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Myth in Greek & Roman world essay

This essay seeks to demonstrate how valid some form of knowledge and belief in mythology was, during the Classical era, in Athens. It remained a potent force in many different contexts, this will be evidenced by analysing four ancient primary sources.

The first is related to Performance: in ‘old comedy’. Specifically focusing on a section of Aristophanes’ ‘the Frogs’ (136-64.) work ‘, the second examines a source on ‘sacred disease’, by a possible Hippocratic doctor (I-II), The third primary source will explore the ‘Homeric hymn to Demeter’ (2) (1-495) and its relevance in classical society and finally the fourth source presented will look to the relevance and what’ mythos’ meant in terms of ‘logos’ during the Classical period by looking at one of Plato’s famous works ‘the republic’ (2.377b5-3.3.389d5). The main themes to be covered are the gods, life, ethics and the afterlife.

Myth’s continued appearance in entertainment gave playwrights a broader spectrum of themes to play out in relation to the God’s character traits, ideas of the afterlife and what was considered to be good and bad gods. Aristophanes play ‘the Frogs’ which won first place at the annual Dionysus festival is often looked at in a political context.

This essay simply seeks to look at the play from a more surface value perspective. This play proves that myth was indeed a powerful antidote to the serious more philosophical and everyday issues that Athenians were confronted with.

It depends on how informed the internal or external audience were as to how much an individual gained from the experience.
There is a scene that occurs that is completely sardonic where Xanthias expresses his discomfort of going to the underworld and a dialogue takes place between a corpse and himself whereby he is trying to barter with a corpse to go with Dionysus in place of him, “Hey you the dead one, I am talking to you, do you want to carry some luggage to Hades? “(136-64.).

This kind of baldy alternative take on Hades underworld shows how myth was still a huge inspiration for artists in Greek society in regards to the issues and questions relating to the Gods and the afterlife . Myth in this context was contorted and manipulated to tease an audience and provide entertainment.

Then contemporary audiences would have to have some familiarity with myth and Greek culture to fully appreciate the wit that Aristophanes regularly makes reference to. An example: Dionysus preparing to go to the underworld when Herakles is describing the directions to take: “Next …. Of hands”. Dionysus wants to know who these men and women are. Herakles tells him that (they are) ‘the blessed’ ‘the initiate’s’.

This reference is proof that outside of this play there is some other knowledge about the ‘Eleusinian mysteries’ –specifically the cult of Demeter. It appears that on stage nobody was safe from being mocked.

According to ‘Homeric hymn to Demeter’ (471-482) “Happy is the one of mortals of the earth. But those who are uninitiated into the holy rites and have no part are never destined to a similar joy when they are dead in the gloomy realm below”.

Cults of religious worship were colossal in Athens during the classical period even whilst supposed ‘scientific’ and philosophical debate was occurring. The exact rituals and full commentary of worship which occurred in this particular cult were kept extremely secrete. Modern excavations show that at the sanctuary there was holy place dedicated to Demeter (M&L, pg344). The cult did not discriminate class, age nor gender.

This was an annual and ritualistic event similar to the festival of Dionysus in that it attracted masses of people but for different and more serious reasons. The ‘Homeric hymn to Demeter’ contents are emotional, intimate, vengeful, god fearing and relies on the God and Goddess of fertility (which provides an under tone of birth and rebirth to the nature of worship) to carry on harvesting the crops so the mortal race could continue to survive.
The church and state stuck to a rigid programme of what was to occur on each day of this 9 day festival which took place during an important time in terms of agriculture produce is of concern.

The nine day celebrations tie in with the hymn “For nine days… her body.” (40-48). and is a particularly antagonizing quest for a mother looking for her daughter who had been abducted by Hades. It is believed a part of the myth of Persephone and Demeter was appropriated for ritualistic re-enactment. .This cult did not dissolve until it was repressed in Roman times.

This shows the unwavering worship of Gods of mythos despite other ways and methods of approaching myth during this period.

Another important area to highlight with regards to Greek mythology is the attitude towards medical treatment when it came to illness and the study of Biology.

Like in our modern day there are various methods and people to whom we can put our faith in to cure an illness.

The same can be said for the Classical period. This Hippocratic source talks about ‘the sacred disease ‘– (or Epilepsy as we know it).He states that: ‘in my opinion (it) is no more divine or more sacred than other diseases but has a natural cause.’ One could interpret this cause as not coming from a random bored God but coming from our complex brain and body which is divine because of its complexity in nature.

The source presents as wanting to reason and encourage people to look to alternative ways to curing maladies.
Instead to by following the norm by a “facile method of healing….consisting as it does of purifications and incantations” and then showing a reluctance to look at nature is pure ignorance. This source shows alternative thought that perhaps the Gods give us the internal make up to cure our own bodies. Indeed, this physician (II) has a strong opinion concerning the people who ‘christened’ epilepsy (mental illness) as a ‘sacred illness’. He terms them as ‘quacks’ and ‘charlatans’.

These supposed knowledgeable people ‘being at a loss’ in their ability to ‘cure’ or atone for an illness, have instead ‘spun’ as the Hippocratic doctor says “a plausible story and established a method a method of treatment to secure their own positions”.

He is not attacking people’s belief in the Gods. He is stating that respected people in the community had exploited ill people in their ignorance and that there is in fact a more natural way of finding a solution to the various ‘maladies’ by studying the body in its present ill state.
The majority of whom followed the Hippocratic non-traditional method of teaching did so for honourable means to genuinely find a cause and a solution to all illness even if s the prescription came in the form practical advice .Professor Helen King (Open University transcript on ‘Myth in Medicine conclusion) makes a valid point stating that ‘ Peoples beliefs about their bodies are complicated… Medicine doesn’t deal with questions like ‘Why me?’.

Treatment often went hand in hand with religious worship as one relates and attempts totreats the ill mind or body and the other relates and attemptsto treat our psyche .

Plato believed that the soul and the body were separate to one another. In his ‘the Republic’, a dialogue between Socrates and Adeimantus is essentially a discussion on ethics and morals as to what could be interpreted as the necessary elements needed to create a utopian society.

Socrates is not against the belief in the Gods –his argument is to do with content and how the ancient poets have portrayed the Gods in their epic poems; ‘the ones Hesiod and Homer .to people’ (2377. b5-6e.) He argues that these poets created ‘falsehoods’. Stories that make the Gods appear without virtues.

Socrates goes on to discourse (378.5c-e.). One critical viewpoint is that he doesn’t believe that children should be brought up on stories about Gods at war, killing their parents and stealing for example.

These kind of parables, he believes are not setting a solid foundation for people to model their own morals and code of ethics. Young people especially are impressionable .

There is further debate about what is good and bad and the two characters come to the decision that “Gods of course are really good and they must be described as such.’(379.10b.).

Socrates does state that if these stories need to be known then they should be censored to the correct and minimum of people. (378.5a.)

If one is to take on the idea that Gods are good then the idea that they are responsible for all that is not good is a contradiction. The overall summary of Socrates argument is that if people felt a personal sense of responsibility towards themselves to be good in this life then they should not have to fear the afterlife.

Furthermore there is interesting discussion concerning the Gods and their changeability (379.10d.382a). This lengthy debate about there being something more wonderful than the divine form would only make sense. If there was a virtue better than goodness. Socrates again insists that poets must present the Gods as they are: good –virtuous and not in a way that allows them to assume many disguises lowering the basic morale of a society. “Nor should Mothers… children too cowardly.” (379. 5d-e.) It would appear that these snippets of dialogue from ‘the Republic’ reveals that Plato’s’ philosophizing was on other canonised version of the Gods.

These characters had strong views about how the Gods could come across as unreliable punishing, moody, and unstable and that these qualities could not instil unification of trust, virtue and stability in a society. One can clearly see that Classical philosophy was not mainly concerned with terminating myth but it questioned the beneficial effects certain mythological representation’s had on an individual and as a common people.

To conclude we can see that in antiquity Epic myth and Tragedy, Old comedy was never meant to come across as banal. Indeed people with influencing and fantastical ideas of Gods and the afterlife and the author’s agenda and ethics were displayed and debated about. Pre Homeric and Hesiod literature mythos was mostly told orally and so there were many contradictions and versions of myths and what mythical characters did. There were many determining factors. One for example, was the strength of the story teller skills, another was more concerned with demographics. One thing is certain is that Greek mythology was the inspiration and conversation /debate starter from many areas even outside of the western world for subject matter relating specifically to ethics, the afterlife and life and creation. A person can consider this as universal evolvement of thinking and it is not assumed that Greeks were the first humans to enquire on and seek reason on our existence through debate about mythology. There is simply not enough evidence to back this up. Finally Mythos on its own acted as a sacred harbinger to bring meaning to life and issues inside and outside of it.

Parted Flesh.

*This song & quote inspired a script  I’m working for my Degree in the Humanities.

Basic premise: a jury split over the  ‘ grey areas’ of a  high profile court case, A young man is accused of raping his wife to be.  Is he  absolutely guilty of  Raping his wife? One night of passion. Two stories.  What happened that night?  The evidence lies in the hands of 12 jury members.*

 

  ‘Now are they not twayne then, but one flesh. Let not man therefore put a sunder, yt which God hath coupled together.’  

 MATTHEW  19:6

‘Do you promise to tell the truth, so help you God?

Twelve

composed

In one gender.

Half a dozen men fester  in a room

Separating Sensationalism versus truth.

 

sweltering Summer days spent

In a  hyped media  playpen

Forecast for doom.

 Devising the fate of a boy

In touch with his truth.

A mistake , is he to fall?

Be punished for the ongoing debate?

Does it make it right?

 The boy continued a relationship with the sexually assaulted.

A girl’s

Public  claims  she is  fearful  of  her boy’s sinister

Fright on sight?

 

It’s never okay.

No means no.

Two people.

The truth.

 

Damn, that’s a blow

No drug could penetrate,

Mass guilt floods

Semantic fluid clogs the mind

Of a boy done wrong.

Easy to get cynical.

If

You were to decide his fate.

Where do you compromise your

values, beliefs,

Determine the facts?

Voices tear apart opinion after opinion

Silenced into cloud funded crowds offset to dissipate.

What is a worthy punishment?

Did she manipulate Boy to gain the upper hand to?

….Deal with the death of her paternal bond?

Cash in on emotional connections equivalent to living in the cult of the son of  I am.

‘Forgive me not or let me be free!’

,he pleads

Can we move forward?

Can we sever ties?

Chalk it up to experience.

Your Honour,

Vow to

Live without hubris.

 

His remaining  existence determined  by

A dozen eggs:

 The Jury.

 

Hidden behind Neon flashlights pointing to God’s hand

Directing the choir to  Man’s asunder demise?

 

asunder

Asunder is an adverb that means “into separate pieces.” So if you’ve torn your ex’s love letter asunder, you’ve forcefully ripped it into separate pieces — and rightly so.

Asunder comes from the Old English phrase on sundran, which means “into separate places.” It is a somewhat archaic and uncommon word and most of us know it only from marriage ceremonies: “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” In most cases you can use its more common synonym “apart” and convey the same meaning, unless you want to express a particularly violent or forceful ripping.

 

Hard work pays off

I think I am going to faint.

TMA 3  results back in for my Masters.

83% a high merit and incredible feedback.

Current score

  • TMA 1 62% (Script genre)

  • TMA 2  82%  (Fiction genre)

  • TMA 3 83% ( Script genre)

Here is the 700 -ish word commentary submitted for my  TMA 3 and the feedback.

I believed I couldn’t do this MA. I believed I was shit at writing but maybe…… with practice I can be a better writer and achieve great things.al.

Using my words to change society -however insignificantly, is a goal of mine.

mahatma-gandhi-almost-anything-you-do-to-help-humanity-will-seem-insignificant-but-its-very-important-that-you-do-it

COMMENTARY TM3 Approaching script writing the Aristotelian way.

