Aeschylus Poetics Structure on Tragedy Events Used by Libation Bearers and Eumenides.
As A.E. Haigh notes, Aristotle treats Aeschylus with complete indifference in the Poetics. Throughout his writings, the standards of dramatic writing are supplied by Sophocles and Euripides. He fully recognizes Aeschylus’ role in the introduction of a second actor and in the expansion of dialogue, but that is all. This is because Aristotle mainly focused his attention on plot, as well as his classification of recognition, complication, and revolution, and “for such investigations there was little material to be found in Aeschylus” (124). Nevertheless, it is somewhat possible to analyze The Oresteia in terms of Aristotle’s Poetics.
There is little doubt that at some period what we now call tragedy consisted of a chorus which sang comments in response to a story told by the poet, but whether, as has been claimed, there was a time when there was only the chorus is open to dispute. It was once accepted as a fact, based on something that Aristotle wrote, but now is less accepted. What is more likely – and we can possibly attribute this to Thespis – is that two different poetic traditions fused into the one form. What we do know is that a combination of one actor and a chorus does not give a very wide range of dramatic possibilities, particularly as it is almost certain that the chorus always worked in unison. For the form to grow, the introduction of a second actor was essential and, according to Aristotle, it was Aeschylus who did this. He also, said Aristotle, reduced the importance of the chorus, and thus he is called the “father of tragedy”. Of course, once a major innovation occurs, more tend to follow quite quickly and Sophocles is usually credited with the next advance, the introduction of a third actor, somewhere around 460. It should be noted that we are talking here of actors, not characters. Each actor could, of course, play more than one character, but only three could be on-stage together.
The three tragedies which each poet presented at a competition were not necessarily on a related subject: only Aeschylus is known to have written trilogies on a single theme, like the Oresteia. However, Aristotle does not comment on this, as the trilogy format was more or less discarded after The Oresteia.
The contrasting structures of the two plays are worth noting here. In the Poetics (1452b), Aristotle gives the most concise description of the formal structure of tragedy. There are usually five scenes or episodes separated by choral odes (stasima), the whole preceded by a prologue and followed by an epilogue or exodos. This form is the precursor of the five-act structure familiar in Shakespearean drama. The Libation Bearers (and Agamemnon) follows this structure. By contrast, since the chorus plays a unique role as the Furies in The Eumenides, the structure is fundamentally altered. Consistent with the norms of Greek drama, The Eumenides is not divided into acts or discrete scenes. There is a scene change in the middle of the play, but that can be accomplished with minimal movement of set pieces in almost no time. However, time passes in non-naturalistic fashion: at certain points, from reports of what has happened offstage, it is clear that a great amount of time is meant to have passed even though only a few seconds have passed for the audience. In general, as noted by Aristotle, most Greek tragedies have action confined to a twenty-four hour period. Aeschylus’ decision to break the “unities” of Aristotle’s classic dramatic form to allow his play to range over ten years of time and various geographic locals is significant here.
Aristotle addresses both The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides in relation to plot in Poetics 13. Here he commends the singular focus of plot on one person’s fortune, rather focusing the plot on the type of end that said person meets. The only prescription for the ending is that it should be a single (haplous) plot featuring some sort of major change. Tragedy’s high culture is best achieved through a single change, and not through the popular use of a double plot ending. On the one hand, as Aristotle remarks, the double ending in comedy would have the bad man (Aegisthus) coming to a good end (avoiding the death penalty at Orestes’ hands), and the good man (Orestes) coming to a bad end (failing to exact the necessary vengeance against his enemy, instead making Aegisthus his friend). On the other hand, the double ending in tragedy would be what we actually have in Aeschylus’ plays: Orestes kills Aegisthus in vengeance; hence the bad man comes to a bad end (in The Libation Bearers), and the good man comes to a good end (The Eumenides). Aristotle does not seem to express whether Aeschylus’ treatment of this plot outline is more single than double in its execution in The Oresteia, and thus he is silent on the rank of the trilogy as an achievement in tragedy.
Aristotle also discusses “recognition” as a formal component of tragedy: we see this in The Libation Bearers: Electra finds the lock of hair on the tomb, and here we see our first “recognition,” or as Aristotle puts it, “recognition by the process of reasoning….someone resembling me [Electra] has come: no one resembles me but Orestes: therefore, Orestes has come.” The second act of recognition comes when Clytemnestra recognizes Orestes: “My son, do you not fear your mother’s curse?” This is another type of recognition, which depends on “memory when the sight of some object awakens a feeling.” Here, Clytemnestra remembers the prophecy of her dream, and thereby deduces that this man is her son, Orestes. Neither of these recognitions are exactly what Aristotle prescribed as the “best” kind of recognition, which is “that which arises from the incidents themselves, where the startling discovery is made by natural means,” as is seen in Oedipus and Iphigenia.
Orestes and Pylades gain entrance to the palace under false pretenses, and here the Chorus plays a vital role in the forthcoming events. (Kitto states that Aeschylus fundamentally alters the role of the Chorus here, because they are traditionally never supposed to take part in the action: “the superiority of this over a purely formal treatment of the incident is clear enough. It does indeed result in the interesting figure of the Nurse” .) The Chorus suggests to the Nurse that things are not what they seem, and they convince her to tell Aegisthus to come without his bodyguard. His killers are waiting for him offstage, and the audience hears him scream as he is stabbed in the climax of the play. Before the killing, the play has developed at a leisurely pace: much is said in monologue, comparatively. As soon as Orestes kills Aegisthus, the dialogue explodes with speed and intensity which indicates what is yet to come in the third play.
This Chorus, I believe, is one of the most important and difficult elements of Greek dramaturgy to understand, and I would like to spend a moment discussing its history and composition. As Simon Goldhill explains, the chorus, like the actors, were made up of citizens, since there was no sub-class of “theatricals,” as there were in Rome. Scholars differ over whether there were twelve or fifteen chorus members in The Oresteia; at any rate, it was a fairly significant number. The chorus was selected for a specific performance and trained by the poet. Like the actors, they were fully masked, but not in the familiar comedy/tragedy masks that we have come to view as representations of ancient theatre. Rather, these masks were intricately painted figural representations. The chorus generally performed in the orchestra, a dancing area below the raised stage which the actors performed on. The separation of acting spaces helped to create “a specific dialectical relation between collective chorus in the orchestra and individual actors on stage” (17). As I mentioned, the role of the Chorus is unique in these two plays: in The Libation Bearers, they specifically alter the action by convincing the Nurse to keep Aegisthus vulnerable to attack; in The Eumenides, further affect the action by actually playing a major role in it; that is, the role of the Furies. (It is interesting to note, however, that in the text, they are still referred to as “Chorus.”)
The staging of the Chorus is notable as well. In The Libation Bearers, the entry of the Chorus takes time, so that Orestes is able to withdraw and observe. Vase-paintings suggest that the tomb was represented by the altar at the centre of the orchestra. So there is a contrast between Agamemnon, in which action is focused on the stage and skene-building (= the palace), and the opening of The Libation Bearers, where the spatial focus shifts to the centre of the orchestra. There is a shift of focus back to the palace from 652, accompanied by change in pace of developments (cf. different structural patterns in first and second parts of Agamemnon). The Eumenides begins with focus on skene-building (= Apollo’s temple in Delphi), but with change of location to Athens comes with shift of focus to orchestra (central altar = shrine of Athens where Orestes takes refuge). Controlled variation in the use of the performance space achieves variety within and between plays, and is another device for shaping the trilogy as a whole.
The Chorus thematically changes functions through the trilogy, as well. The chorus of elders from Argos in the Agamemnon are, with the exception of the mute jury in the Eumenides, the most democratic body presented on stage; they are also weak and ineffective, kowtowing to Clytemnestra when they should be warning Agamemnon about the terrible things his wife has done and planned in his absence.2 The second chorus on stage, the slave girls from the Libation Bearers, is apparently much stronger than the chorus of old men; they encourage Orestes and Electra to commit their “just” crime of matricide/vengeance; they pray to the retinue of gods to give Agamemnon’s children the strength to carry out the deed. And, as representatives of the Apollinian form of justice, they question the validity of chthonic justice; the third verse of their parados implies that Ge, for supporting Clytemnestra’s prayers, has shown herself as an unnatural, evil force. The final chorus, the Furies themselves, are gods on-stage, without a doubt the most formidable chorus of the trilogy. They are chthonic justice incarnate. They appear even stronger because of their weak opposition, the supplicant Orestes and Apollo-as-lawyer. Apollo makes four increasingly ridiculous arguments on Orestes’ behalf-without Athene’s intervention, there appears to be no logical reason for Orestes’ getting off the hook. The trilogy’s choruses, then, serve as an undertow to the general theme of justice progressing to rationality.
