wrong to force an old man to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. You don’t want me to go for my own sake. You want to use me against Thebes. I won’t do it.

Creon – Don’t be silly… Maybe I’ll take your daughters with me

Oedipus – Yo, chorus! Are you going to stop this?

Chorus – Creon, knock it off. This is fucked up!

Creon – [to guard] Grab them and take them away?

Chorus – What are you doing?

Creon – Don’t worry, I won’t touch Oedipus

Chorus – We have to rescue them [guards leave with Antigone]

Creon – You’ve got no one now. You deserve this, you rotten old man

Chorus – Back off!

Creon – You won’t do shit. I’m just going to take Oedipus and there’s nothing you can do

Chorus – This isn’t right

Creon – Fuck “right”, you weak punks [Theseus enters]

Theseus – What the fuck just happened?

Oedipus – Creon’s kidnapped my two girls

Theseus – [to attendants] Go make a sacrifice. [to Creon] Look, you little fucker. You bring them back and get the fuck out of here. You’re a disgrace. You’ve got no right to bring your war here and harass our citizens. Bring the girls back here.

Creon – I didn’t think you would care about Thebans. To think of a city harboring a criminal and a cursed man. It’s only because you outnumber us that I’ll considered it.

Oedipus – Creon, what are you doing? Taking advantage of an old man and his daughters for your purposes? What oracle wouldn’t doom your ass forever for this? I don’t deserve this. I’ve had a lot of shit go down in my life – none of it was my fault. You, on the other hand, take advantage of this situation. Theseus and Athens protect me because they are a better place and better people

Chorus – This is a good man, worth of our protection

Theseus – Well, first, let’s get the girls back. If we find your countrymen to be reluctant, it’ll be bad news

Creon – You only say this because you outnumber us

Theseus – Fuck off, then! Oedipus, please stay here. I’ll do everything I can to bring your children back

Oedipus – Thank you!! [Everyone but Oedipus and Chorus leave]

Chorus – Looks like Theseus and Athens are finally going to have it out with Creon and Thebes. It’ll be a tremendous triumph!!

Oedipus – Where? How? What? [Antigone, Ismene and Theseus enter]

Antigone – Oh, father! He saved us, Theseus and his men.

Oedipus – Is that you? Come here. Thank you, Theseus, for rescuing my daughters!! How wonderful!!

Theseus – You’re welcome. I prefer to let my actions do all the talking. I don’t like to boast. I have to talk to you. There’s a man from Argos praying in the altar of Poseidon who wants to talk to you. Do you have any family in Argos?

Oedipus – I know who it is. One of my sons… I don’t want to see him

Antigone – Please let him come. There’s no danger. He may change his mind if you speak to him.

Oedipus – Oh, all right. I can’t say “no” to you

Theseus – Don’t worry. I’ll be here just in case [leaves]

Chorus – Being born sucks. It’s better not to be born and have no pain. Shorter life is preferable to a long one, which has so much more pain. Only death brings peace.

Polyneices [enters] – What am I to do? Cry for my parents? My sisters? Myself? Look at father, dressed like a foreigner. What a fucked up life. Now he’s reduced to begging. I’m even worse because I brought it on myself… Father, won’t you even talk to me? Sisters? Can’t you help?

Antigone – Ask him yourself. What do you want?

Polyneices – I want to say why I’m here. I’m in exile from Thebes. When you left, I claimed my right to the throne but Eteocles ran me out with the support of the city. They say the curse on our family is to blame. I went to Argos and married the king’s daughter, Adrastus. I’ve been trying to round up an army to take Thebes back. I’ve come to ask for your support and blessing. I can’t win without it. The Oracle says the one you support will win.

Oedipus – Theseus wanted me to listen to you and respond. You were on the throne before your brother and you sent me into exile. I had to wander until I got here. You made me suffer and beg. Only with your sisters’ help have I survived. I disown you. Fate is watching you. You won’t take the city. You and your brother will kill each other and it’s a good thing, too. Get out of my life and never come back!!

Chorus – With that, I think you ought to go

Polyneices – I’ve wasted my time. Sisters please make sure I’m buried properly if the Oracle was right

Antigone – Take your armies, go back to Argos and stop fighting. What is there to gain by destroying Thebes?

Polyneices – It’s shameful to live in exile, especially by one’s family. I understand father’s wishes but I have to continue

Antigone – Will you tell your armies that your cause is doomed?

Polyneices – No, nobody would fight for me that way. Just see I’m buried right [leaves]

Chorus – This is awful but it’s fate – what heave wants [Thunder]

Oedipus – Someone go get Theseus. Please!

Antigone – What for?

Oedipus – Zeus is calling for me.

Chorus – This is some scary shit. Zeus is pissed off.

Oedipus – Girls, this is the end. Theseus? Are you there? [Thunder]

Chorus – More thunder

Oedipus – I hope he show up in time

Theseus – [enter] I came as quickly as I could. Is that all from Zeus? This must be serious.

Oedipus – My time is up and I’ll lead you to where I’ll die. Only you may know where I’ll be buried – tell your heirs and no one else! Daughters, Theseus, let’s go! [They leave]

Chorus – I hope he has a peaceful death and decent burial

Messenger – I have to announce Oedipus is gone

Chorus – What do you mean “gone”?

