June 11, 2009

"A jangled symphony of ill"

Clytemnestra emerges after murdering Agamemnon in this 1882 painting by artist John Collier. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Goat Rope's ongoing series on Greek tragedy continues, with the focus at the moment on Aeschylus' Agamemnon. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts. If you don't, you can scroll down for links and comments about current events.

"There arises from these halls in a single voice
A perpetual choir,
A jangled symphony of ill,
With ill its theme."-Spoken by Cassandra

This play is the first in the only surviving Greek tragic trilogy. Its great theme is the emergence of democracy and the rule of law after a long and horrendous series of crimes and outrages. This play, though, is all about crimes and outrages.

The Agamemnon begins with the complaints of a watchman whose duty it is to gaze from the roof of the palace at Argos for a signal fire that will announce the fall of Troy. The event is expected due to oracles that say this will happen in the tenth year of the war. At last, the flame is spotted.

Meanwhile, a chorus of the old men of Argos ponder past events about the war with a growing sense of foreboding. They recall King Agamemnon sacrificing his own daughter Iphigenia at the command of Artemis to gain fair winds for Troy and appease her wrath as well as the family's long violent history. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, emerges from the palace to announce the event, which is also confirmed by a messenger.

Agamemnon arrives with Cassandra, daughter of Priam of Troy. Cassandra was a prophetess cursed by the god Apollo for refusing his advances. Her punishment is that she will have true knowledge of the future but would not be believed. She was Agamemnon's prize and is now his slave.

Clytemnestra pretends to welcome him and urges him to walk on a fabulously expensive carpet of purple or scarlet. This may have been the original red carpet treatment. He initially refuses because to do so would be an act of hubris, but she harasses him until he does. Cassandra stays outside briefly, speaking incoherently to the chorus of past crimes and impending doom, then she goes within.

The chorus outside hears the dying screams of Agamemnon, who is trapped in a net and murdered by Clytemnestra. Cassandra soon suffers the same fate. When the doors of the place open, Clytemnestra emerges, triumphant in avenging the death of her daughter. She is joined by her illicit lover Aegisthus, whose brothers were killed and served to their unknowing father by Agamemnon's father Atreus. For him too this is an act of vengeance.

The chorus is horrified and makes noise of resistance, but troops loyal to the bloodstained couple disperse the crowd. A new tyranny rules over Argos. So ends the first part of the trilogy.

The violence of a foreign war spills over into violence at home. Golly, it's a good thing that doesn't happen any more...

SUPREME COURT. Here's a Washington Post editorial on the recent US Supreme Court decision about justice for sale in WV. And here is a NY Times article on its legal implications. This is a take from the McClatchy papers. And, while we're at it, this AP article interviews Massey CEO Don Blankenship about the decision.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH, Massey won a different round on the WV Supreme Court in a decision about a controversial coal processing facility near an elementary school. Here's a summary with multiple links from Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo.

NOT COOL. The American Medical Association has come out opposing a public health care option, preferring to allow "the market" to do the job. How's that coming?

RUST BELT BLUES. Here's a postcard from Detroit about work and hard times.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, in which case we may be in trouble, according to a new film on the food industry.


No comments: