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Article ID: 4903
Age Group: Adult
Posted: November 18th. 2002
Whine and Euripedes
"This is slavery, not to speak one's thought.". -- (Euripides)
Euripides was one of the greatest of the ancient Greek playwrights. Not that many of the men and women who comprised his contemporary early fifth-century B.C.E. audiences thought of him as such at the time. It's not that the Greeks didn't love their dark tragedies. They did; and the darker and more tragic the tale, the more popular was the play. Throw in some guilt-ridden eye gouging and a little hanky-panky with the Gods and the crowd generally went away happy little playbill-tossers. And since Euripides wrote some darker than dark stuff, you'd think that he would have been quite popular on the streets of Athens.
Not so. You see, Euripides (Euripedes) was a curmudgeon. He was a recluse. He rarely went out and hardly ever socialized. That alone might have labeled him as an eccentric. But the bad reviews that he suffered during his lifetime had less to do with his personal quirks than it had to do with his message. In this time when Athens was at war, most plays and orations celebrated the rhetorical glories of the City's past and Her heroes and offered up assurances that the Gods were most definitely on Her side. But not so with Euripides. Rather, in his works, the Gods were dragged down to earth and the classical heroes were stripped bare of their superhuman personas.
In the rah-rah-rah of the Athenian patriotic glee-fest, Euripides was most definitely a few rahs short of the bandwagon.
Euripides was a whiner. I don't know what the Greek word for 'whiner' is but I'm sure that if there is one, Euripides heard it a lot. He didn't go along with the crowd. He didn't believe that the leaders of Athens were always right and he was never sure if the Gods were really on Her side. He disagreed with the mainline thought and he would not 'go along to get along'. And then to really seal his own fate, he went on to perform that one unpardonable act that is sure to make any guy who throws a monkey wrench into the politically powerful machine very, very unpopular: He actually made the people think.
The Founding Fathers and Heroes of Greece and Athens were not perfect as Euripides portrayed them. They were simply men and women with all of the doubts and mortal failings inherent in that human condition. His characters did not succeed -- even if in fact they managed to succeed at all -- because they were better or half-God or possessed some other supernatural edge over the average man or woman on the street. His heroes and heroines -- and villains, too -- very much resembled the people who were fidgeting in the rows at the performance of one of his plays. Neither graced by semi-divine blood nor necessarily blessed by Divine favor, it was up to the average man or woman to do what needed to be done. And to simply do it as best he or she could. Hence the fidgeting.
Euripides, in a radical departure from his more classical minded contemporaries, made it quite clear that regardless of what any Gods might do -- or not do -- in the course of world events, every single man or woman is still responsible for how his or her life and future turns out. Whether the Gods bless you or curse you, you cannot either coast or sink on that alone: You must swim. You must be involved in life and in current events. There are no safe pews or cheap seats.
Everyone is a part of what happens now and what will take shape in the future. There is no good in blaming the Gods when things go wrong. It is not Gods, but human mores and laws that will in the end either restrict freedoms or free the slaves. It is not for honor of Gods, but for human greed and glory that the wars are fought. And it is not the will of the Gods that most people adhere to anyway, but rather it is the will of their political or religious leaders that they so blindly follow. (Fidget, fidget, fidget.)
Euripides encouraged his patrons to question authority. And to especially question any authority that declared that it spoke for the Gods. Blind obedience to the 'law' in his plays never turns out all that well. He turned the tables on the politically popular notions of his day as he brought the pain of the raped victims from the sack of Troy by beloved Athenian 'heroes' on stage for all to see. At a time when Athens could do no wrong, he pointed out just how wrong Athens had sometimes been. He made people look at the very things that they would rather not see. No wonder Euripides was one pretty unpopular guy.
Whiners and dissenters are never popular. They point out discrepancies. They expose hypocrisies. They question whether it is really a God's will that ordains certain things be done or whether it is indeed some mortal governor or ideologue claiming to speak in a God's name who is actually setting the course of action. And some whiners, like Euripides, are not particularly quiet about what they see going on.
In troubling times, it is easier to just remain silent and hidden and bitch secretly to your friends. It is certainly more politically correct if you want to remain popular with the masses. Making people fidget is not the recommended method to win friends and influence people. Best leave it to the Gods then and go about your life and trust that the situation will all turn out as it is suppose to. Please, don't make the people fidget. Don't show the people the other side. Don't hold the people responsible for all that they do. And for the sake of their own backsides, don't make the people feel responsible for what they do not do.
Whiners, we can dismiss. Dissenters, we can ignore. But the people who believe that they are actually responsible for what happens in the world and who begin to act on that belief in ways that make others fidget...Well, that is a different matter altogether. They'll be unpopular, of course, but what if that fact alone doesn't stop them?
What if they continue to speak out? What if they continue to point to what the majority does not want to see? What if they continue to write plays or books or to publish articles? Just how much fidgeting can people take before they begin to think for themselves? What if they all start getting up from their seats in the audience to become actively engaged in life and current events?
Well, sure, they'd be unpopular.
"A coward turns away, but a brave man's choice is danger."*
But what would really happen if more people decided to serve up a little Euripides with their whine?
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, November, 18th., 2002
*(Euripides; Iphigenia in Tauris, circa 412 B.C.)
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