Lecture 23 - The House of Atreus Maybe I’m just 2...

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Unformatted text preview: The House of Atreus Maybe I’m just 2 demanding Maybe I’m just like my father 2 bold Maybe you’re just like my mother She’s never satisfied Why do we scream at each other This is what it sounds like When doves cry --Prince A brief word on curses • Multi-generational • Inescapable • Big Curses thus far: – House of Cadmus • Ares’ curse on Cadmus • Pelops’ curse on Laius • Oedipus’ curse on sons A brief word on women • Proper role of the Greek woman: – Stay at home and manage the oikos (Penelope) • Issues encountered with this – Women acting independently (Antigone) – Women acting violently (Medea) – Women acting lustily (Helen?) A brief word on cannibalism • Socially unacceptable in Greek society • In mythology, practiced by figures outside of Greek culture – Tydeus (exile) – Cyclops (from the Odyssey) – Cronus • Reflection of the difference brought on by the civilizing mores of culture • Also serve as etiological tales possibly depicting a more primitive form of worship The House of Atreus • Tantalus – Lived at a time when gods and men communed together – Decided to trick the gods by serving his son, Pelops at a banquet – All the gods notice, except Demeter – Punished in Tartarus Tantalus Giulio Sanuto 1565 House of Atreus—Pelops • The gods reassembled him after being stewed • Poseidon holds onto him for awhile • Returned to earth and travels from Asia Minor to Greece (Peloponnese) • Races Oenomaüs for right to marry Hippodamia • Bribes Oenomaüs’ charioteer, Myrtilus • Pelops marries Hippodamia and becomes king of Pisa • Myrtilus tries to rape Hippodamia but Pelops tosses him off cliff • Pelops and Hippodamia settle down and have several sons—Atreus, Thyestes and Chrysippus (the favorite!) Plan of Olympia, note: the Pelopion near the Temple of Zeus The Chariot Race between Pelops and Oenomaus East Pediment, Temple of Zeus at Olympia Pelops abducting Hippodamia ca 410 BC House of Atreus—Atreus and Thyestes • Atreus and Thyestes kill Chrysippus in desire for the throne; as a result, they are banished to Mycenae • Oracle gives rule of Mycenae to “a son of Pelops” • They decide that whoever can get a golden fleece will have rule • Pan gives fleece to Atreus BUT Thyestes had connived with Atreus’ wife to steal it • Thyestes is king and Atreus banished • Situation reversed when Zeus makes the sky Atreus and Thyestes, cont • Atreus feigns reconciliation, invites Thyestes back • BUT he kills Thyestes’ two sons and serves them as steaks to Thyestes • Thyestes goes back into exile • Oracle advises Thyestes to sleep with Pelopia to get revenge on Atreus • Unholy union produces Aegisthus • Aegisthus is raised by Atreus, but after Thyestes reveals Aegisthus’ mission in life, Aegisthus kills Atreus Seneca’s Thyestes • On Atreus’ turn as cook: “Atreus sliced them open, tore out their quivering vitals, the little hearts twitching with life’s last spark. Then, like a butcher, he hacked the limbs from the trunks, cracked their bones, and stripped off the flesh he fixed on cooking spits and set on the fire to turn and drip. Their organs he tossed into kettles to stew over fires that gagged at what they were made to do. The livers sizzled, and the logs beneath them crackled in an outraged antiphon beyond all imagination. (lines 760-769) Clytemnestra and Helen • Clytemnestra and Helen are the daughters of Zeus and Leda • Helen marries Menelaüs • Clytemnestra marries Agamemnon, bears three (or four) children—Iphigenia, Elektra, Orestes and Chrysothemis* Agamemnon and the Trojan Expedition • Sets off as leader of a pan-Greek expedition to Troy to recover Helen • Before expedition can leave Aulis, Agamemnon kills a stag of Artemis and boasts that he is a better hunter than she is. • Artemis, in retribution, withholds the winds • Artemis demands that he sacrifice Iphigenia to gain winds—Clytemnestra is angered! • While Agamemnon is in Troy, Clytemnestra sleeps with cousin Aegisthus • Troy falls to Greeks. Agamemnon is happy and returns home… Sacrifice of Iphigenia House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii Aeschylus’ Oresteia • Debuted at the Athenian Dionysia in 458 and took first place – Agamemnon – Libation Bearers – Eumenides • Only complete trilogy surviving from antiquity • Before Aeschylus, only one actor + Chorus. Aeschylus adds a second, Sophocles a third, Euripides a fourth. Plot, A Bad Moon Rising • The play opens with a semi-comic watchman looking out for a sign of victory at Troy and Agamemnon’s return • Light in the east—victory is here, but watchman is full of trepidation • Chorus enters, laments the ten years without Agamemnon • Clytemnestra enters, lights altar fires but won’t tell the Chorus why • Chorus gives a summation of the death of Iphigenia, implying that it was more choice than • Plot, Heard through the Grapevine and reveals to Clytemnestra speaks with Chorus them the good news, happiness ensues • The Chorus praises Agamemnon and sum up the Trojan War, focusing on the crime of Paris, but at the end, form a circle of revenge so that the guilt of Paris taints Agamemnon. • Herald arrives and announces to the Chorus that Agamemnon has won and torn down the altars and temples of Troy • Clytemnestra enters, smug in her triumph over the Chorus, speaks ironically of her faithfulness. Plot, Evil Woman • The Herald informs the Chorus of a storm that has hindered Agamemnon’s return, both parties sing his praises, thinking that HIS righteous actions have brought justice • Agamemnon arrives, proud and haughty, bringing Cassandra home as a concubine • Clytemnestra welcomes him, words full of irony, as she lays out a welcome of red tapestries • Agamemnon demurs, modest enough in this regard, but Clytemnestra urges him on, cutting through his hypocrisy