Messenger – Dead. Not murdered. He led his daughters and Theseus down a dark path into the earth. He bathed and put on special clothes. He said goodbye. There was another roll of thunder. The girls cried. Oedipus asked him to look after his daughters. The girls left and Theseus watched him disappear

[Antigone and Ismene enter]

Antigone – It’s so sad. I wish I were dead too. So sad and unfair

Chorus – Don’t worry. All that pain and suffering of his now over

Antigone – I want to go back to where he disappeared.

Ismene – We shouldn’t. We ought to go back to Thebes.

Antigone – There’ll be hell to pay there. [Theseus enters]

Theseus – Well, it’s all over now. What a crazy sight

Antigone – We want to go to his tomb

Theseus – You can’t. I promised to keep it a secret. If you really want, I can take you back to Thebes.

 

Watch the play! (Musical version):

 

The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 1 – “Oedipus the King”

Nightmare Fodder

Oedipus the King – Sophocles

[At the Royal Palace with Priest, Oedipus and suppliants with suppliant branches]

Oedipus – What’s with all the branches, incense and sickness? Fill me in, Priest

Priest – There’s a plague. The people are sick. The plants and animals are all dying. Please, do something about this before we all die

Oedipus – This is awful. I was told earlier and sent my brother-in-law, Creon, to Delphi to learn what to do about it. When he comes, we’ll know…

Priest – Here he comes now [Creon enters]

Creon – Well, I’ve just heard from the Oracle. We’ve got to get rid of a defiler who killed your predecessor, Laius. His murder must be avenged. Then the plague will be lifted.

Oedipus – How did he die?

Creon – He was killed on the way back from Delphi. Only one man of his group survived. He said it was robbers. Once Laius was killed, the plague set in. We could never find the killer. The Sphinx forced us to stop and focus on other things

Oedipus – We’ll get to the bottom of this. Apollo will guide us to the killer and release us from the plague

[Creon, Priest, Oedipus enter palace]

Chorus of Elders – Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Artemis, Bacchus… Help! Please heal out sick. Chase out the plague. Let the crops grow back. Stop killing our people. Make the animals and people fertile again

[Oedipus enters]

Oedipus – I heard you pray. We’ve got to find the murderer of Laius, and either kill him or exile him. If you know something, tell me. Don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded. If I find you’ve been hiding something, it’s your ass!! These are Apollo’s instructions. It’s the only way to come out of this thing.

Chorus – Perhaps you ought to talk to Teiresias, the blind prophet.

Oedipus – I’ve already sent for him. Here he is [Teiresias enters]. We’ve got a plague. Apollo says we’ve got to find Laius’s murderer, kill him and it’ll be lifted. Can you help?

Teiresias – I really shouldn’t say. You don’t want to hear it.

Oedipus – The gods are asking for your help. Please tell us.

Teiresias – No. Nothing good can come from it

Oedipus – You old fool. We need to know. The plague is killing us. Don’t make me force you or threaten you.

Teiresias – If you insist… This is all your fault. You’re the defiler

Oedipus – Are you mocking me?

Teiresias – No, just telling you the truth. The further down this path of inquiry you go, the worse you’ll find it to be. It’s because of your nearest of kin.

Oedipus – What do you mean?

Teiresias – Every question you ask and every answer you get will get you deeper in the shit. You ought to quit while you’re ahead.

Oedipus – I think you and Creon are in cahoots.

Teiresias – Creon and I are not your problem. You’re your own problem.

Oedipus – It seems you two are jealous of my power. I’m sad that Creon, whom I trusted, would do this with a blind old fool. The riddle needed me and a seer to solve but I think you’re doing it with Creon to get rid of me.

Chorus – Let’s cool down. We’re not getting anywhere like this.

Teiresias – It’s got nothing to do with Creon. I’m with Apollo, not Creon. But as for you… What do you know of your parents? Your mother? Your father? Your parents have cursed you. You’ll see what I mean in due course.

Oedipus – So this was all Creon’s fault. Get out of here, you old fool.

Teiresias – You’re the one who sent for me.

Oedipus – Well, I didn’t know you would talk such shit.

Teiresias – You think I’m a fool but your parents didn’t.

Oedipus – Who were they? You’re speaking in riddles.

Teiresias – And you’re not skilled enough to unravel them. You’ll out soon enough. Fortune will be the one to undo you, not me or Creon.

Oedipus – Get out.

Teiresias – Very well. One thing before I leave. You’ve been hurling threats and accusations about the murderer of Laius. He’s here in this city. Seemingly foreign but really a Theban. He sees now but he’ll soon be blind. He’s rich now but he’ll soon be poor. He’s committed incest and killed his father. Think it over. [Oedipus and Teiresias leave]

Chorus – Who was the murderer? Apollo will punish him in time. Things are doomed but Teiresias’s words are vague. Perhaps Oedipus is to blame but there’s no real evidence [Creon enters]

Creon – Listen up, everyone, I understand that the king has been accusing me of many things. Murder and, what’s worse, treason.

Chorus – I think he’s been under a lot of stress and strain lately. He doesn’t mean it.

Creon – What about all his lies about me and the seer?

Chorus – But here’s your chance to ask him yourself. [Oedipus enters]

Oedipus – Why are you here? To kill me and steal my throne? You little shit. How long has it been since Laius’s murder?

Creon – Many years.

Oedipus – And was Teiresias a seer before the murder?

Creon – Yes and a very reputable one

Oedipus – But he never mentioned me as the murderer?

Creon – Not when I was around

Oedipus – Why didn’t he say something before the murder?

Creon – I have no idea. I can’t even speculate on that

Oedipus – When you two spoke, did he mention me killing Laius? It’s not possible. I’ve never met the man, let alone killed him. Why are you two trying to overthrow me?

Creon – Look, you’re married to my sister. I’ve got a fantastic life in your court. I have all the benefits of high living and none of the responsibilities of being king. I’ve got it made. Why would I want to change things now? If you don’t believe me, go and ask the Oracle yourself.

Chorus – Oedipus, he’s telling the truth.

Oedipus – This is a conspiracy. I intend to have you two killed. [Iocasta enters]

Chorus – Maybe Iocasta can settle things

Iocasta – What’s this all about? This spat isn’t helping our plague

Creon – Oedipus claims that he’ll kill me or exile me.

Oedipus – I’ve caught him conspiring against me

Chorus – He’s denied your claim and you’re accusing your friend of betrayal without any reason to suspect him. Don’t base your decisions on wild rumors.

Oedipus – So, you want our downfall too? The land is plagued. If you all stand up for him, both I and this city are doomed. Is that what you want?

Creon – You’re wrong and I’ve had enough of this shit [leaves]

Iocasta – What’s this all about?

Oedipus – Creon’s seer said I killed Laius. This is just a plot against me.

Iocasta – Do you have evidence of that? Does he?

Oedipus – His seer said so while he just keeps quiet.

Iocasta – Don’t listen too much to seers. A seer once said to Laius that his own son would end up killing him. So, we had our new born baby killed. Since he was killed by robbers and the baby was dead, the prophecy cannot be true. This murder happened somewhere out on a road where 3 roads met.

Oedipus – Oh shit!

Iocasta – What?

Oedipus – Where were these 3 roads?

Iocasta – Phocis. The road leads to Delphi and Daulia

Oedipus – Oh, fuck! Zeus what have you done? What did he look like? How tall was he?

Iocasta – About your height and build – slightly greying

Oedipus – Oh fuck! How many were in his party?

Iocasta – 5 of them in 1 carriage. There was only 1 survivor, our servant then. I think he’s a shepherd now

Oedipus – I have to tell you… My father was Polybus of Corinth and my mother was a Dorian, Meropé. When I was young, a stranger told me they weren’t my real parents. I asked them about it and they denied it. But it always stuck in the back of my mind. At Delphi, I was told that I would kill my father and marry my mother. I ran away from home to avoid this coming true. I ran into a group of travelers. The servant tried to run me off the road. I hit him and the rest of them came after me. I killed all of them. I know it’s not my fault that they attacked me but what if he was my father? I killed my father and ended up marrying his wife

Chorus – It’s a scary thought but we’re not completely sure of it yet

Oedipus – If this servant’s story doesn’t match yours then, I’ll be fine. But if not, then I’ll know it was my fault

Iocasta – The whole city knows the story. If he contradicts himself, there’s reason to doubt the story and therefore the prophecy was bullshit [They leave]

Chorus – It looks like prophecies are fading in importance and men don’t believe them anymore. Apollo isn’t glorified anymore and worship is dying. We’re suffering the consequences for that

[Iocasta enters with suppliant branch and incense]

Iocasta – Please rid us of this plague, Apollo. Oedipus won’t listen to me and the whole city is panicking because he’s panicking. [Prays]

[Messenger enters and speaks to Chorus]

Messenger – Is this Oedipus’s home? Where can I find him? I’ve got some news from Corinth.

Iocasta – Yes, he’s inside. I’m his wife. What’s the news?

Messenger – Oedipus will be king of Corinth. His father, Polybus is dead from old age.

Iocasta – So, the prophecy was wrong. How wonderful! [Oedipus enters]

Oedipus – What’s going on?

Iocasta – This man from Corinth brings news of your father’s death from old age.

Oedipus – Poor man. I guess the Oracle was wrong after all. But I’m still worried about sleeping with my mother.

Iocasta – Well, don’t do it then. We don’t need to fear prophecies and gods. We have our own lives to live with our own purposes.

Oedipus – My mother’s still alive though.

Messenger – She’s not your real mother. I actually found you in the woods and gave you to them when you were a baby since they were childless. I remember. You had your ankles pinned together.

Oedipus – Where did I come from?

Messenger – That I don’t know. Ask one of Laius’s servants. He’d know because he gave you to me. I’d recognize him

Oedipus – Elders, do you know who this is?

Chorus – No, but Iocasta would

Oedipus – Well?

Iocasta – Well, what? I wasn’t paying attention

Oedipus – Who was the servant?

Iocasta – You’d do well not to carry out this search

Oedipus – Who was the servant?

