Monday, July 13, 2015

The Tempest, Prometheus Bound, and The Greek Thing

We broke off yesterday from following the drama in Brussels over the Greek Thing and went into town (Albuquerque in this instance) to attend a performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," far and away my favorite Shakespeare play.

It was fascinating, really, because the production was done as a summer youth project by middle and high school students, and I thought they carried it off well -- all things considered. In addition, most of the male roles were played by girls, some of them quite young. Prospero in fact was played by a female (which has become something of A Thing in the theater lately).

"The Tempest" was probably Shakespeare's last play, dating from about 1603, and it deals with issues and themes of wrongs done, forgiveness extended, reconciliation, love, freedom and... magic. To me the play is a surprise practically every step of the way because often what you might expect to happen is turned upside down through Prospero's magic, Ariel's intervention, Caliban's frustrations, and so on. The resolution seems rather, pat perhaps even formulaic, but it leaves one with something to ponder, too, that even in the worst of circumstances, one's ability to forgive wrongs done matters more than one's urge toward vengeance.

The characters stare into the abyss, in other words, and the abyss stares back. Rather than fall in, they change.

And that change leads to a new dawn and new reality.

Well, if that didn't have something to do with The Greek Thing and what needs to happen -- but hasn't yet -- I'd want to know the reason why.

On the other hand, in some of the consideration of what's been going on with regard to Greece and Europe, the ancient Greek drama of "Prometheus Bound" by Aeschylus has been mentioned as a type-model for the nearly impossible struggle Alexis Tsipras and the Greek people have been engaged in with the Euro-creeps and Euro-crats.

"Prometheus Bound" is a surprisingly short and quite stunning play, certainly one of the masterpieces of Ancient Greek drama. Breathtaking in its tragic implications for those who would do good in the world and good for mankind.

Prometheus is a Titan who steals fire from Olympus and gives it to humans for their use. This angers Zeus who has Prometheus chained to a rock and sets a harpie to eating out his liver -- which re-grows every night, so the harpie comes every day to eat Prometheus's liver again. Through this torture and sadism -- for that's all it is -- Prometheus defends his actions on behalf of humankind and condemns Zeus and the Olympian gods as usurpers (which they are), hypocrites and deceivers (which they also are).

Here's an interpretation of the drama done in Brussels (how appropriate) in 2010 (in French, a little over an hour long):

Prométhée enchaîné - José Besprosvany from focus live on Vimeo.

And here's another version, animated, only 12 minutes or so, in English:

PROMETHEUS BOUND from Manatee Idol on Vimeo.

"Prometheus Bound" was the first of a trilogy of short plays dealing with the myth of Prometheus, the other two being "Prometheus Unbound" and "Prometheus the Fire-Bringer." The other plays only survive as fragments, but according to scholarship, in the end, Prometheus is released from his chains by Herakles, and he eventually reconciles with Zeus after warning him of danger to his rule of Olympus.

The parallels with the current situation between Greece and the European powers is not exact, of course, but the echoes and necessities are surely there. The most recent iteration of  "negotiations" and an "agreement" between Greece and its creditors have led to a realization that the Euro-project, and potentially the European Union itself, are likely to be extinguished in the not too distant future due to the intransigence, greed, and pure venom of the Germans.

This won't end well, in other words.

But eventually, in both "The Tempest" and the Prometheus Trilogy, a way is found to reconcile.

Will it be found in Europe before a tragic conclusion?

In essence, it must be.

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