Ol’ Robbo may or may not have mentioned it here already, but Eldest Gel is participating in her school’s fall theatre production (which we will be going to see in the near future). They’re doing “The Trojan Women” by Euripides. The Gel is one of the Chorus, so she spends the entire production on stage.
It so happens that Ol’ Robbo read this particular play many years ago, and that it stuck somewhat to his braims because it was Euripides’s commentary on Athens’ savage treatment of the little colony of Melos in the run up to the Peloponnesian War. (The Melian Dialogue, as set out by ol’ Thick-Sides, was a study of mine several times during the course of my undergrad and graduate education. The last time was in a rhetoric class I took my third year of law school. For the final, I argued that the episode illustrated the limitations of persuasive argument insofar as it didn’t matter buppkiss how well the Melians stated their case for being excused service in the War since the Athenians were holding a metaphorical gun to their heads. Realpolitik, so to speak. My prof was not amused.)
Anyhoo, in the course of a chat this afternoon, I asked the Gel something or other about the dialogue between Poseidon and Athena that opens the play.
“The what?” she said.
“Poseidon and Athena. You know, where they discuss the appropriate punishment of the Greek army because, during the sack of Troy, Cassandra is dragged away from a statue of Athena and raped by one of the Greek commanders.”
“Huh? That’s not in the play. It’s all about Queen Hecuba of Troy and her family and what happens to them when they’re prisoners. What are you talking about?”
“Yes, that’s the main body, but Poseidon and Athena come first. She’s outraged over the violation of her sanctuary by the Greeks and is seeking appropriate vengeance.”
“Well, it’s not in the version we’re doing…..”
“Crimminy, it must have been cut from your script. But that’s the whole point! The Ancient Greeks, actually (I believe) stumbling across the Seven Deadly Sins without realizing it, were keenly aware that violation of taboos (like sanctuary) tended to bring about Divine Retribution. Euripides was using the Greeks’ beastliness to the Trojans as a warning to his contemporaries not to let the war against Sparta get out of hand. And later on, Thucydides and others ascribed the eventual crushing of Athens by Sparta as the Divine result of Athens’ exceeding the proper bounds of civilized warfare, specifically including its treatment of Melos.”
“Well, how was the play a warning?”
“Because a number of the Greek leaders at Troy eventually came to very nasty ends because of their behavior there, specifically including their treatment of Queen Hecuba and her surviving family. For example, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra when he returned to Mycene because he brought along Cassandra as a slave-concubine.”
“Well, there’s nothing about that in the play.”
“No, but any member of Euripides’ audience would be perfectly acquainted with Homeric tradition and would know that already. Didn’t anyone explain any of this?”
“No. All we know is that we’re a group of “refugees” being maltreated by the Patriarchy or someone because they’re mean. Your explanation is a lot more interesting.”
Yeah, it is. Sigh. But why get into all this yucky objective Eternal Verities and God-talk in a 2500+ year old historickal context when you can reduce the point to one about non-sectarian feelz over Hatey McHate-Hates who Hate? And wymmyn?
Incidentally, they’re doing the show in modern dress. The Gel also told me that her costume makes her look so much like Little Orphan Annie that she went around rehearsal this afternoon singing “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” until she was summarily told to shut it.
** Spot the quote