Iocasta – Please don’t!! [Leaves]

Chorus – Iocasta is crying for what will come of this

Oedipus – Come what may. I have to find out. I have to face my destiny

Chorus – Apollo knows. We’ll know by the end of tomorrow

Oedipus – This old man might know [Herdsman enters]. Messenger, is this the man?

Messenger – Yes.

Oedipus – Herdsman. Did you ever serve Laius?

Herdsman – Yes, mostly herding flocks in Cithaeron and near it

Oedipus – Do you recognize this man, the Corinthian messenger?

Herdsman – No, not really

Messenger – Of course you do. We had our flocks on the same mountain for 3 years. Don’t you remember?

Herdsman – Vaguely. But that was a long time ago.

Messenger – This might ring a bell… You gave me a baby to raise as my own.

Herdsman – I don’t remember that.

Messenger – Of course, you do

Herdsman – No I don’t. Shut up!

Oedipus – Do you remember that?

Herdsman – He doesn’t know what he’s talking about

Messenger – Of course I do

Oedipus – Did you give him a child to raise?

Herdsman – Yes and I regret it

Oedipus – Where did you get the child?

Herdsman – Please don’t ask!!

Oedipus – Where did you get the child?

Herdsman – From the house of Laius

Oedipus – From a servant?

Herdsman – No, from the queen. She gave it to me to kill to avoid the prophecies coming true

Oedipus – Why did you give it to this man?

Herdsman – Because I couldn’t kill a baby. I thought the prophecy wouldn’t come true

Oedipus – It did come true. I killed my father and married my own mother [Leaves]

Chorus – Oedipus’s fate is sad. You thought your life was going so well and now it’s all fallen apart. Your father’s curse has doomed you [2nd Messenger enters]

2nd Messenger – I have to announce that Iocasta has hanged herself out of exasperation of the fulfilment of the prophecy. Oedipus took her brooches and gouged out his own eyes. He’s blind now [Oedipus enters]

Chorus – What a terrible thing to see. I can’t bear to look

Oedipus – What a shitty fate. Why did this have to happen to me. It’s so cruel

Chorus – Why did you blind yourself?

Oedipus – I know you. I recognize your voices. Apollo brought all of this shit down on my. I can’t bear to look at anything anymore from this world. I didn’t want any of this, it was my destiny. I was doomed before I was even born

Chorus – Perhaps you’d be better off dead

Oedipus – Why didn’t that shepherd kill me? Why did I kill Iocasta? Elders, please kill me. Or at least get me out of Thebes.

Chorus – Creon will rule in your place. [Creon enters]

Oedipus – I can’t be around him. Ah, Creon. Please look after my daughters. My sons are old enough to fend for themselves [Antigone and Ismene enter]. Girls, your father’s cursed and your mother is dead. Creon will look after you when I leave. I’d better get going. I need to leave Thebes so the curse and plague are lifted.

Chorus – People used to look at Oedipus with envy. They don’t do that anymore.

 

Watch the Play:

Version 1:

Version 2:

 

Version 3:

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare (1599)

“Hamlet” by Shakespeare

Can't you see the resemblance?

Can’t you see the resemblance?

Act 1 Scene 1

Guards are changing shifts at night along the castle walls. A ghost has been appearing walking around at night. Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, wants to see it for himself but doesn’t quite believe it.

He shows up but he won’t to them and then disappears. Horatio recognizes it as the recently deceased king. Horatio explains the king had been involved in a political battle close to war with the Prince of Norway, Fortinbras.

The ghost comes back but then disappears as morning breaks. They promise to tell Hamlet and maybe the ghost will talk.

Act 1 Scene 2

King Claudius eulogizes his brother, King Hamlet (Jr’s father) and explains why he has married Hamlet’s widow, Gertrude. It was important to appear strong and united in a dangerous time with Norway tempted to take over. He sends two ambassadors to find out what’s going on.

Claudius asks why Hamlet he’s down Gertrude encourages him to cheer up and move on from his father’s death. Hamlet thinks this has happened all too fast.

Claudius thinks it’s sweet that he mourns his father but he reminds him all fathers die. To go on like this is morbid and immature. “Snap out of it – that’s life. I’m your father no. Don’t go back to Wittenberg, stay here.”

Hamlet is upset that it’s only been two months and she’s already shacked up with her dead husband’s brother. Horatio and his guards tell him about the ghost. They set a date to see it later that night.

Act 1 Scene 3

Laertes and Ophelia have a chat before he runs off to France. He warns her that Hamlet is up to no good and just trying to get in her pants.

Polonius comes in and gives Laertes a bunch of advice: don’t talk too much, stick by your friends, don’t spend too much, don’t borrow or lend money, don’t be fake and just be yourself. He leaves.

Ophelia and Polonius discuss Hamlet. He says he’s stupid and she’s too young and naive to know what’s really going on. Nothing’s happened yet but still, Polonius doesn’t like it because it’s a trap. She will obey her father.

Act 1 Scene 4

Hamlet, Horatio and the guards wait for the ghost to arrive. It’s cold and they listen to Claudius whooping it up downstairs. Hamlet complains these constant parties make Danes look foolish and weak abroad.

