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Lecture

Euripides' Cyclopes


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA232H1
Professor
Victoria Wohl

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CLA232 Men, Gods, and BeastsWednesday January 26th 2011
Euripides Cyclopes
Alterity: relationship between self and other
Euripides Cyclopes, unlike Oedipus and Bacchants, examines not the relationship
between the self and the gods but the self and beasts
Cyclopes explores this distinction through quasi-human beasts
City Dionysia
The dramatic festival, in honour of Dionysus, took place for 3 days every Spring in
Athens in the Theatre of Dionysus on Acropolis
On each day, there would be 3 tragedies and a satyr play
It was more than just entertainment
The plays were very much embedded in the civic structure of the city (not only were
they watched by the citizens, the playwrights would compete to perform at the City
Dionysia and a panel of citizen-judges would vote who was best, so the citizens got to
choose what was played, etc.)
Tickets were subsidized, to allow poorer citizens to attend
Liturgies, paid by aristocrats, could be paid by funding the festival
The chorus was also made up of citizens
The actors would be professional, but the chorus was made up of normal citizens
So, why would the state dedicate so much of its resources to drama?
Athens spend as much on producing these dramas each year as it spent on important
things like infrastructure, military expenses, etc.
One explanation could be because it was honouring the god Dionysus, brought in
people from other poleis, inspired Athenian pride, taught morality and ethics,
So, the Athenians thought of drama as a fundamental part of the city, and going to
the theatre was part of your education and responsibility as a citizen
There was also the presentation of tribute from the subject-states, which was given
and displayed at the festival great display of Athenian military and naval power
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CLA232 Men, Gods, and BeastsWednesday January 26th 2011
Euripides Cyclopes
There would also be a parade of the orphans whose parents had died in the war and
were being raised by the state
So, like the funeral oration, the City Dionysia was a celebration of the greatness of
Athens, an education in civics, a way of both showing and teaching how great Athens
is
If the plays were part of this lesson in the value of Athens and Greeks, what exactly
did they teach?
Oedipus teaches not to try and change your fate (it wont work), listen to the oracle,
dont try to know yourself too much,
Bacchants teaches you to worship the gods, protect the city,
The way that tragedy teaches these lessons is by raising unanswerable questions and
then asking the citizens to think and talk about them
Promotes communal thought, which is the basis of Athens radical democracy
The Athenians thought that the best sort of education for this sort of civic thought
was to pose such questions and encourage the citizens to think through them
themselves
The Satyr Play
At the end of the day there would be a satyr play
A satyr play was different than a comedy
Written by the same playwright as the tragedies
Euripides Cyclopes would have followed three of this tragedies
Short, slapstick, ludicrous plays
Satyrs were mythical creatures part, horse, part goat, part man
Satyrs were devotees of Dionysus
Satyrs spend their lives drinking and partying, represented as sex crazy
They werent evil or violent, just completely given over to pleasure and indulgence
Represent the excess of Dionysiac worship
So the Satyr play features a chorus of 12 young men dressed as satyrs
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