Herakles (Greek Tragedy in New Translations)

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One of those paradoxes is that the further away in time and culture the tragedy seems, the more relevant it is to our perennial human concerns. Trauma never finds you where you expect it to. PTSD sneaks in through the attic window when you least expect it. You might be driving along on a beautiful day, listening to the radio.

Herakles (Greek Tragedy in New Translations) - AbeBooks - Euripides:

Or grocery shopping. Or mowing the lawn.

Lyssa comes in at the most anodyne times, or the most exalted ones. The gods in Greek myth are capricious. The gods do what they want and men do what they should. In the play, Herakles sneaks back into Thebes after seeing an ill omen. At first, this seems like the smart thing to do, since he avoids the attention of Lycus and his lookouts. But the alternative, coming home the proper way, with the full recognition of the city, would have resulted in a slightly less horrific outcome.

His family might have died, of course, but it would not have been by his own hand. This is less a point about unavoidable fate than about the value of doing things the proper way. How many other veterans do I know who feel as though their homecomings were done silently slinking along backroads through preoccupied cities?

About the play

We tend to overemphasize the text of the play, ignoring the full and immersive experience that the dramas provided as they were originally performed. Music can be used to soothe, to heal wounds, and calm rage. It is the ultimate ambiguous medium, and Greek tragedy is made even stronger by implementing it. The music is the same. This can be read as the ultimate redemption of music, that the same music which served evil purposes can be redeemed to serve the good.

Or it can be read, and I think it should be read,in a much more ambiguous way, that with music, we can not ever be sure. In so far as it externalises our inner passion, music is potentially always a threat. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

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