Another note on tragic form: As Aristotle writes in The Poetics, violence between those who are close is a fundamental part in tragedy; as it turns out in this trilogy, all of the violence occurs between family members: Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, Orestes kills Clytemnestra, and so on. “Let us therefore take up the question what classes of events appear terrible or pitiable. Necessarily, we are concerned with interactions between people who are closely connected with each other, or between enemies, or between neutrals. If enemy acts on enemy, there is nothing pitiable either in the action itself or in its imminence, except in respect of the actual suffering in itself. Likewise with neutrals. What one should look for are situations in which sufferings arise within close relationships, e.g. brother kills brother, son father, mother son, or son mother—or is on the verge of killing them, or does something else of the same kind.” (translated M. Heath, Penguin 1996)
It is well known that The Eumenides depends much more heavily on spectacle than the other plays. A popular story, probably apocryphal, of performances tell of the horrific first appearance of the Furies, which caused boys to faint and pregnant women to miscarry. A device which is more or less specific to the work of Aeschylus is the eventual visualization of images such as the Furies: in Agamemnon, we hear of the Furies, mentioned several times, but rather vaguely in terms of “the hunt” and “the net”; At the beginning of The Eumenides, the priestess describes them in more lifelike and gruesome terms: “they’re black and totally repulsive, with loud rasping snorts,” “disgusting pus comes oozing from their eyes,” etc., but we still don’t see what she’s talking about. And finally, the audience actually witnesses their presence on stage in all of their horrible glory: they are the hunters of Orestes’ blood. Aristotle tends to turn up his nose at this kind of spectacle, saying that it is least connected with the art of poetry, depending more on “the art of the stage machinist” (VI).
The role of music in the Poetics is a topic usually ignored or treated as of little importance. In the definition of tragedy in Poetics 6, the phrase “sweetened language” refers to the musical elements of tragedy. These are not mere “embellishments,” or “non-essential additives.” Instead, Aristotle uses this metaphor from cooking to refer to what corresponds, in tragedy, to “precisely these additives which characterize the art of cooking” (56). Music imitates “character qualities,” such as anger, gentleness, courage and temperance, and thus effects a change in the souls of the audience. In tragedy, the musical elements help “to reveal ethical qualities and emotions that lie beyond the limits and expressive capabilities of ordinary speech” (58-59). Sifakis gives some excellent examples of passages in tragedy that serve this function, arguing, for example, that in Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, “the function of the kommos is to set the moral tone that will make Orestes’ dreadful task appear just and inevitable” (61).
Finally, we arrive at the concept of catharsis. Aristotle says that in seeing tragedy – for instance, killing one’s husband (Agamemnon) or killing one’s mother (The Libation Bearers) – the spectator experiences “through pity and fear… the proper purgation [i.e. catharsis] of these emotions.” (23) One traditional interpretation of the cathartic ending is that it purges or cleanses spectators’ own pity and fear, relieving them of harmful emotions and making them better people for the experience. Another interpretation, more consistent with Aristotle’s approach, is that catharsis resolves dramatic tension, bringing the plot to a logical conclusion and thereby allowing the audience to feel satisfied despite the unhappy ending. The Oresteia exemplifies this approach, a final example of the echoes of Aristotle’s Poetics in Aeschylus’ work.
The Use of Chorus in The Plays by Aeschylus
In most Greek tragedies, the writer uses the chorus as a tool to comment on action in the play. The chorus does not play an active role in the story, such that if they were removed from the work, the plot would not be affected. However, in Oresteia, Aeschylus does not keep to this traditional pattern. Aeschylus utilizes a different form of chorus to put emphasis on certain themes and develop the plot more effectively. Throughout the work, the choruses do comment on the action of main characters, but as the trilogy progresses, the chorus goes through a metamorphosis from the traditional chorus of Agamemnon into a chief character in The Eumenides.
Though the chorus in Agamemnon is traditional, it serves a purpose not to be overlooked. To begin with, because the chorus is composed of Argive elders it can provide significant background information. For example, the chorus informs the audience of the sacrifice of Iphegenia, “Her supplications and her cries of father were nothing, nor the child’s lamentation to kings passioned for battle…Pouring then to the ground her saffron mantle she struck the sacrificers with the eyes’ arrows of pity” (ll. 227-241). This passage depicts Agamemnon as cold-hearted toward his daughter, paving the way for Clytaemestra’s arguments later. Also, while awaiting news of Agamemnon’s return, the chorus hints that there is trouble at home and gives the audience an uneasy feeling when they speak of “the pitiless pondering of sorrow that eats [their] heart” (ll. 102-103). What the chorus fails to do, however, is just as important. Though they recognize that “Ruin is near, and swift” (l. 1124) while listening to Cassandra’s prophecies, the elders do nothing. Furthermore, after Agamemnon has been murdered, the elders are indecisive and inhibit themselves (ll. 1348-1371). Although they don’t contribute to Agamemnon’s demise, they stand by without attempting to save him.
On the whole, this chorus represents the sentiment of Greek society. When Agamemnon returns, the chorus says to him “But I: when you marshalled this armament …in ugly style you were written in my heart for steering aslant the mind’s course to bring home by blood sacrifice and dead men that wild spirit” (ll. 799-804). This shows that the people felt some contempt for Agamemnon’s actions. However, in the following lines, the chorus displays loyalty, an important societal value: “But now, love drawn up from the deep heart, not skimmed at the edge we hail you” (ll. 805-806). In the case of Agamemnon’s murder, the chorus merely analyzes the situation in an attempt to pass judgment because they cannot act directly. Even this fails, because the societal morals are conflicting with each other – though Clytaemestra murdered her husband, the chorus questions whether it was justified: “Between them who shall judge lightly? … [Agamemnon] killed, he has paid” (ll. 1560-1562).
In The Libation Bearers, the chorus, a group of foreign serving-women, influences the plot more than the chorus does in Agamemnon. Mainly, the chorus provides guidance to Electra and Orestes. Being sent by her mother to pour libations, Electra consults the chorus saying, “Attendant women, who order our house…be also my advisers in this rite” (ll. 84-86). Being older and wiser, the chorus “advises” Electra to pray for “one to kill [Clytaemestra and Aegisthus], for the life they took” (l. 121). Orestes, after being urged by the chorus, takes action against his father’s murderers. After the libations have been poured, the chorus says, “The rest is action. Since your heart is set that way, now you must strike and prove your destiny” (ll. 512-513). Furthermore, the chorus suggests a way of carrying out the deed, referring to the part that Orestes “must not play” (l. 553), meaning that he must disguise his identity upon entering the house. After the murders of Aegisthus and Clytaemestra, the chorus advises Orestes again, telling him, “There is one way to make you clean: let Loxias touch you, and set you free from these disturbances” (ll. 1059-1060). Here the chorus offers him the one chance he has to be absolved of his sin. As well as providing guidance, the chorus also plays a key role in the murder of Aegisthus. Intercepting Cilissa, the chorus instructs her to “not tell [Aegisthus to bring his followers], but simply bid him come as quickly as he can and cheerfully” (ll. 770-772). This leaves Aegisthus unable to defend himself when Orestes attacks him.
Again, in this play, the chorus does more than just development of plot – it also demonstrates important themes. The theme of justice continues for one. When praying to Zeus the chorus says, “Let the old murder in the house breed no more” (ll. 805-806). As serving-women in the house, loyal to Agamemnon, the chorus believes that Orestes’ actions are justified by Agamemnon’s death, meaning that his vengeance is the rightful end to the line of deaths. Also, the chorus displays the theme of women’s vulnerability and dependence. Unlike Clytaemestra, the chorus cannot take charge. Instead, along with Electra, they must pray that the gods “Let one come, in strength of spear, some man at arms who will set free the house” (ll. 159-160). Without Orestes, Electra and the chorus are helpless.
Unlike the helpless choruses of the other plays, the chorus of The Eumenides takes on a very active role. Throughout the play, the Furies’ actions are motivated by the ancient laws. Justice, according to these laws, is accomplished only by vengeance; a murdered man must be avenged by his blood relatives. In the case of killing one’s family, the Furies constitute the only source of justice. Because of this, the chorus hunts Orestes – to fulfill their duty. Though Clytaemestra was killed to avenge Agamemnon, the chorus believes that nothing can justify the murder of one’s own blood relative (l. 427). When the Furies are defeated in trial, they again turn to vengeance, threatening “vindictive poison…[that] shall breed cancer, the leafless, the barren to strike” (ll. 782-786) to punish the Athenians. This shows the extent of their dependence on vengeance for settling conflicts.
On a broader perspective, the Furies’ struggle in The Eumenides reflect the change in societal views of justice – from the older idea of revenge to the new method of trial. Early in the play, the chorus says to Apollo “A young god, you have ridden down powers gray with age” (l. 150). This introduces the theme of new versus old. When Athene tries Orestes for the murder of Clytaemestra, though it seems that the furies act as prosecutor, they are actually defending themselves and the old ways of justice. They argue “if…his crime be sustained…every man will find a way to act at his own caprice” (ll. 491-495). Without the threat of the Furies, there is nothing to keep men from killing their families. After the trial, the chorus says, “I, the mind of the past, to be driven under the ground out cast, like dirt!” (ll. 838-839). With the verdict in favor of Orestes, it seems to the chorus that the new gods have no respect for the old ways. However, when Athene persuades the Furies to give up their rage by offering a share in the worship of the Athenians (ll. 848-900), a peaceful marriage is formed between the old ways and the new.