The ghost arrives. Hamlet is shaking but asks the ghost to speak and explain himself. The ghost motions Hamlet to follow him to speak alone. The guards don’t like it but he goes anyway.

Act 1 Scene 5

The ghost speaks and tells Hamlet that he is indeed his father. Hamlet must avenge his murder done by Claudius. The ghost says nasty things about Gertrude who sunk low to marry his brother.

Claudius poured poison into his ear as he was sleeping. Although he is dead, he’s upset about the betrayal of Gertrude and Claudius, the usurpation of his power and leaving Denmark weak. Hamlet and his friends swear never to speak of this meeting.

 

Act 2 Scene 1

Polonius sends his servant to check up on Laertes in France and make sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble.

Ophelia goes to Polonius scared about Hamlet. She saw him with messed clothes and acting as if he’d seen a ghost. He’s been behaving erratically but nothing sexual or violent. Polonius is afraid that his advice to Ophelia has made Hamlet crazy. They will speak with the king about this.

Act 2 Scene 2

Claudius speaks to Hamlet’s friends. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He asks them to find out what’s been going on. They leave.

Polonius shows up and talks about Hamlet but must find out from the ambassadors sent out earlier to find out what’s been going on in Norway. The elderly king of Norway suspects his son is up to no good and so sends him off to Poland to keep him out of Denmark. They leave.

Polonius thinks Hamlet’s crazy and reads Claudius and Gertrude a letter Hamlet had written to Ophelia. They try to read into it but it’s really just a love letter. Polonius doesn’t want a mental involved with his daughter. They decide to use Ophelia as bait to get something out of him while they hide and listen.

Polonius and Hamlet speak. Hamlet jokes but Polonius mistakes these jokes for meaningless gibberish. They continue and he’s more convinced that he’s mad.

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz speak to him. He tries to hide his depression but fails. They confess that they have been sent by the king and queen. Hamlet asks them not to let on that he’s been so down.

A travelling troupe of actors arrive at the cast and Hamlet talks theater shop with them as he’s really into it. They exchange soliloquys from various plays. He asks them to put on a murder play that closely resembles the conditions of his father’s death in order to provoke a confession or reaction from Claudius.

 

Act III Scene I

Claudius and Gertrude check in with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet’s been feeling bad but isn’t specific about why. He districts them whenever they try to speak about it but he picked up when the actors came around.

Claudius and Polonius decide to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia when they speak.

Hamlet contemplates life and death (To be or not to be…). Death is merely the ending of pain and grief but most people fear it because they fear what is beyond it.

He approaches and she tries to return the things that he had given her before. He tells her that he doesn’t want them because he never really loved her. He also tells her that men are by their nature untrustworthy. If she is pure, she should join the nuns. He calls her names and says mean things and then leaves.

She thinks he’s lost the plot and starts sobbing. Claudius and Polonius come in to speak to her. Claudius doesn’t think that Hamlet’s completely crazy but does think that he should be sent to England before things get hairy.

Polonius agrees but thinks it’s still about him and Ophelia. He wants Gertrude to be the real judge of his situation.

Act III Scene II

Hamlet instructs the actors on how to deliver the speech that will get to Claudius. Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude among others come in to watch the play.

The play starts. Hamlet gives a lot of side commentaries. The play pokes at both characters of Gertrude and Claudius. The real ones seem very uncomfortable at the play’s accusations. The play reenacts the very scene of Hamlet’s father’s death. This gets Claudius to jump up and storm out of the room with all his entourage following him.

Horatio and Hamlet muse about Claudius’s reaction. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz come in and inform Hamlet that his mother wishes to see him. He lets them have it about their spying on him.

Before going to see Gertrude, Hamlet tells himself that he ought to be rough with her verbally but not physically.

Act III Scene III

Claudius is fuming about the play and orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England. They leave and Polonius comes in and tells him that he’s going to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude.

Thinking he’s alone, Claudius confesses (to God?) how guilty he feels and how he’ll have to live with the guilt of the murder for the rest of his life. Hamlet is watching but doesn’t want to kill him in mid-confession. He wants him dead with a dirty soul, not a clean one.

Act III Scene IV

Polonius warns Gertrude he’ll be hiding behind a curtain to spy on her conversation with Hamlet.

Hamlet won’t be lectured by his mother who invokes his father’s name. She screams and Polonius cries out. Hamlet stabs at the curtain killing Polonius, only upset about it because it wasn’t Claudius.

Gertrude doesn’t understand Hamlet’s hatred for Claudius. Hamlet hates her for marrying the murderer of his father less than two months after his death. Why should Hamlet keep quiet?

She won’t hear any more and admits how horrible she’s been but he carries on.

The ghost comes into the room in the middle of all of this. Hamlet speaks to it and Gertrude, not being able to see it, thinks Hamlet’s gone crazy. He doesn’t accept that and tells her to beg forgiveness from him, the ghost and to heaven. She is to leave Claudius because he is evil. He feels a little bad about Polonius but is willing to live with the consequences.

Then he thinks better of it…. He wants to use Gertrude to get to Claudius. She accepts this and feels broken by the whole experience. He has to go to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and will plan his revenge there for some day.

