Not a whole lot happens. We arrive in medias res as the women wake at dawn in a ruined Troy, waiting and wondering what their Greek conquerors are goiNot a whole lot happens. We arrive in medias res as the women wake at dawn in a ruined Troy, waiting and wondering what their Greek conquerors are going to do to them. They speculate, worry, mourn, and kibbitz, until finally they are each given their sentences: they are told who is going to rape them. It's like a death scene. And, before you've even recovered from that, the messenger returns to take and murder Andromachae's baby. The play ends with them being led off to the ships to slavery and ritual rape until death.
It takes some serious guts to stage this thing in 5th Century Athens, just after the Athenians did this to Melos. The notorious Sicilian Expedition was only a few months away. I tried to think of a parallel for our time, but it was difficult. Maybe if a playwright had staged a tragedy about the brutality of American soldiers in the Mexican-American War? I don't think that there is an adequate parallel to our experience. Self-hating and hand-wringing are the norm in our time, and so it would take more courage than otherwise to stage a jingoistic and unabashedly martial piece like an Iliad, instead. But I digress.
What makes this play amazing is the poetry. Shakespeare always gives me the sense that he doesn't really care any more than he has to about plot: the guy only made up one of his 39 plots. The plot--that is, the play--is an excuse to pour out this incredible poetry. Murray does an amazing job of Englishing Euripides, though he gives one the sense that he doesn't care too much about literalism, which I usually prefer in translation. Rather, he gives us an allusive translation, with one of the women quoting the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example. Nevertheless, Euripides, like Shakespeare, just piles up image after image after image, metaphor upon metaphor, simile upon simile. For this reason, I imagine that it is preferable to read Euripides and Shakespeare instead of seeing them staged. It's a cognitive fireworks show.
As The Philosopher has said, Euripides is the most tragic of tragedians, and this is evidenced in his constant contrast of past and future, pre-catastrophe and post-catastrophe. The mourning women reminisce about the past, and then are constantly brought back to the present, if only by a Greek messenger. (In a rather touching scene, even the Greek messenger couldn't bear to tell Andromachae what was to happen to her son: she had to infer it from his circumlocutions.) Any mourning of the present is with reference to the past. The more we hear about the past, the worst the present seems. The more we lament the present, the more glorious the past.
Some marginally interesting points: Euripides presents Odysseos as unequivocally a bad man, as a brute, a jock. It is Odysseos who gives the order to kill the child, and who will lord over the noble and intelligent Hecuba. His presentation of Helen is also fascinating: she faces Menelaus with an unsettling calm, a fearlessness that itself induces a kind of fear. The women despise her as the cause of all our woe, but, departing from the tradition, Menelaus maintains his rage against her throughout the play (normally he is presented as forgetting everything as soon as he sees her bosom). Euripides was, to use three horribly 20th century and horribly leftist terms, subversive of his culture's values....more
Some good comedy early on, but this is ruined by the deus ex machina ending and the seemingly countless hoops Moliere jumps through to establish thatSome good comedy early on, but this is ruined by the deus ex machina ending and the seemingly countless hoops Moliere jumps through to establish that he is no enemy of true religion. The poetry, in translation anyway, is often quite elegant, very stately and formal. Moliere builds suspense by talk about Tartuffe for Acts I and II, before even showing us Tartuffe in Act III. We don't get to see very much of Tartuffe's con-man act, though we are told much about it in exposition. As soon as he arrives, he is already fixated upon seducing Orgon's wife. Why he would do this when he is being given his daughter as a wife is a reasonable enough question.
The ending is quaint, but completely takes the steam out of the play. Also, Cleante's long speeches simply do not allow for the often hoped-for interpretation of the play as a satire of religion. I've only scanned the highest ranked review on here and that's how it is interpreted there. It just doesn't hold water. Abusum non tollit usum. In a perverse way, this makes Tartuffe into simply a curiosity, an eccentric or droll story rather than an actual commentary or investigation into the religious impulse. The former is a whole lot less interesting than the latter....more
Makes Ingmar Bergman look like Walt Disney. Good thing that he was a 19th Century figure: today this would be considered an unpublishable work of misoMakes Ingmar Bergman look like Walt Disney. Good thing that he was a 19th Century figure: today this would be considered an unpublishable work of misogynistic propaganda. Laura is one of the most vindictive women I've ever encountered in literature, to the point that it beggars belief. Why is it so important how their child is educated? We are not really given any motivation other than her brother's explanation is that, well, it's just how she is. She always has wanted her way simply because it is her way, and that's that. In this sense The Father is a morality play, in that it is an extended dramatization of the sin of pride. A good man, an honorable man of rank and honor is utterly destroyed either by womankind (this reading is strengthened by the alliance of women against him, and over whom he is ostensibly to govern), or by the vice of pride, which is the root of all sin. It is quite a page-turner, either as bitter anti-woman screed or as medieval morality....more
Simply beautiful, heartbreakingly so. That's just about the highest compliment I can give. This is clearly the story that was closest to Williams' heaSimply beautiful, heartbreakingly so. That's just about the highest compliment I can give. This is clearly the story that was closest to Williams' heart, since he wrote it three different times (as a short story, as a movie script, and then finally as this stage play). Williams achieves maximum pathos by not achieving maximum pathos: moments of humor, of whimsy, of outrage, he uses like a chef uses spices. Melancholy is so closely related to satire, to absurdity. Williams makes us fall in love with the girl with whom no one would fall in love, and largely because no one would fall in love with her. Her mother's Big Fat Greek Wedding-style absurdity only amplifies the humanity and frail beauty of Laura. A gorgeous play....more
There are too many books about how to be A Successful Person. But I'm a fan of Dr. Murray's work, and even more a curmudgeon, so I was intrigued enougThere are too many books about how to be A Successful Person. But I'm a fan of Dr. Murray's work, and even more a curmudgeon, so I was intrigued enough to give up 3 hours to read this little book that was once an AEI intern manual. Almost all of his advice is sound, though, as a curmudgeon, I have already been following much of it. Moreover, I am older and more jaded than the target audience.
I borrowed this copy from a friend who saw Dr. Murray speak at the Capitol Visitor's Center, before a huge mob of interns who had no idea who the man was, and who treated him accordingly, unintentionally confirming stereotypes about them as entitled narcissists. Pearls before swine. They missed out....more
There is some good stuff in here, but too much of it is about the people she is interviewing rather than about Dylan. They are interesting people, tooThere is some good stuff in here, but too much of it is about the people she is interviewing rather than about Dylan. They are interesting people, too, but I didn't pick up this book to read about them. One is left with little in the way of intimacy or insight, but lots of stuff that is generally and publicly known already. Sorry....more
This was a wonderful surprise. I read this because my boss was reading it, and because Edwards is an interesting enough guy even to interest me, who aThis was a wonderful surprise. I read this because my boss was reading it, and because Edwards is an interesting enough guy even to interest me, who am Catholic and will die as such. Ms. Dodds writes almost perfectly: no page is without a striking fact or a witty comment. I am left admiring Ms. Dodds more than any of the Edwards clan, despite their astounding worldly successes. Ms. Dodds can be forgiven (by the reader, that is) for her fawning over Edwards' supposed brilliance: I can't imagine she would have written this book without genuinely being a Calvinist as well.
The colorful background characters of Aaron Burr, George Whitfield, and others are also pretty entertaining. ...more