In Agamemnon, Aeschylus funnels the morals of society through the comments of the Argive elders, focusing them on the house of Atreus and, more importantly, the conflicts that are tearing it apart. The chorus in The Libation Bearers, more active than the elders, is able to aid Orestes in resolving Agamemnon’s death, but their inactivity helps to demonstrate an important theme. Once the metamorphosis is complete in The Eumenides, the furies act as a chief character, making them a force to be reckoned with. This shows that, similar to the conditions of Greek society at the time, the past cannot be disregarded – a reconciliation is needed between the ancient laws and the new system. By giving the chorus an active role, Aeschylus widens the perspective of his work, applying its themes to the outside world.
Miss Julie’s Battle Between Apollonian and Dionysian Duality
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzche discusses at length the duality inherent in the development of art. This duality is caused by two opposing principles termed Apollinian and Dionysian. These two principles are employed in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie through the main character of Miss Julie.
Societal class is a major theme of the play and its relation to the Apollinian and Dionysian duality is apparent when observing Miss Julie. Throughout the play, Miss Julie is caught between staying within her class and breaking from it. This is her struggle between Apollinian reason and Dionysian want, respectively. The whole idea of class is Apollinian – based on rationality and division of individuals – while the idea of no class system is Dionysian – based on community. Miss Julie goes back and forth between these two ideas constantly, and her inner struggle can clearly be seen through the symbolism apparent in her recurring dream: “I’ve climbed to the top of a pillar, and am sitting there, and I can see no way to descend. When I look down, I become dizzy, but I must come down- but I haven’t the courage to jump. I can’t stay up there, and I long to fall, but I don’t fall” (Strindberg 127). She is obviously tremendously conflicted, desiring on the one hand to break from her class, while reasoning on the other that her social constraints make that impossible. In Nietzchean terms, Miss Julie’s Dionysian want can be looked at as an “intoxicated reality” because, in terms of class, she “seeks to destroy the individual and redeem him by a mystic feeling of oneness” (Nietzche 38).
Not only is this class struggle within Miss Julie illustrative of Nietzche’s duality, but so is the entire makeup of her character as laid out by Strindberg. In the preface, Strindberg suggests motivations for Miss Julie’s fate at the end of the play, listing “the festive atmosphere of Midsummer Night; her father’s absence; her menstruation; her association with animals; the intoxicating effect of the dance…the powerfully aphrodisiac influence of the flowers…” (Strindberg 102). These motivations can be looked at as Dionysian forces, which Miss Julie must counter with rationality and avoid letting them make her hysterical. In Nietzchean terms she must “keep in mind that measured restraint, that freedom from the wilder emotions, that calm of the sculptor god” (Nietzche 35). Again, her motivations are Dionysian wants, which she must keep in check with Apollinian reason.
Finally, what happens to Miss Julie at the end of the play is illustrative of the Apollinian/Dionysian duality on many levels. Firstly, in the preface, Strindberg claims that Miss Julie is the half-woman type and he goes on to explain that this type gives rise to an “indeterminate sex to whom life is a torture, but fortunately they go under…because their repressed instinct breaks out uncontrollably…” (Strindberg 104). This sounds remarkably similar to Nietzche’s descriptions of the relation between Apollinian and Dionysian cultures. Nietzche claims that Apollinian consciousness, the “mere appearance” of everyday life through the eyes of the individual, is but a veil, used to hide the Dionysian world of suffering. It seems as if Miss Julie was hidden safely behind this veil until the end where she asks Jean to order her to kill herself. She claims it’s as easy as being hypnotized, to which Jean responds that “the subject has to be asleep” (Strindberg 160). Miss Julie answers that she is already asleep and that she seems to be in a cloud of smoke. Strindberg’s stage direction for that line is “in an ecstasy” (Ibid). Suddenly, in these final lines, all becomes clear to Miss Julie through her hysterical, intoxicated state. A few lines later Jean responds to a comment Miss Julie makes with “Don’t think, don’t think!” (Strindberg 161) Clearly Jean is making sure to suppress the Apollinian reason within Miss Julie which is keeping her safe from her Dionysian fate of killing herself. Also, Nietzche claims, in discussing Apollo: “And so…there occur the demands ‘know thyself’ and ‘nothing in excess’; consequently overweening pride and excess are regarded as the truly hostile demons of the non-Apollinian sphere…” (Nietzche 46). He goes on to give examples, such as: “because of his excessive wisdom, which could solve the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus must be plunged into a bewildering vortex of crime” (Ibid). This can easily be applied to the character of Miss Julie; her Dionysian tendencies, influences, excesses, and motivations (most of which have already been discussed including, for example, the Midsummer Eve revelry occurring right outside) throughout the play lead directly to her fate at the end of the play.
Review of “Marriage a-la-Mode” By John Dryden
The English Restoration significantly impacted the work of the artists of the day. As England moved from a monarchy under Charles I, to a commonwealth under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, and then back again to a monarchy with Charles II on the throne, artists, and in particular playwrights, were given much fodder to explore in their respective fields. The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, identifying a clear successor, and discussing royalist loyalties were among the themes that often made their way into the literary work of this period. John Dryden, one of the most prolific and well-known Restoration playwrights, discusses questions of Royalist loyalty, moral uprightness, and unclear succession.
Tragicomedy was the form taken by most of these Restoration dramas, from 1660 to nearly the eighteenth century. The form was influenced heavily by the French. Nancy Klein Maguire writes: “Continental influence, especially that of the French, spurred interest in tragicomedy. Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria, was a French princess with strong dramatic interests. Many of the Restoration playwrights had been with Charles II during his exile and spent many years in France. They acquired French tastes, and among those tastes was a taste for tragic-comedy” (88). The tragic-comic form allowed the playwright to bring together two divergent genres – tragedy and comedy – often by employing two parallel plot lines. In the case of Dryden’s Marriage-a-la-Mode, the “tragic” plot primarily involves Polydamas and Leonidas and the struggle to find a rightful heir to the throne. This theme would have been one with which Dryden’s audience would have been familiar as the marriage between Charles II and Catherine of Braganza bore no children, just as “this old king, all the world thought childless” (ll. 278-9). The “comic” plot, centered around the couples Rhodophil and Doralice, and Palamede and Melantha, takes questions of royalist loyalty and provisional morality as its themes as the two couples attempt, while remaining loyal to their vows and social standing, to partner in non-traditional ways.
But the influence of the French is seen in more than just the structure of Marriage-a-la-Mode. Such pervasive Francophilia is understandable considering the rather lengthy exile the Stuarts had there as well as the upcoming Third Dutch War (1672-74). Conducted “[i]n alliance with France, there was a widespread feeling that in combining with an absolutist Catholic regime against a Protestant country, Britain had picked the wrong ally and the wrong enemy” (Hughes 133). In the play, Dryden establishes Melantha as a symbol for all things French. Her speech, mannerisms, and ideals are all quintessentially Francophilic. From her daily vocabulary lessons to her courtly manners, virtually every aspect of Melantha’s character is in some way coloured by the French. Nevertheless, “her flirtatiousness, love of court, and idiosyncratic vocabulary are affectations which, however ridiculous, never detract from her visible, exuberant, triumphant vitality” (Martin 752). Melantha’s prominence in the play, demands a judgement of some kind from the audience. While her facile language and often puerile actions may lead one to give a less than glowing assessment of her character and consequently the influence of the French during the Restoration, she does possess a very real joie de vivre, one which managed to attract Rhodophil and will, ultimately, sustain Palamede. Therefore, one cannot simply pass Melantha off as a nave dilettante. Rather, she appears to embody many Royalist ideals including loyalty, quietism, and a high view of courtly responsibility.
Even though Dryden was himself a Royalist, it is difficult to take Melantha completely seriously as a symbol of all of his ideals. Duane Coltharp writes: “an enslavement to fashion, a total subordination of the self to the oppressive demands of the social, opens oneself up to all kinds of subjection.” Indeed, while embodying many ideals of the Royalists, many criticisms also can be levied against her. One might be inclined to suggest that the way Melantha is positioned is a way of addressing some of the Stuart’s less flattering aspects while still praising many of the ideals. Susan Owen writes: “We find royal lies, ineptitude, passivity, misrule, ‘effeminacy,’ and excessive mercy towards the kingdom’s enemies, which are all failings for which Charles was criticized” (164-5). While it is difficult to assert what Dryden’s specific motivations might have been, it is reasonable to assert that Melantha is in some ways representative of Charles II, who was exiled in France and, while embodying many Royalist expectations of a monarch, had his own personal failings. Derek Hughes writes: “The natural disasters of the plague (1665) and the Great Fire of London (1666), in which some saw divine punishment for royal sins, were aggravated by a partly man-made disaster: mismanagement and humiliation in a war against the Dutch” (129).
