10:01:2012 Bacchae.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman

DRM100Y1 10/01/2012 - How Drama (specifically Greek drama) provides us core of the way of thinking. - Poetics: way of thinking. Selecting information and putting them together. - Sophocles- brilliance structuring of events. Begin in the ending of the myth. Kind of “detective” story. Arranging action- imitation of action- but also a whole way of using other parts of theatre signifying- what does it matter how Oedipus makes an exit. How does Sophocles perform the series of conflict? Agon. Tiresias- Oedipus confronted with Tiresias (pg104). Speaking in riddles. (Sphinx riddle- allusion- because Oedipus does not know who he is) Earlier, he taunted Tiresias. But Oedipus goes in silence, cannot make sense of Tiresias’ paradox in this scene. How are exit and entrances accomplished? They frame the scene, experience we see on stage. Choices have thematic significance. Chorus represents us. The heart of Greek tragedy. Communal art form. Chorus swings at the debate (pg105) First Oedipus is boasting. Chorus points out both are speaking in anger, but this isn’t what we need. Solution of riddles, we need to look for that. Chorus is sharing in the seeking action. Mark the stages of action as the play goes on. Text themselves signify the action. Action hidden in the language of the play (ex. Threats of physical force, Jocasta pointing out Oedipus’ flinch) Body is very important. Continual reference to touch. Touch connects, “how touching”, physical pollution. Oedipus is a polluted man, two most heinous crimes, patricide and incest. Anyone who touches a polluted man is in danger of infection. Thebes is already infected by a plague. Trope of touching: complicates understanding of Oedipus and his relation to others. Little or no touching in the play, Jocasta not to worry about his birth, no baseness. Sheppard came and touched his hand with hers. End of play (pg134) begs Creon touch my hand. He wants Creon to touch his hand, and Oedipus wants to touch his children. Creon to take care of his daughters, touch his hand as token of agreement. Play seems dignified. But touching is a blind man’s only connection to make a sense of the world. Final exit: everything points out that Oedipus needs to go into exile, banishment is proclaimed by Oedipus himself, Tiresias predicts he will blindly exit this city. But does not end with his exile. Even though Oedipus begs to be banished. Doesn’t leave. Signifies that even Oedipus the king is not in control of his fate, needs to listen to Creon. Humiliated. Guilt ridden. Conflcit/ Agon- in male characters. Creon is a moderate man, order and form, observing threshold, politeness. Oedipus is extreme, exceeding boundaries, crossing threshold. Creon in the beginning, only left in peace. Oedipus rejects him even more so than Tiresias. - Silence can be as significant as words. Bacchae Conflict between Dionysius and Apollo, Apollonian and Dionysian duality! - Core of all art. - Nietzsche says. Tremendous opposition in origin and aims. Apollo represents the idea of mere appearance. Plastic art. Sculptural beauty. Principals of individual. On the other hand Dionysius. Hidden substratum. Excess. Spirit- get drunk. Don’t keep up with polite and orderly modes of action in formal society. Inhibitions and boundaries are done. Physical and social boundaries. Reality versus Appearance. Individual versus Community (Dionysian- party and orgy). Nietzsche writing in bourgeois world, theatre lost this Dionysian ritual. 408 bce. Euripides- left Athens for voluntary exile to Cithaeron. – The Bacchae brought back by his son. – Being an Athenian, and a foreigner to Athens. – Identity and place. – Last play leads us back to founding place of Theatre. – performed during Dionysian festival. Subject: Reenact of myth, not cautionary on religious hysteria. Dionysian ritual and religion. Very rich and ironic play, that Pentheus dies as a scapegoat. Rejection of Dionysus acted out in the theatre of Dionysus. Dionysus in this play: A little bit like Oedipus- Dionysus is a child of Thebes. Returning home to place of birth as a stranger, in order to assert his identity and claim consciously his patrimony. Dionysus is a GOD. Son of Semele (human) and Zeus. Revolves around legitimacy and confusion. Pentheus, king of Thebes, comes to find his limits and identity. Key in Greek Tragedy: Finding moral, spiritual, social, physical boundaries. Dionysus aligns with Tiresias. Pentheus is also in some way is like Oedipus: almost Oedipus complex, attacks paternal figure, irresistible way to join mother and see her in sexual dimensions, assert his masculine power. Tiresias also calls him blind. Who is Dionysus? God of mystery, ecstasy, fertility, transformation, theatre. Blood will seep into the fields and fertilize the earth. Strangest yet most compelling deity. Epiphany and revelation. This is how he enters- but disguised. Part God part human. Made up of a paradox. Dresses as a woman, his followers are women. Large three day festival designed to honor him. Central event is the plays. Dionysian rituals. Ecstatic possession. Rituals taken place in natural settings. Drinking. Wild dancing. Flesh eating. At the Acropolis. The hill around the Acropolis. Carries a statue of Dionysus, reenactment of him entering the city. Looks back to the origin of Greek Theatre. Part of religious ceremony. Play both honors the god and celebrate the city. The Bacchae are in tension with these two events. About a festival, a part of. Theatre about theatre. God who himself stages his own epiphany. Dionysus appears in a way like a director. Revealing himself not only to the protagonist, but spectators. Play about being a spectator. What is it to being a spectator? In the beginning. (pg174) Even disguising himself, although it is a play about epiphanies. “I come” Active present tense. “Here I stand, a God” even if he is hiding. Again paradox, this is my identity, but even in disguise. Break down of boundaries, coming from Asian. - render them, distinguish characters. But mask hides him. Until the end he reveals himself. Mask: Absence and presence at the same time. Climatic moment he hides in invisibility. People see at a condemnation of Dionysius, seems possibility at an attack at religion, yet evidence of a conversion of Euripides touched by religion super human intelligence over arrogant human knowledge. Bacchae deathbed conversion. Play viewed as a schematic contrast of two of a variety of connected abstraction. Reasonable versus Rational. Aristocratic skeptics. Intentional ritual irony underlying the death of Pen
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