 

Act IV Scene I

Claudius comes in and asks what happened. She explains that Hamlet’s lost his mind and has killed Polonius. Claudius has to get Hamlet out of the county because he’s dangerous and seems to know something.

Act IV Scene II

Hamlet’s hidden the body and Rosencrantz demand the he tell them where it is but Hamlet considers them betrayers and won’t say.

Act IV Scene III

Claudius wants to deal with Hamlet before shit gets out of hand. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern drop him in. Hamlet stalls but eventually reveals where he’s hidden the body. Claudius orders Hamlet to be sent to England and reveals that he’s asked the English king to kill him.

Act IV Scene IV

Fortinbras marches across Denmark on the way to Poland. Hamlet, along with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz run into Fortinbras’s Captain who tells them they are on a fool’s errand and they will likely die for nothing. Hamlet resolves to fight for something in avenging his father’s murder.

Act IV Scene V

Gertrude speaks with Ophelia, who’s gone mad since Polonius’s death. It’s clear that she’s crazy but also incredibly sad. She sings childish songs and speaks a lot of gibberish.

Laertes returns from France, demanding explanations. A crowd forms around him in his support. Claudius won’t say much other than it wasn’t his fault.

Ophelia comes back into the room, talking her non-sense. This breaks Laertes’s heart and makes him press Claudius for answers.

Act IV Scene VI

Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet saying that he’d been taken prisoner away from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They agreed to take him home. The messenger is one of these pirate sailors, who will go see the king about a reward and Horatio is to meet Hamlet outside the castle walls.

Act IV Scene VII

Claudius tries to calm down Laertes by telling him that Hamlet was Polonius’s murderer. He also says that he couldn’t do anything because Gertrude’s so attached to him and it would cause a riot due to Hamlet’s popularity.

A messenger delivers a letter from Hamlet to Claudius asking to meet alone.

Claudius has a trick to get back at Hamlet without raising suspicion or a ruckus. He’ll get Hamlet to engage in a duel with Laertes. Laertes’s sword will be sharp enough to cut Hamlet and they’ll put some poison at the end. There will also be some poison drinks lying around. You know… just in case.

Gertrude busts in informing them that Ophelia has drowned in her madness. This dumbfounds Laertes and this gets him convinced that the duel is the right thing to do.

 

Act V Scene I

2 gravediggers prepare a grave for a recently deceased woman. They debate if she should be having a Christian burial. If she killed herself, she shouldn’t as suicide is a sin. She’s lucky she’s so rich to get them to fudge the coroner’s report.

Horatio and the Hamlet entering. They look at all the graves wondering what these people’s lives where like and what’s going on with them now.

Hamlet and one of the diggers chat about the dead lady to be buried and about dead bodies in general. He looks at a skull of a friend of his, Yorick the court jester. Hamlet wonders were all his jokes and gregariousness are now, merely dust. Everything alive, great and small is now dust.

The king, queen, Laertes all come in. Hamlet and Horatio hang back to watch in secret. They are burying Ophelia. Hamlet is shocked and in an effort to prove that he loved Ophelia more than Laertes, they wrestle on her grave. The king separates them and tells them to handle this back at the castle.

Act V Scene II

Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped from the ship. He was taken away from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Once aboard the pirates’ ship, he forged a letter from the king, asking that whoever finds him to dispatch with his 2 “captors”. He doesn’t regret asking them to be killed. Fuck them. They betrayed him. He does feel bad about Polonius for Laertes’s sake. He wants to make it up to him.

A messenger comes in and tells Hamlet that Claudius has placed a bet on Hamlet in a duel with Laertes. Hamlet gets a feeling things will go badly but doesn’t want to avoid whatever fate has got in store for him.

Everyone goes into the big room. Hamlet apologizes to Laertes. He seems to accept it but still wants to duel Hamlet for pride. Claudius presents a cup. If Hamlet gets a hit in the first two chances, then he will put a pearl in the cup for Hamlet to have and take a drink from. Hamlet gets strikes in the first two chances, but doesn’t want to drink.

Gertrude drinks for him and starts gagging. Claudius knows that’s her ass. He then tells Laertes not to cut him just yet, but does he listen? Nope. They get into a tussle and somehow their swords are exchanged. Hamlet cuts Laertes. Gertrude dies.

Laertes confesses the plan that he and Claudius came up with. Hamlet runs after Claudius and forces him to finish the cup that killed Gertrude. Claudius dies. Hamlet and Laertes realize time is running out. They apologize to each other. Hamlet instructs Horatio to tell the story as it really happened. Hamlet and Laertes die.

Fortinbras shows up to see a room full of dead people and asked Horatio what happened. He showed up to tell Claudius that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead as the letter has instructed. But now he sees this is his chance to claim the throne of Denmark. Hamlet is given a soldier’s burial a multi-gun salute.

“Lysistrata” by Aristophanes (411 BC)

Sex is the ultimate weapon

No Peace, No Piece

 

From what I have read about Greek plays, I gather that they are meant to be watched in bunches. I doubt very much that a modern audience has the time or patience to sit through three plays. But then again, we’ve got a lot more options for entertainment and variety tends to be something most people value. Some of the ideas in this play are funny, interesting and fairly timeless. Go ahead and read it, or a least read my notes on it… I will wait.