Of course, Melantha is only one part of one of the two story lines. There is still the question of succession to consider in the “tragic” line. This story is just as convoluted, if not more so, than the “comic” one, as Leonidas must prove his identity and right to the throne held by the usurper Polydamas. “Though the kingdom in question is ostensibly Sicily, the situation would have held obvious, more immediate connotations for 1670s audiences, especially since the popular Royalist theme of legitimate rule restored would have been already familiar from a number of recent works” (Manning xxxiv). The question of succession would have been at the forefront of a Restoration audience member’s mind, especially a succession that is neither clear nor easy. Charles II claimed the English throne after an interregnum of commonwealth rule, the length of which he spent wandering the continent. The fact that he had no legitimate children made the question of succession all the more pressing — although James Scott, Charles’s illegitimate son, made a bid for the throne after the King’s death in 1685, it was James II, Charles’s brother, who succeeded Charles and executed James Scott.
Loyalty, moral uprightness, and legitimate succession are all important themes addressed, often with a French accent, in John Dryden’s Marriage-a-la-Mode. The tragicomic form allows Dryden to present two very different stories in two very different ways, and consequently, prompt the audience draw parallels between the two. One common theme both stories share is Charles II – represented in part by the Francophilic yet somewhat nave Melantha in the “comic” plot line and in the question surrounding legitimate succession in the “tragic” one. Restoration audiences would have been keenly aware of such issues as they were living them, and Dryden, a Royalist himself, was more than happy to stage such timely and alluring themes.
- Coltharp, Duane.: Radical royalism: strategy and ambivalence in Dryden’s tragicomedies. Philological Quarterly (Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City) (78:4) [Fall 1999] , p.417-437.
- Dryden, John. Marriage-a-la-Mode. Rpt. in Libertine Plays of the Restoration. Ed. Gillian Manning. London: Everyman, 2001.
- Hughes, Derek. Restoration and settlement: 1660 and 1688. Rpt. in The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre. Ed. Deborah Payne Fisk. Cambridge: CUP, 2000.
- Maguire, Nancy Klein. Tragicomedy. Rpt. in The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre. Ed. Deborah Payne Fisk. Cambridge: CUP, 2000.
- Owen, Susan J. Drama and political crisis. Rpt. in The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre. Ed. Deborah Payne Fisk. Cambridge: CUP, 2000.
Hippolytus: Analyzing Phaedra
In the play Hippolytus, Euripides depicts characters in a realistic fashion by displaying their warring emotions in the wake of dramatic events, as well as their deceit in achieving their objectives. A prime example of such tactics is the character Phaedra, who is content to suffer until death due to the shame of her forbidden desires for her stepson. However, when the nurse unveils her secret, Phaedra devises a scheme to ruin his reputation to save her own. Up to the creation of the letter for the stepson’s downfall, Euripides has the audience sympathize with Phaedra, leading us to understand her grieving over her love-stricken heart. At first, Phaedra yearns for the same nature and hunt that she knows Hippolytus is partaking in, largely because of the common desire to be near the person that one loves. Phaedra then becomes more conscious of her rapture and is consumed by shame for wanting Hippolytus. Afterward, the audience is allowed to watch her go back and forth regarding the question of whether her sinful desires are results of the sins of the women in her family or are prompted by the Goddess Cypris. Lastly, Phaedra uses deceit to protect her reputation from being tarnished after she dies. Therefore, Euripides uses natural characteristics of humans — uncontrollable desire, shame, the need to find explanations, and the survival of one’s good reputation — to make Phaedra a dynamic character and to invoke sympathy in the audience for Phaedra.
In the opening act of Hippolytus, Hippolytus is hunting “wild beasts with his fleet hounds” (31) and honoring the Goddess Artemis with a “…woven wreath, culled from a virgin meadow…” (32). Immediately following this scene, the audience observes Phaedra pining for a similar meadow, place among pine trees “…where hounds pursue the prey, hard on the scent of dappled fawns…”, and to also “…hark them on, to grasp the barbed dart, to poise Thessalian hunting-spears close to [her] golden hair, then let them fly…” (34). Phaedra’s eagerness to be at such a place and partake in the same hunt that Hippolytus does is an indication that she wants to be near and interact with Hippolytus due to her desire for him. Euripides introduces this natural yearning as her first depiction of love for him most likely because it is the easiest symptom of love that many can identify with themselves. In turn, this causes the audience to see themselves in Phaedra and feel as if this could have easily been one of them struck by Aphrodite’s power and uncontrollably in love with someone they shouldn’t.
As Phaedra comes to her senses and realizes her infatuation has been dictating her thoughts, she is filled with shame multiple times; she says, “…the tire on my head is too heavy to wear…” (34) and “Shame fills me for the words I have spoken. Hide me then; from my eyes the tear-drops stream, and for very shame I turn them away” (35). Due to her disgust with her desires, Phaedra becomes a figure of pity; she knows her love for her stepson is wrong and would rather suffer and shame herself than act upon it. This strong quality of choosing death over forbidden love makes Phaedra admirable to the audience.
In response to her unjust fate in the universe, Phaedra begins to imagine why she may have possibly deserved such an end. She explores different angles of her reasoning, and the audience sympathizes with trying to understand why something bad might happen to someone, accessing the thoroughly human instinct to find an origin for unexplained tragedies. Phaedra contemplates that it is because of her mother’s “love for the bull” (37) which cursed her sister and made her become “the third to suffer” (37). This “curse from time long past” (37) is not the only reason she thinks may have caused her fate. Phaedra also blames Goddess Cypris when she says that she has gone “Mad! Mad! Stricken by some demon’s curse!” (35) and asks Aphrodite, “How can these [sinners]…e’er look their husbands in the face? do they never feel one guilty thrill that their accomplice, night, or the chambers of their house will find a voice and speak?” (38). With these lines, Euripides gives the audience the dilemma of choosing whether it is truly due to Aphrodite or the sins of Phaedra’s mother.
After Phaedra mentions the possible chance of the chambers of a woman’s home finding a voice and speaking of sinful affairs, the worst possible alternative befalls Phaedra when the nurse tells Hippolytus of his stepmother’s desires. After hearing Hippolytus’ harsh reply, the audience feels pity for Phaedra because she has not acted on her passion and had resigned herself to death before being unfaithful; however, she will soon endure a tarnished reputation because of her servant’s lack of honesty. Therefore, when Phaedra commits suicide and ruins her stepson’s reputation with a letter that “loudly tells a hideous tale” (46) to save her own, the audience does not condemn her for her desperate actions though they are not excusable either.
In demonstrating the natural characteristics of humans, especially when it comes to love and the survival of their reputation, Euripides creates a character who is changes in reaction to her fate. Though Phaedra performs a harrowing deed, the audience still sympathizes with her uncontrollable desire, shame, and quest to find reason between man or the Gods for her fate. We can understand, at least, her desperate need to protect her reputation.
Euripides. The Trojan Women and Hippolytus. Trans. Edward P. Coleridge. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.
Contrasting Virgil’s Aeneid and Early History of Rome by Livy
Virgil and Livy were the authors of two substantially different works; one a propagandist epic in the style of Homer, the other an informed account of Rome’s history. This said, it is interesting to note Virgil’s inclusion of short historical narratives within the fictional tale, a fact which allows a historiographical comparison to be made between him and Livy: namely what effect they intended their accounts to have on the Roman reader. Moreover, The Aeneid and the Early History of Rome both provide a view on the subject of Rome’s founding. That Virgil’s historical passages differ drastically from Livy’s is not in doubt, and the view could even be taken that they are not history at all. However, this essay will seek to demonstrate, by using the view of Sempronius Asellio, that history could be used to ‘make men more eager to defend their country, or more reluctant to do wrong’.
Virgil’s accounts were more than just a list of events that may or may not have happened. Though largely biased, and in essence mere islands of history in a sea of fiction, Virgil’s take on historical events were intended to have an effect on the Roman reader every bit as powerful as Livy’s purposeful and scholarly documentation. The first obstacle to cross when discussing history in the context of Ancient Rome is what history meant to the Ancient Roman. In discovering this, it can be shown that whilst Virgil was a poet, and Livy a historian, they were both equally able to employ history as a tool to strongly influence a Roman reader. In antiquity, history was not the same as the modern sense of the word and consequently, the line between the fact and fiction of the past would have been a lot thinner to an ancient Roman. Today, history is a rich academic pursuit intended to provide society with an understanding of the past as full and informed as possible. It is often taught as an obligatory subject to younger students, and continues as an optional one through all tiers of education, providing much of the populace with a rudimentary ability to interpret history. In Rome, par contra, history was not an academic profession in nearly the same way. Instead, only those with enough financial freedom and time on their hands could pursue the writing of history, meaning most average Romans had to rely upon the collective memory of the Empire, something created and sustained by public objects, statues and engravings.
Though masses of Romans would not have been able to read Virgil or Livy, by contributing to the legends of well-known figures like Aeneas and Romulus, both writers would have had an indirect effect on a Roman’s take on their Empire’s history as people who did read them would have attached the contents of poem and histories alike to figures or events from the distant past. Both writers enjoyed intimacy with the Emperor, and widespread respect, further increasing their influential capacity, leading to the conclusion that whether poet or historian, the average roman would have taken their inputs to history seriously. The first point of comparison to consider is why each writer set out to present their writings in the way that they did. This consideration reveals the intent of the poet and the historian was one and the same. Traditional values that permeated Rome at the time of both writers included military prestige and pietas – devotion to one’s Gods and society. Livy and Virgil both played on these values in an effort to improve their readers in some way.
