Thursday, December 2, 2010
Euripides' play opens with a Deus Ex Machina (the appearance of Athena and Poseidon) = a device in drama wherein the play has an insoluble difficulty and only a god, stepping out from behind the machinery, can solve the issue. But in Euripides the D.E.M occurs at THE BEGINNING of the play and not the end implying that the insoluble difficulty has already occurred. What then is the issue? The war? perhaps, but more than that the issue is really the problem of human nature. Why do humans slaughter each other with wild abandon? Why do we kill, cheat, steal, rape, murder and invent new and more graphic means by which to do so? What is the solution to the violence of human nature? In Euripides play the solution offered by the two gods to this issue is also problematic since it involves a quasi genocide; indiscriminate killing of good and evil Greeks. The solution offered by the gods to human nature seems to be genocide. Athena, goddess of light, intellect & craft in warfare, is a manifestation of the rational conscious mind. Poseidon, god of the ocean deeps & earthquakes, represents the irrational subconscious mind. Both agree to exterminate the race, but Athena, the rational mind, conceives of the plan. Moreover, she has hitherto supported the Greeks against the Trojans and now turns on them for a seemingly fickle reason; they have raped her temple and priestess. Taken another way, though, Athena is the rational mind, with all its grandiose plans for immanentizing the eschaton and creating political order out of anarchic chaos, finally seeking shear violent revenge in repulsion at the bestial nature of its fellow men. It is similar to Kurtz' final prognosis of the savage Africans "Exterminate the brutes" or like the bloodbath that seems to have followed the French Revolution. Is, then, Euripides suggesting that the solution to our extremely violent nature eludes us b/c of that very nature? Human nature is imperfectable and all attempts to perfect it end in gas chambers and mass graves.