The story takes place during the Peloponnesian War, something that was a big part of Ancient Greek history. This was essentially a war between Athens (and its allies) and Sparta (and its allies). They had very different societies and were pretty much vying for power over what is considered Greece today. The war dragged on nearly 30 years. You can imagine how a war of that length can upset people’s lives.

The story has a woman, Lysistrata, hatching up a scheme to stop the war. Since women really had very little influence in politics in Athens or Sparta, she had to find a way to exploit the domain in which woman had any influence, sex. Lysistrata gives a bunch of reasons why the war is bad. The women are lonely. The children are growing up while their fathers are off at war. An entire generation of young men are sent off to war with no time to court an entire generation women, start families and keep the society going. These complaints are pretty common results of long wars. Society tends to crumble if they carry on too long. Anyway, Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece not to put out unless the war is ended, a peace treaty is signed and the war genuinely comes to an end.

She gathers up women from all over Athens and even from Sparta to discuss her plan. She convinces the old women to lend a hand in this matter. They take refuge in the Acropolis – that large beast of a building lording over the city of Athens. It was a fortress whose construction was ordered by the famous Pericles (Ancient Athens’s George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin all rolled up in one man), serving the city of Athens. From what I remember about history, the Acropolis not only had the function as a redoubt for Athens but it also had supernatural elements about it due to the fact that on the Acropolis, there was also the Parthenon, a temple to Athena. Athena was the patron goddess of Athens and symbolized wisdom, law, science, reason and just about everything that the Athenians valued and we associate with the ancient city today. To take over the Acropolis, was essentially to hole yourself up in the holiest of holies. And I bet that even they knew that the men of the city would not take kindly to that.

The old men and women are yelling at each other. The men try to smoke them out and the women douse the fire with water as well as the men. As I was reading about the comical water fight, this scene from the Great Race instantly came to mind. The magistrate comes around and breaks the fight up and asks what is going on. The women and men hurl accusations at each other. The men are barbarians, belligerent, etc. The women are fickle, stupid, etc. Lysistrata claims that she could run the city better than the men who are doing so now. More battle of the sexes jibberjabber is launched. After the scene is broken up, Lysistrata gets a little frustrated that the women aren’t holding the line on the sex strike. That fact might be justifying the men’s accusations that women are capricious. She convinces the women to stick to their guns on this matter for the sake of the city. The women begin to tease the men, making them want sex more and more, and finally they can no longer take it. If I understand the translation’s metaphors correctly, the men were walking around will full-on erections due to the women finding them up. Finally the men realize that the women have them by the balls, so to speak, and the Athenians and Spartans sign a peace treaty. A sexy piss-up closes the play out.

“Clouds” by Aristophanes (423 BC)

“Clouds” by Aristophanes

What is the air speed velocity of a Gnat's fart or burp?

What is the air speed velocity of a Gnat’s fart or burp?

 

Strepsiades wakes up complaining that neither his servants nor his son have woken up to start the day off. He complains that the only thing his son does is ride horses which is starting rack up some debts because of this. The son, Phidippides is talking in sleep about riding horses. Strepsiades then starts to complain – regretting the day he met his wife because before he was poor and wasn’t surrounded by luxuries that would one day spoil his son. The mother has done all she can to encourage spoiling Phidippides. Strepsiades has the bright idea to send Phidippides to the “Thoughtery” to learn how to bend the truth and make all of the debt collectors give up on asking for all of his money. Phidippides refuses to go, so Strepsiades has to go there himself.

He shows up to the Thoughtery, banging on the door to be let in. The disciple complains that all the noise has ruined one of his good ideas. They were trying to measure how far a flea could jump by putting wax slippers on it. Then they asked each other if gnats buzzed through their mouths or their asses. The disciple said the wind comes in through the mouth went through the body and used the ass as a trumpet. Socrates was also robbed of a thought by a lizard. He was studying the moons by staring at the sky with his mouth open when a lizard on top of the house shit down his throat. The disciple lets him in to learn from Socrates.

When he comes in, he asks why all the people are staring at the ground but their assholes are pointed at the sky. The disciple explains that they are looking through the ground but learning astronomy by staring up at the sky with their assholes so they can do twice the work. Then he starts quizzing the disciple about the tools around and has him explain their uses. Strepsiades doesn’t really get all of it. He suddenly sees someone up in the sky and it’s Socrates. Socrates explains he is in the sky because he needs to acclimate his brain to the thin air.

Strepsiades explains that he wants to learn how to convince his creditors that he doesn’t owe them any money. Socrates sits him down to initiate him in to the Thoughtery by doing some sort of incantation on him to the clouds. The clouds sing to them as a part of the ceremony. Strepsiades asks who they are and what they’re talking about. Socrates explains that they are goddesses for the lazy and teach the men of the Thoughtery. They teach all the sophists, quacks and diviners through their verses. They look like women in the same way that other clouds look like lions and bulls, etc. They sing about the virtues of all the men of the Thoughtery who talk nothing but shit.