At the start of his prolific series of histories, Livy states ‘The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind… fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.’ It is clear here that one effect he intended to have on a reader is for them to learn from the mistakes, and emulate the positive deeds of the past, thereby improving themselves in the process. When taken in conjunction with his opinion that the Roman society of his own time was tormented by troubles, it can be postulated that Livy wished for his histories to ameliorate Roman society. Virgil’s Aeneid too includes similar themes. As a confidant of Augustus, Virgil presumably wrote the epic as an elaborate piece of propaganda, and in doing so, he would have tried to invoke in readers respect for Roman values and society. The description of Aeneas from Darius Phrygius depicts him as eloquent, courteous, prudent, pious, and charming, meaning Virgil had presented the progenitor of Rome as possessing a number of upstanding Roman values, intending to have them rekindled in those who read his work.
Livy and Virgil could have also sought to improve their societies by making Augustus an emperor to admire, raising the standard of pietas in Rome. Virgil constructs a tacit link between Aeneas and Augustus, founder and re-founder, and if the aforementioned qualities of Aeneas are used in this context, then readers may well have been encouraged to consider Augustus equally great. The perfect line to use as an example would be ‘Augustus Caesar… the man who will bring back the golden years to the fields of Latium’, and of course Vulcan’s depiction of Actium and Augustus’ behavior after the battle also present the emperor as pious and mighty. If readers were convinced to follow their emperor with the same zeal as those who in the past followed Aeneas to the great deeds he achieved, it would serve to bolster patriotism and respect for Rome and its emperor, aiding social cohesion and development. As said before, this was the intended aim of Livy’s histories and a similar reference to Augustus can be observed in the sentence ‘Augustus Caesar brought peace to the world by land and sea’, used in comparison to the paragon Numa Pompilius. These examples serve to show that both Livy and Virgil presented historical figures as to be emulated, then went on to compare the best of them to Augustus for as much positive impact as possible on society as a whole.
After establishing why each book was written, the question of how each writer presented their history unveils a new similarity. This lies in the shared reliance on the nature of historical characters to develop an account of the past. This can be seen quite evidently in Virgil’s Underworld procession, and indeed throughout all of Livy’s writing. The view was posited by Ogilvie that Livy sought to recreate the style of Thucydides, on the basis that human nature was constant and thus predictable. For example, he praises to a great extent the aforementioned Sabine king Numa Pompilius. In doing so, he was attributing a good reign to a man who was said to be just, wise and pious. His race would have impacted on a reader too; as a Sabine, he was theoretically a foreigner at the time. Livy portrays him as a good king in spite of this, encouraging the acceptance of and goodwill towards non-Roman people.
By contrast, his account of the despotic Tarquinius Superbus is less than flattering. Asserting that his ‘brutal and unbridled lust’ and ‘arrogant and tyrannical behavior’ was not to be emulated, he was attempting to ward off like-minded behavior in his own society. The list of characters goes on, a couple more being Lucius Brutus as the Republican hero and Appius Claudias as the ‘heartless tyrant’. Howe draws attention to some of the behavioral patterns of Aeneas’ character too – his devotion to family and in particular the mercy and tenderness displayed at the funeral games of Anchises. When Dares draws near to death against Entellus, Aeneas checks the fury of the latter and prevents further harm from being done, something Virgil clearly saw to be a noble gesture, emphasized so as to be repeated. The subsequent quote from Aeneas to Dares: ‘yield to God’ also adds a measure of piety, another commendable value. Howe goes on to say that the passages wherein Aeneas is presented as having such worthy virtues are ‘so rich’ that ‘space forbids a mere enumeration of instances of it’, serving to demonstrate just how much effort Virgil expended in order to make Aeneus as impactful a character as possible on the reader.
The underworld procession also provides some evidence to suggest Virgil’s writings can be viewed as historical. The characters in this procession are presented as prophecy to Aeneas but would have been history to Virgil’s audience. Virgil hails Romulus with grandiose language, ‘the man who founded Rome in all her glory… whose spirit shall rise to the heights of Olympus’, thereby attempting to invoke a sense of reverence towards such a founder, and a possible desire to see Virgil’s words come to fruition by working to improve the Roman empire. Ancus is said to be ‘overly boastful, too fond even now of the breath of popular favour’. This is rather difficult to interpret, but a return to Livy’s assertion that his society was in decay could suggest Virgil was attempting a warning, using Ancus as an example. Historically, this king was responsible for the ascendancy of the Tarquin kings in letting Lucumo gain political prominence. If Virgil was implying that Ancus was not politically aware enough, overly-comfortable in his position, it is possible he intended to spark some social awareness in readers by referencing this past mistake.
As is now evident, both writers clearly portray the characters of historical figures to present contemporary readers with examples to follow or disregard. One area in which both writers certainly differed were their attitudes towards history, yet both attitudes may nevertheless have created the same effect on a reader. It is clear that, as a poet, Virgil had little interest in sticking to fact, and indeed, even if the foundation myth of Aeneas was believed, there would even then have been a dearth of evidence with which to write a whole book. In contrast, Livy explicitly states that he wishes not to make ‘extravagant claims’, and his treatment of Roman myth is refreshingly fleeting, as he progresses swiftly on to more reliable periods of time. Consequently, Virgil’s epic only employed history if it meant it could make Rome appear worthier to a Roman; whereas Livy employed history for history’s sake. Yet as Ogilvie states, Livy’s historian predecessors were all senators writing in the interest of Rome, much like Virgil. With the works of these men being sources used by Livy, alongside his clear love for Rome inevitably affecting his bias, the effect of his history may have been strikingly similar to Virgil’s regarding the creation of patriotism and love for Rome.
It is apparent that there were fewer differences between Virgil and Livy than may have been assumed. While the poet was inevitably more flamboyant than the historian, both approached their historical narratives with the same desire; to instill within readers a set of positive Roman values and a love of their Empire intended to improve a society ‘in love with death both individual and collective’. Both writers were in an excellent position to manipulate the collective memory of the Empire and so whatever they wrote would have impacted somehow on the populace. Finally, the early history of Rome is a time for which little evidence has ever been accessible – the first historian to write on it did so 200 years after the monarchy. As such, all ‘history’ for this period is subject to debate, and it can be argued that the impact on the reader of such writings is more important than the accuracy of the history itself, creating a similarity between Livy and Virgil that disregards their genres.
Howe, G. (1930), ‘The Development of the Character of Aeneas’. The Classical Journal. The Classical Association of the Middle West and South: 182-193
S?lincourt, A. and Ogilvie, R.M. (1971), Livy. ‘The Early History of Rome’. Penguin.
West, D. (2003), Virgil. ‘The Aeneid’. Penguin.
 Sempronius Asellio, Rer. Ges. Lib. 1  Pliny, Epistles 2.3  Livy, Early His. 1.0  ibid  Dares Phrygias, His. Troy  Virgil, Aeneid 6.792-793  ibid 8.675-728  Livy, Early His. 1.18  Virgil, Aeneid 6.  Ogilvie 1971:2-3  Thuc. 1.22.4  ibid 1.18  Livy, Early His. 1.59  ibid 1.57-1.59  ibid 3.44  Howe 1930:191  Virgil, Aeneid 5.462-464  ibid 5.467  Howe 1930:192  Virgil, Aeneid 6.781-783  ibid 6.818  Livy, Early His. 1.34  ibid 1.0  Ogilvie 1971:7  Livy, Early His. 1.0  ibid  Ogilvie 1971:7
Emotions of Anger in Aeneid
The idea of piety in Ancient Rome is not the same idea of piety that we have today. To the Romans, piety, or “pietas” in Latin, describes a set of social constructs that governs what makes a respectable person. Piety encompasses one’s devotion to the gods, love for one’s country, respect for one’s family, and understanding of fate. These characteristics are essential for a great Roman leader, so there’s no question as to why Virgil calls Aeneas by “Pious Aeneas” in his epic The Aeneid. The mythical ancestor to Romulus and Remus should possess these qualities; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to command the hearts of his men in their search for their new home.
If there are to be pious people in this world, there also must be the impious. Impiety is easily defined as the opposite of broad-reaching virtuousness. Fury, or “furor” in Latin, “connotes a frenzied derangement of the mind and spirit, something akin to madness,” in which the behavior of the individual is often brash, violent, or impulsive (Boyle 88). Those who are impious lead themselves to make foolish, uncharacteristic choices with severe consequences. In The Aeneid, characters in power such as Dido, Turnus, and Camilla find themselves giving in to their impious furor, ultimately hindering their own progress or leading to their demise. Virgil uses these stories of piety and impiety to paint a picture of the legendary history of Rome, inspiring his audience to admire Augustus, the heroic Roman leader of Virgil’s own time, and to legitimize Augustus’s rule.
Turnus appears in the seventh book of The Aeneid, and is introduced to us as Livina’s suitor, one who will eventually produce heirs for the throne of Latium. When Aeneas arrives in Latium, King Latinus promises him land for a new city as well as his daughter’s hand in marriage, following Anchises’s prophecy to have the daughter of Latinus marry a foreigner. Allecto, a Fury summoned by Juno, inspires Turnus to grow angry at his King’s decision, setting the seed if impiety within Turnus.