Cly: One thing more. Be true to your ideals and tell me— Ag: True to my ideals? Once I violate them, I am lost Cly: Would you have sworn this act to a god in a time of terror? Ag: Yes, if a prophet called for a last drastic rite. Cly: But Priam—can you see him if he had your success? Ag: Striding on the tapestries of god, I see him now. Cly: And you fear the reproach of common men? Ag: The voice of the people—aye, they have enormous power Cly: Perhaps, but where’s glory without a little gall? Ag: And where’s the woman in all this lust for glory? Cly: But the great victor—it becomes him to give way. Ag: Victory in this…war of ours, it means so much to you? Cly: Oh give way! The power is yours if you surrender, all of your own free will, to me! Ag: Enough! If you are so determined— (926-940) Plot, Hammer to Fall • Agamemnon yields and walks over the tapestries into the palace. Clytemnestra follows, praying: “Zeus, Zeus, master of all fulfillment, now fulfill our prayers—Speed our rites to fulfillment once for all!” (975-976) • Chorus ring out in fear and alarm—they know that Agamemnon is doomed now and the audience expects an impending death except— • Clytemnestra emerges from the house to summon a passive Cassandra, who does not respond. Disgusted, Clytemnestra returns to the palace. Plot, Witchy Woman • After Clytemnestra leaves, Cassandra bursts out in frenzied speech: “Ai! Drag the great bull from the mate! A thrash of ropes she traps him—writhing—black horn twists, glints—she gores him through! And now he buckles, look, the bath swirls red—there’s stealth and murder in the cauldron, do you hear?” • Cassandra recalls the House of Atreus past to the Chorus as well as her gift. • In a fury, she strips off the regalia of Apollo and offers a final prophecy of a continued cycle of revenge in this house and goes inside, cast as the bride of death. • A yell from the palace—Agamemnon is dying!—the Chorus flies into a panic • The doors open to reveal Clytemnestra, sword in hand, standing over the bodies. She steps forth with a speech that revels in her bloody deed, allying herself with the Furies • The Chorus is dumbfounded, prays for death • Aegisthus emerges from the palace, elated at the death of Agamemnon (for which he did nothing), menaces the Chorus • Clytemnestra returns with him into the palace, ending the play with these words: “Let them howl—they’re impotent. You and I have power now. We will set the house in order once for all.” (1707-1708) Plot, Another One Bites the Dust Picture 2 Aegisthus and Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon, c.470 BC Clytemnestra kills Cassandra Red figure (430 BC) Themes • • • • The Hubris of Agamemnon Women vs. Men Role of the Herald Justice and Revenge Solonian Sequence • Name comes from the Athenian philosopher/poet/politician, Solon (early 6th C) • Details the rise and fall of people • Olbos (wealth) koros (surplus) hubris (arrogance) atē (folly) nemesis (retribution) Dikē (Justice) The Hubris of Agamemnon • Hubris = too much pride • Two major cases in the play: – Agamemnon and the red carpet – Agamemnon and Cassandra • Agamemnon vs. Clytemnestra • Agamemnon vs. Apollo Women vs. Men • Clytemnestra oversteps the bounds of her femininity in her interactions with the Chorus – She bridles at their dismissal of her as a Woman--but the Chorus offers it’s highest praise ather revelation of the Fall of Troy: “Spoken like a man, my lady, loyal, full of self-command. I’ve heard your sign and now your vision.” (355-357) – Conversely, when she acts too much as a man and oversteps her role as a woman by Chorus’ rebuke of Clytemnestra “The spirit!—you who tread the house and the twinborn sons of Tantalus — you empower the sisters, Fury’s twins whose power tears the heart! Perched on the corpse your carrion raven glories in her hymn, her screaming hymn of pride.” (1496-1501) Women and Men • Aegisthus comes off as particularly weak in this play • He revels in the deed that he claims to have planned but did not carry out—the Chorus calls him on it and revile him • Essentially the lapdog of Clytemnestra Aegisthus vs. the Chorus Ch: You rule Argos? You who schemed his death but cringed to cut him down with your own hand? Aeg: The treachery was woman’s work, clearly. I was a marked man, his enemy for ages. But I will use his riches, stop at nothing to civilize his people… Ch: Coward, why not kill the man yourself? Why did the woman, the corruption of Greece and the gods of Greece, have to bring him down? (1666-1678) The Herald • Regular soldier, just like Thersites • Provides us a view at the non-heroic experience in war – War is NOT a good thing – Glory will be shared, but mostly belongs to the leaders The Herald’s Speech “A long, hard pull we had, if I would tell it all. The iron rations, penned in the gangways hock by jowl like sheep. Whatever miseries break a man, our quota, every sun-starved day. Then on the beaches it was worse. Dug in under the enemy ramparts—deadly going. Out of the sky, out of the marshy flats the dews soaked us, turned the ruts we fought from into gullies, made our gear, our scalps crawl with lice. And talk of the cold, the sleet to freeze the gulls, and the big snows avalanching down from Ida. Oh but the heat, the sea and the windless noons, the swells asleep, dropped to a dead calm…But why weep now? Justice • The entire play raises the question of Who is right? • What tie matters more—matrimonial or blood? • The sunset of the law of revenge and the dawn of law itself ...
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This note was uploaded on 08/31/2010 for the course CC 32770 taught by Professor Popov-reynolds during the Spring '10 term at University of Texas.

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Lecture 23 - The House of Atreus Maybe I’m just 2...

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