Socrates claims the Clouds are the only gods in the world. The clouds cause the rain. They cause the thunder when they collide with each other and cause a lot of noise. He explains that it is also when the whirlwind in the sky is rumbling around. The lightning is when dry wind gets caught in a cloud and it rumbles around so much that the cloud bursts. Strepsiades is convinced that Socrates is right about everything and is ready to learn. He promises not to acknowledge any other gods. He asks to be the best orator in Greece. Socrates starts to work on him.

The leader of the cloud chorus gives a speech declaring that they wrote the play and merely gave it to Aristophanes as a present. They also rip into the play festival’s judges who voted obviously inferior plays over this one as the best. She claims that there might be a bit of corruption involved.

Socrates runs out of the Thoughtery complaining that Strepsiades is the dumbest, most forgetful man he’s ever met. Socrates tries to explain poetic meter with no luck. Socrates explains male and female animals and objects. Socrates lies him down on his bed to let his mind wander over anything that comes to it. Strepsiades claims that the bed bugs are eating him alive. He’s finally able to think of an idea. He wants to stop the moon from rising. The interest is due on a monthly basis and if the moon never rises, then the month never ends and therefore he’ll never have to pay. He can stop the lawsuits against him by holding a lens to the sun and melt wax on the court papers. He can avoid people perjuring against him by running away and hanging himself. Socrates is upset by this last idea and quits on him.

The clouds suggest that his son be sent to learn instead. He goes home to get Phidippides. At first Phidippides is reluctant. Strepsiades is unable to use Socrates’s tactics to teach his son and bumbles it up. They go to Socrates and they convince him to teach him how to make the wrong side of the argument seem like the right side.  They go into the Thoughtery.

Two men come out, named Just Discourse and Unjust Discourse and have an argument. Unjust calls himself reasoning based on maxims. Just claims they’re only fashionable because the idiotic audience falls for them. Unjust claims there is no justice because Zeus put his father in chains and wasn’t put in chains. They start bickering and Just claims all of Athens’s problems are due to Unjust convincing the young not to go to school. They agree that they will let Phidippides decide which one he wants to listen to.

Just claims that in the good old days, children were meant to be seen, not heard. They obeyed their masters without question even when walking through the snow barefoot. They learn traditional songs. They never tempted the old men sexually. Unjust calls this old bullshit. Just continues that this sort of upbringing made Athens the great city it is. The kids these days don’t respect the gods and don’t have any sense of shame or decency. They shouldn’t be in the markets gossiping about this and that or lying around doing fuck all and enjoying life.

Unjust claims he can prove anything to be wrong and unjust. He asks what’s wrong with hot baths. Just claims they cause cowardice. Unjust says, I’ve never heard of Heracles having a cold bath. About hanging around the market place – Homer praised the marketplace and called Nestor a marketeer. About being “decent” or “modest” – what good has that ever done? Just says that’s what Peleus got his sword in his myth. That’s why Thetis married him. Unjust explains that she also left him in the end. If he has been less “virtuous”, Thetis would have been more satisfied as a wife. Modesty causes us to be unhappy and unsatisfied. Unjust says that following him will allow you to follow your whims. Just says that that will lead to buggery. Unjust says well, aren’t poets and lawyers buggers? Demagogues? Audiences…? Just concedes the argument to Unjust and runs away. Strepsiades leaves Phidippides to Unjust.

The clouds threaten the judges if they don’t vote the play the best.

Strepsiades is coming to collect his son from the Thoughtery. He’s worried about all of his bills. On the way home, the two talk about what he learned from Socrates. Phidippides tells him to challenge the idea of the money being due on the day of “Old and New”. How could it be due on both days? It doesn’t make sense.

Pasias comes with a witness to collect his money from Strepsiades. Strepsiades points out the fact there are two days being mentioned and uses Socrates’s explanation about animals to discredit the creditor. Another creditor, Amynias, comes around to collect his money. He says he’ll just take the interest for now. Strepsiades asks if the sea has more water in now than before. Amynias says it can’t grow. Strepsiades says that if the sea that has rivers feed it never grows, why should the debt grow? Amynias is run off of Strepsiades’s land.

Strepsiades comes running out of his place with Phidippides chasing him. Phidippides claims that he is justified in beating him…

Strepsiades and Phidippides explain to the clouds what’s been going on. Strepsiades wanted Phidippides to play the lyre and sing after dinner. Phidippides said that it was stupid. Then he asked him to recite some Aeschylus and he refused. He suggests that he choose his own. He recited a poem from Euripides about a man sleeping with his sister. He was disgusted and they began to fight. He explained that he has always been kind to his son and now he treats him like shit.

Phidippides asks whether or not he was beaten as a child. He was because it was for his own good. Then if it was for Phidippides good to be beaten, then it is right for him to beat his father for his good. It’s only right because old age is second childhood. Even if it is against the law, why can’t a new law be written to allow for this? Animals fight with their fathers. He’s convinced by the argument but still isn’t happy. He blames the clouds but the clouds blame him back for trying to manipulate everyone. He decides that only productive thing he can do is set the Thoughtery on fire.