Over the course of the next four books, Turnus fights against Aeneas in a war for Lavinia’s hand. In Book IX, Turnus has assembled his troops to attack the Trojans and eventually find a way into their camp. Virgil notes that Turnus could have opened the Trojans’ gates to let in his troops, but that his erratic, furious behavior kept him from thinking clearly and strategically. Turnus then takes Pallas’s belt at the end of Book X, showing his reckless pride. This belt eventually leads to his death, because when Aeneas sees it he forgets his thoughts of sparing Turnus and flies into a furious rage, killing Turnus with a spear.
Turnus perhaps sealed his own fate when he defied his king’s wishes and continued to seek the hand of Lavinia. This lapse in piety led to a war that he could not win because Aeneas was destined to found a new city in Latium. It is worth mentioning, however, that Turnus is not a character entirely without piety. In fact, in the last book of the epic, as Aeneas is seizing an opportunity to attack the undefended city, Turnus hears the news of his queen’s suicide and sees his people’s suffering. This reminder of the pain he’s causing his own people by continuing this war provides a moment of clarity, a moment in which he could escape his impious fury. But just as quickly as Turnus comes to his senses, he gives in to his fury by challenging Aeneas in single combat. He knows that Aeneas must win, but he realizes his wrongdoings, succumbs to his fate and dies. In the end, he realizes his wrongdoing too late: his undesirable impiety was his biggest weakness. Any future leader must not behave as carelessly as Turnus did.
Dido is another central character who experiences a lapse in piety. While she was the queen of Tyre, her brother Pygmalion murdered her husband and compelled her to go with some of her citizens to found the city of Carthage. She vows not to marry again, in honor of her husband, and instead vows to place her priorities in governing. Dido is represented as a dedicated, and pious, leader. Her flaw is that she’s earned the epithet “infelix,” which is defined as “ill-starred, unfortunate, and unhappy,” (Covi 57).
This picture of a perfect ruler changes when Venus allows Dido to fall in love with Aeneas. Dido forgets her promise not to marry and grows close to Aeneas, but most importantly she begins to neglect her duties as a queen. She admits to her shortcomings, and therefore she accepts that she isn’t acting with piety. As Madeline Covi explains in her essay “Dido in Vergil’s Aeneid,” at this point in the text, “the language used in connection with Dido again suggests a guilty conscience: she is not moved specie famave (4.170)—but it must by implication be on her mind,” (58). In other words, the rumor of Dido’s “furtivum amorem,” or secret love, and its subsequent confirmation after her metaphorical marriage to Aeneas weigh heavily on her mind (Covi 59). Her people feel betrayed by her broken promises and her decreased attention to governing, ultimately a result of her failure to stay pious.
Dido, like Turnus, became aware of the mistakes that resulted in a lapse of piety. But also like Turnus, Dido realized her mistakes and did not correct her shortcomings. Following the trend of the impious, Dido begins at act impulsively when Aeneas tells her that he must leave her and follow his own destiny. Dido calls out to the gods, “may he never enjoy his realm and the light he yearns for, never, let him die before his day, unburied on some desolate beach,” cursing Aeneas, and asking for “war between all our peoples, all their children, endless war,” (Virgil 4.771-782) This impulsive curse would not have been uttered by Dido had she not succumbed to her fury. In fact, in the eyes of Virgil’s Roman audience, the careless Dido may have tragically doomed her people to years and years of aggression, namely the Punic Wars that they would fight with Rome many centuries later.
Ultimately, Dido kills herself on her own funeral pyre using Aeneas’s own sword, showing the power of a mind that is acting under the influence of furor. Later, we see her in the Fields of Mourning in the underworld of Dis, where she is doomed to eternal suffering because of her lapse in judgment. But again, much like Turnus, Dido was not completely without piety. At one point, she was a good enough leader to convince swaths of people to follow her to a strange land to found their own city—calling to mind the mission pious Aeneas has set out to accomplish. In the end, it was her inability to stay pious, to stay committed to her late husband or to keep the interests of her people at hand, that led to her desperate situation.
Even Camilla, a warrior maiden and a general of Turnus’s army, lets impiousness enter her life, leading to her quick death in Book XI. While on the battlefield, Camilla is a force to be reckoned with. Then she notices a man wearing particularly fancy armor and forgets herself. Remember, an aspect of piety is that one puts the gods, country, and family before oneself, and Camilla abandons her companions in order to track this man and win a trophy to show off her skill and glory. So “Camilla, keen to fix some Trojan arms on a temple wall or sport some golden plunder out on the hunt…she stalked him wildly, reckless through the ranks, afire with a woman’s lust for loot and plunder,” lost track of what was going on around her, and inadvertently allowed Arruns to throw his spear, blessed by Apollo, which impales and kills her, (Virgil 11.914-918).
This is by far one of the quickest examples of inattentiveness to staying virtuous getting the better of one of Virgil’s characters. Not too much earlier in the same battle, Turnus puts Camilla in a position of power while he goes to set a strategic ambush; when she forgets about her fellow Volscians and the Latins that she is fighting alongside, she leaves herself vulnerable to attack.
Not everyone in the epic, however, succumbs to impious fury. Aeneas remains relatively unscathed by the tragic circumstances that fall on those who let fury take over their minds. Aeneas’s epithet of “pious” is quite the clue: he is considered he quintessential image of piety in a ruler. As mentioned earlier, Virgil may be writing this epic as a form of political propaganda in which he draws parallels between pious Aeneas and the emperor Augustus. According to Sabine Grebe, “Vergil celebrates and, more importantly, legitimizes Augustus’s power,” (Grebe 35). Both the epic hero and the actual ruler fought in wars to legitimize their claims to the land they ruled, Aeneas against the Latins and Augustus against Caesar and Mark Antony. Both men were trusted as leaders “who can create order out of disorder, with divine support,” (Grebe 39).
Virgil takes this connection a step further, even including references to Augustus’s “divi genus,” or his divine connection to Julius Caesar as his legitimate heir within Anchises’s prophecy in book VI, (Grebe 58). If Augustus is truly of divine lineage, connected to Venus through Julius Caesar and Aeneas himself, as he is purported to be in the text of the epic, this fact would entirely legitimize his claim to rule the Roman empire. If Augustus is a mirror of the fictional Aeneas, he must also share in Aeneas’s famous piety as well, right? That’s the idea behind Virgil’s poetry.
Aeneas runs into many obstacles during this epic poem, including his evacuation of Troy, the journey to Italy, and the deaths of his father and of Pallas. Even though these events anger Aeneas, he is still able to control himself and does not give in to his rage, nor does he forget his piety, his duties, or his purpose. He even offers a twelve-day-long truce to the Latins so that they may properly bury their dead after learning the news of Pallas’s death, a respectful gesture that impresses even his enemy’s emissaries. This fact is important, especially with regard to the Roman Epire. If a ruler of a powerful people is to conquer a nation and add it to their empire, as the Romans were doing as this time, their leader needs to possess the qualities that would allow their conquered enemies to respect a new ruler.
Aeneas’s only major run-in with true fury is when Turnus is injured during their one-on-one battle. Aeneas spots Turnus wearing Pallas’s belt as a trophy, and “Aeneas, soon as his eyes drank in that plunder—keepsake of his own savage grief—flaring up in fury, terrible in his rage,” kills Turnus on behalf of his late friend, “blazing with wrath,” (Virgil 12.1102-1109). This wave of fury caught Aeneas as he was feeling a moment of mercy, and the scene begs the question of how the epic could have ended differently (and if Turnus could have remained alive). However the narrative might have run, Aeneas seems justified in his actions, and is able to keep his untarnished reputation. After all, his motives for fighting were to establish a new land for his people and to keep his pious promises.
It is apparent that the idea of piety was extremely important to the Romans, and that for them the absence or lapse of piety leads to “impius furor,” a state of mind in which individuals find themselves making irrational decisions and meeting untimely demises. Dido, Turnus, and Camilla are all examples of people in positions of power who let their own motivations — whether love, power, or glory — get in the way of their ability to effectively lead. Only a true, respectable leader can set aside furor and let “pietas” govern his or her actions — a leader like Aeneas or Augustus.
Boyle, Anthony James. The Chaonian Dove: Studies in the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid of Virgil. Leiden: Brill, 1986. Print.
Covi, Madeline C.. “Dido in Vergil’s Aeneid”. The Classical Journal 60.2 (1964): 57–60. Web.
Grebe, Sabine. “Augustus’ Divine Authority and Vergil’s “Aeneid””. Vergilius (1959-) 50 (2004): 35–62. Web.
Virgil. The Aeneid: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition). Trans. Robert Fagles. N.p.: Penguin, 2006. Electronic.
Analysis Of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles As An Ancient Greek Tragedy
Indubitably, Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ is largely reminiscent of the archetypal Grecian tragedy; evoking an overwhelming sense of pity/catharsis for the female protagonist. However, the constituents of said ‘tragedy’; though in essence prevalent throughout, are discordant throughout the majority of Hardy’s novel. It is generally stipulated than in order to be defined as a ‘Greek Tragedy’; a number of elements must work in unison: the protagonist, though critical to the plot, must remain emotionally detached- the plot propelled by action; irrespective of the thoughts and psychology of the central character and often, as a result, omitting the presence of a consistent narrative. Aristotle stated that tragedy, at its core is ‘an imitation, not of men, but of action and life, of happiness and misery’- a plot in which the characters serve to purge the emotions of the spectators and create a focus of empathy, in a tale compelled by nothing more than the misfortune of fate, the cosmos and the Gods.
However, discrepancies arise when looking into the semantics of Hardy’s novel- Tess’ fate, cannot be prescribed to the fault of the Gods, nor the work of higher beings; Tess possesses no credible form of hamartia, as the faults which seem to denounce her recognition as a ‘virtuous being’ are prevalent within all other central characters: her ‘defining’ sexual impurity, almost satirically paralleled by the acts of her ‘spiritually enlightened’ husband. Therefore, it is not through the Victorian prism of purity that Tess is assigned her hamartia; Tess’s one and only fatal flaw is that which, ironically, coincides with Aristotle’s theory of tragedy in the sense that it is beyond her control: she is a woman. It is her gender which serves to condemn her.
Hardy seemingly inverts the concept of tragedy, insofar that, as opposed to an imitation of the joys and dejections of life, Tess is used on an individual level to paint a bitter portrait of realism and inculpate the society which dictates such melancholy. Rather than purging the audience of their inner turmoil through a, typically male protagonist; Hardy humanizes Tess’s condition: men embodying the authority of God- the figures of Angel (biblically symbolizing the hope of redemption for the fallen woman ) and Alec (signifying impious temptation) dominating the course of the maiden. The cosmos and God’s which are to blame for our misfortunes are demeaned to a very factual level: it is men whom oppress her through ignorance of their own faults and exacerbation of hers; as she is ultimately judged by societies’ delineation of ethics.
In a sense, Hardy mirrors the ideology of the Greek tragedy, to the extent that, just as the knowledge that the perennial intervention of the God’s relieves us of the blame for our destinies; the invisible construct of society with its judgments on sexuality, womanhood, morality and status are entirely accountable for the demise of Tess. Hardy propagates this concept of accountability through the unorthodox addition of a narration throughout; often satirically mocking the concept that Tess is vilified by the God’s for her actions- noting that ‘Providence must have been sleeping’ at the moment in which the maiden’s fate is determined by rape. Rather than being propelled by action, Hardy speculates on the events occurring, the human witness punctuating the novel, suggesting that intervention and a divergence of fate is entirely possible; just as, as the author, Hardy has the ability to manipulate and/or alleviate the deterioration of Tess.
Cumulatively, the nature of Tess’s death serves to mock the Victorian detachment from the plight of the ‘fallen’ woman- the penultimate scene, whereupon Tess’s symbolically sacrificial demise in the ruins of Stonehenge occurs, vitriolically described as ‘justice’ by the author. However, the detachment from the constraints of Victorian society and the unrefined and essential ‘purity’ of Tess in terms of her authenticity as a woman upon her death is clearly perpetuated- the historical burial ground in which she lies possessing no respect or glorification of wealth, lineage or sexual purity, the stones- ‘Older than the centuries; older than the d’Urbervilles!’- belittling and trivializing the matters which have disproportionately denounced Tess throughout.
As a result, the audience, though reluctantly, enters the cathartic stage stipulated within the theory of tragedy, however, distinguishable, not for the emotions of their protagonist and the concurrent sense of self-gratification gained, but a purging of their own guilt and prescription to the immorality of the society which murdered what, in the end, is portrayed to be nothing more than a girl. It is this realism which resonates until the final word: Tess is not a victim of the God’s, the cosmos, or the divine- she is a victim of humanity… and that is the most tragic reality of all.
Absolving Frankford: Analyzing “Kindness” in a Woman Killed with Kindness
It is easy for a modern audience to look upon the actions of Master Frankford in Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness and recoil in disgust. While his actions may be starkly seen as emotional abuse today, within the world of the play his punishment for Anne is praised as a gentlemanly solution to his wife’s adultery. Close readings of the text provide insight into Frankford’s actions and allow the reader to see beyond their initial perception that he is more a domestic abuser. By analyzing the way A Woman Killed with Kindness presents its acts of kindness committed by Frankford and the subplot characters, the difference between the emotions found in the main plot and subplot, and the way it juxtaposes his actions with alternative solutions he could have taken, I will attempt to prove through comparisons with the side story involving Sir Francis, Sir Charles and Susan that A Woman Killed with Kindness views Frankford’s actions as genuine acts of kindness.
The most immediately apparent signifier that Frankford’s actions are genuinely kind is how the play distinguishes false kindness from true kindness. Juxtaposing the actions of the characters brings the differences between the sincere acts and the disingenuous acts into sharp relief. For example, after offering a loan to Sir Charles and hearing him declare that he has only a small sum of money and a summer home in his possession, Shafton says in aside, “That must I have it, it lies convenient for me… ‘Tis not for love I proffered him this coin, / But for my gain and pleasure” (5.49-53). The text wastes no time in explaining what Shafton is truly after; it is stated plainly with very little room for interpretation beyond speculation. Another example can be found with the “kindness” Sir Francis Acton shows Susan after Sir Charles is placed in debtor’s prison: “Woo her with gifts I cannot… How then? / Well, I will fasten such a kindness on her / As shall overcome her hate and conquer it” (9.62-67). This is an even more obvious display of false kindness. Unlike Shafton, Sir Francis does not even bother to put on any pretence about why he wishes to be generous to Susan. Both shows of “kindness” clearly define what Shafton and Sir Francis are hoping to gain through their actions — the Mountford summer home and Susan’s favour, respectively — and how they hope to achieve it. These two instances serve as contrasts for Frankford’s two main acts of kindness. The first, offering his home to Wendell, displays none of the “tells” discussed in the previous two. When Frankford propositions Wendoll to take lodging in his home there is no aside or any mention of an ulterior motive. The only explanation given as to why Frankford is doing this is that Frankford has “preferred [Wendoll] to a second place / In [his] opinion and [his] best regard” (4.32-33). Frankford’s other main act of kindness, sending Anne away once he has discovered her affair with Wendoll, is more controversial but is still portrayed as having no ulterior motive. There are no asides detailing a master plan to shame Anne to her eventual death, nor does the text provide any reasons for Frankford to discard Anne aside from the ones he openly says. He does it because he feels betrayed and because he fears the corruption Anne has suffered will reflect poorly on their children, calling their legitimacy into question. To summarize: if the play wanted the audience to view Frankford’s actions as falsely kind, it would be more obvious about it, as it was with the actions of Shafton and Sir Francis. Following this pattern, it becomes evident that Frankford’s actions throughout A Woman Killed with Kindness are viewed by the play as true acts of kindness.
Much like how the play subtly conveys the difference between true kindness and false kindness to highlight Frankford’s true nature, a key piece of evidence proving that A Woman Killed with Kindness views Frankford’s actions as genuinely kind is the indications of emotions that accompany the acts of generosity throughout the play. For instance, compare Frankford’s emotions during his acts of kindness to those of the subplot characters. During his confrontation with Anne after discovering her affair, Frankford expresses his sorrow at his wife’s betrayal, saying, “Spare thou thy tears, for I will weep for thee / And keep thy countenance, for I’ll blush for thee” (13. 84-85). Here, Frankford is vulnerable, almost empathetic. His confession both recognizes Anne’s humanity by acknowledging that she feels sorrow and shame and prohibits her from feeling anything because his own feelings take precedence. He was the one that was betrayed by his spouse and best friend, not Anne. This is significant because it further proves that Frankford’s intentions have been pure. Were he to have planned to cause the downfall of either Anne or Wendoll, he would not exhibit nearly the level of emotion he does with no hint to the audience that there was a sinister intent behind his actions. The play allows the audience to sympathize with Frankford. Contrast this with Sir Francis, who becomes smitten with Susan and resolves to free her brother from prison so that she will have no choice but to have sex with him: “In her I’ll bury my hate of [Sir Charles]” (9. 72). Sir Francis’ emotions tend to focus on less sympathetic outlets. Yes, he states that he will renounce his hate, but his phrasing is oddly sexual and exploitative. It is an uncomfortable pun to those who notice it and further depicts Sir Francis as an uncaring man to Frankford’s wronged philanthropist. This parallel further proves that Frankford’s actions throughout A Woman Killed with Kindness are viewed by the play as true acts of kindness.
Not only does A Woman Killed with Kindness express it viewpoint that Frankford’s acts are genuinely kind through its indications of emotions, it also conveys its viewpoint by hinting at an alternative, more severe action Frankford could have taken. To begin, when he finally discovers Anne and Wendoll in bed together, he contemplates killing them but stops himself, saying, “But that I would not damn two precious souls / Bought with my Saviour’s blood and send them laden / With all their scarlet sins on their backs” (13.44-46). This parallels an earlier scene where Sir Charles murders two of Sir Francis’ men in a fit of rage: “It was not I, but rage, did this vile murder” (3. 51). It serves as a reminder of what men in the world of the play can do when enraged. And yet he does not take violent action. True, he is noted in the stage direction to be chasing Wendoll off-stage with his sword drawn, but he does put a scratch on him. This speaks to his character as being fundamentally superior to many men of his time who would have continued chase even after the maid attempts to stop him. This is also reflected in Anne’s gruesome expectations for Frankford’s punishment when her affair with Wendoll is discovered; this can also serve as another example of an alternative path Frankford could have taken. As she kneels, guilty before her husband, Anne says, “Though I deserve a thousand thousand fold / More than you can inflict… mark not my face / Nor hack me with your sword” (13. 94-99). This once again was the expectation of the time, that cuckolded men were to severely punish their adulterous wives. It seems as if every character in the play is expecting Anne to be put to death for her crime. As Sir Francis says when he hears of Anne’s situation,
My brother Frankford showed too mild a spirit
In the revenge of such a loath?d crime;
Less than he did, no man of spirit could do.
I am so far from blaming his revenge
That I commend it; had it been my case,
Their souls at once had from their breasts been freed. (17. 16-21)
It could be argued that simply because Frankford does not take certain more abusive actions towards Anne and Wendoll, it does not automatically make him kind. However, this ignores the result of his less violent actions. Looking back on his initial reaction to seeing them in bed together, the footnote states, “44-8.] If Frankford had killed Anne and Wendoll before they had a chance to repent, according to traditional theology, their souls would have gone to hell” (13). The text implies that this weighs heavily on him, as he rests and contemplates for a moment before Anne and Wendoll are woken up. Deeming their souls “precious” denotes that he finds value in them despite how they have wronged him. Frankford not only grants them their lives but the opportunity to save their immortal souls by repenting for the sins they have committed against him. Given the facts, it is near irrefutable that Frankford’s actions throughout A Woman Killed with Kindness are viewed by the play as true acts of kindness.
In a cast full of men who manipulate and abuse others for personal gain, Frankford is a notable character for being portrayed by the viewpoint of the play to be genuinely kind. It shows through its portrayal of kindness, its difference it the emotional complexities of the characters and finally, in the actions that could have been taken, that Frankford’s actions throughout the play are meant to be interpreted as genuine acts of kindness based on the play’s viewpoint. While the results are unfortunate, it is refreshing to know that Frankford was not ill-intended. However, given that almost every male character is shown to in some way be underhanded or manipulative, it is easy to perceive Frankford in the same way. It is a shame that his subtle kindness will go unnoticed to most modern audiences who will end their understanding of the character at his seemingly cruel ministrations.
Reality and Appearance: A Comparison of Hamlet and the Revenger”s Tragedy
Throughout both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, the disparity between how things seem and how they really are is a constant underlying motif; the depth in which both plays examine the concept of appearance and reality justifies the claim that they are a ‘sustained exploration’ of the theme. Within Hamlet, in particular, the protagonist is presented as constantly attempting to fathom though a mist of duplicity, equivocation and pretense which, in turn, leads him to create his own elaborate deceptions to establish the truth in others. This capacity for deception he shares with The Revenger’s Tragedy ‘s Vindice. As the play progresses, it becomes clear that almost all of the principle characters within Hamlet have become involved in a deception of some kind clearly demonstrating to an audience the differences between how things or characters seem to be and how they truly are.
Throughout Hamlet, the protagonist is presented as entirely and relentlessly surrounded by the blurring of appearances and reality, much of which is arguably self-inflicted. From the opening Act of the play, the audience is made aware of Hamlet’s tendency to muse on the nature of appearances and reality; he suspects and sees deception in everything and everyone, a tendency which is fostered by the circumstances within which he finds himself. Perhaps the earliest example of Hamlet’s mistrust of appearances is his judgement of his mother as crying ‘unrighteous tears’ over the death of his father. The adjective ‘unrighteous’ perhaps suggests her grief to be false and tainted by her ‘o’er hasty’ marriage to Claudius; Hamlet sees the outward manifestation of her grief i.e. the tears as a hollow pretense. This idea of outward appearances as a concealment is also reinforced when Hamlet talks of Claudius as a ‘smiling, damned villain’; the juxtaposition of the contradictory ‘smiling’ and ‘villain’ powerfully expresses the ability of outward appearances to manipulate and distract from what is real. It has been noted that Shakespeare’s imagination was haunted by the image of the smiling villain; he used it to express the theme of deceptive appearances (for example, ‘there’s daggers in men’s smiles’ (Macbeth)) As a response to the dishonesty surrounding Hamlet, throughout the play he frequently reflects on the nature of deception in the world, for example he claims that ‘to be honest as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand’; Hamlet, and potentially Shakespeare, blatantly recognize deception within everyone and dishonesty as an innate human trait. Vindice, within The Revenger’s Tragedy makes an almost identical observation claiming that ‘to be honest is not to be i’th’world’ ; both characters’ belief in truth has been subdued by the duplicity surrounding them.
In an almost ‘vicious circle’ of deceit, both protagonists resign themselves to create elaborate disguises as a means to decipher what is real. For example, Vindice disguises himself as Piato in order to discover whether his mother and sister are truly pure or not: ‘I’ll put on that knave for once’, the term ‘put on’ is a reference to the disguise he will create. The appearance of Vindice attempting to seduce his mother and sister disguises the antithetical purpose of testing their virtue. Similarly, Hamlet resorts to deception on numerous occasions throughout the play. For example, he chooses to ‘put on’ an ‘antic disposition’ in order to distract people from realizing his true purpose, he blatantly deceives Ophelia when he claims ‘I loved you not’ as he later expresses his overwhelming love for her: ‘I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.’ In addition, to test the truth of the ghost’s words: ‘The play is the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King’; the play seems to be simply entertainment when, in reality, it is a trap, another classic facade and an example of something scheming and negative being obscured by a positive outward appearance. The use of the play within a play is very much reflective of the growing popularity of theater within Shakespeare’s Elizabethan context, although it was considered to be a bad influence by some.
Many have argued that the lack of distinction between reality and what appears to be is taken to such an extent that the protagonist, on some occasions, appear to deceive himself. For example, he convinces himself that the ghost of his Father may not be real thus creating a delay in the killing of Claudius: ‘The spirit that I have seen may be a devil.’ He also convinces himself not to kill Claudius whilst praying as this would send him to heaven. This perhaps presents yet another example of the differences between reality and what seems to be; Hamlet, on numerous occasions, claims to act according to a Christian moral guideline for example when he concludes not to kill himself as ‘the everlasting…fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter.’ However, the very act of revenge is blatantly atypical of someone abiding by Christian guidelines; ‘turn the other cheek’ appears to be discarded. Perhaps Hamlet’s outward presentation of his morals is different from the reality of them.
Towards the denouement of Hamlet it becomes clear to the audience that almost all of the major characters within the play have become entangled in the web of deception and this, in turn, leads to their death. Horatio is the only character left alive at the end of the play and the only one not involved in a deception of some kind; this perhaps suggests didactic intent on the part of Shakespeare. For example, Laertes is ultimately killed by the poisoned sword he intended for Hamlet: ‘I am justly killed with mine own treachery.’ The adjective ‘justly’ perhaps suggests this idea that deception and duplicity warrants punishment. Gertrude deceives her husband by keeping the truth of Hamlet’s sanity from him: ‘I have no life to breathe what thou hast said to me’; she ultimately dies. Polonius, throughout the play, enjoys the thrill of deceit; for example, he sends a spy to watch over his son. His death behind the ‘arras’ is perhaps symbolic of his tendency for concealment leading to his death. Claudius is coupled with a duplicitous nature from his entrance into the play; he conceals his secret behind the facade of a good, honest king and proves to be, as Hamlet observed a ‘smiling villain’. For example, he demonstrates an artificial concern for the kingdom by using collective pronouns such as ‘our dear brother’ and ‘our hearts’. He boasts an insincere grief over the death of his brother: ‘brow of woe’ and consistently claims to act in the interests of the kingdom, for example he sends Hamlet away as ‘his liberty is full of threats to all.’ However, his intentions are ultimately selfish- he claims he acted for his ‘crown, (his) own ambition, and (his) queen.’ In a similar way to Shakespeare, Middleton ultimately ends the play with the execution of Vindice, who carries out the greatest deceit: ‘bear ’em to speedy execution.’ However, whereas within Hamlet the principle characters ultimately die as a result of their deception and dishonesty, Vindice dies as a result of revealing his deception: ”twas we two murdered him.’ The truth ultimately condemns Vindice where deceit itself condemns the characters in Hamlet.
In conclusion, throughout both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, the differences between how things seem and how they really are are constantly explored. The protagonist within Hamlet is depicted as besieged by pretense which, in turn , leads him to create his own elaborate charades to distinguish between truth and deception. This capacity for deception he shares with The Revenger’s Tragedy’s Vindice. Almost all of the principle characters within Hamlet ultimately boast dual personalities or concealed motifs demonstrating to an audience the differences between how things or characters seem to be and how they truly are.
Essay Score 11/20
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Overall, the essay is well-written with good introduction and conclusion sections. However, it is lacking evidence. The essay would also benefit from section headings, and better sentence structure and grammar/mechanics.