My challenge was to write a whole play in 18 minutes. I believe that there is too much exposition and would suit as a longer script. When I cut, or slowed certain dialogue-it’s original appeal became lost to a different type of play. The characters lost what made them unique.  This is where I rely loosely on morality play techniques. This story could have started in many ways. I felt it best to reveal the turning point and the how and why’s at the end of the play. It is linear and has a beginning, middle and end reminiscent of Greek Tragedy plays.

I often use a stream of consciousness technique to get into a writing zone. For scene 1, I started typing on a blank page and let characters come to my head and speak whatever they wanted.  This was how the first scene was produced. I was tempted to discard it until I received positive and constructive feedback on the TGF forum.

A possible subconscious influence for early drafts came from reading the chapter on David Edgars’ how to write a play, (chapter 2 page 17). In TMA 2, I focused on creating characters to reveal the plot and as exposition. Upon reflection, after reading the on-going debate about the primacy of plot versus characters, I think to an extent this true of, e.g., medieval genre morality plays.

Difficulties arose to make the characters more 3-dimensional when using archetypical/universal characters. I relied heavily on a strong plot to drive the narrative and the characters through to the conclusion of the script. TMA3-  plot informed the characters and their motives.

Other influences came from conversations with my blogger acquaintance, Clarissa Simmens( Simmens C. 2017) who is from Roma gypsy descendant, and my own great -grandparent’s lineage who fled the Russian 1918 revolution to live a life in the slums of Paris. The setting and background gave the characters more complex motives and inner conflict. Panacea is an old woman who was left with her second sight and not accepted by society or her Nephew.

In this world, it seems society is lured by visual aids. Vladimir was more ready to accept Eve’s gift of soothing people’s problems because of how she appeared outwardly. Vladimir is complex, he was left with third-degree burns from the 1903 revolution, lost his parents, went to live with his “strange” grandmother.

Hopefully, a writer will get a true sense of Vladimir’s character by the end of the play. He did what he had to do to survive. He is human. Flawed. He didn’t stop and analyse whether he should save baby Eve in the Revolution; instinct took over.  My inspiration for how he and Eve arrived in Paris (maintaining a high-status life during and after WW1) is taken from George Orwell’s book ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ set in 1925.  There is a reference to espionage and a secret Russian society, whom paid people to convert to communism after the war (Gutenberg.net.au. (2017).

The music in the piece serves as a device to vary the pace of the play. I hope that the melancholy moments of when Eve/ Panacea plays will give the audience a time to pause, or at the very least, vary or change the pace of emotion.

Genre: this play is not one type of play. I describe it as an experimental, immersive drama with elements of morality play themes because the characters do indeed impart the audience with a strong message.

Humans are complex. There is a clear theme of choices and consequences.

I don’t want to ignore any doubts about this piece: H.R. made constructive comments on the language and the exposition of the piece (refer to XX FEEDBACK (2017)).   I hope that the timelessness of dialogue and language could very well take place in Paris, or indeed a modern society setting of today. My choice of setting reinforces to emphasise that these stereotypical characters still function inside time. Does Eve deserve her fate? Probably not.

Time has moved on, wars still occur yet society still seems to dwell on escapism i.e. Piano music metaphor to deal with life, dwelling on people who seem to have the illusion of the perfect life/ status. Society still struggles with acceptance of identity, race, ethnicity, mental health status etc. We’ve made advancements in technology/society but what about advancements in what type of human we should strive to be?

 

MY TUTORS FEEDBACK –I have kept her name anonymous for obvious reasons.

PT3Thank you for handing in TMA03.

This TMA accounts for 35% per cent of your continuous assessment mark for the module.

There are three parts to TMA 03:

a creative writing element;
a commentary;
extracts of peer review contributions.

Write a stage script ?18 minutes running time.
Write a radio script ?18 minutes running time.
Write a film script ?18 minutes running time.
Please state clearly on the first page which medium (stage, radio or film) you are writing for.

Your script can be either a stand-alone work, complete in itself, or it can be part of a longer play or film. If the latter, it should be structurally resolved (e.g. it might be a complete act from a larger piece; it should not finish mid-action or mid-scene). If providing a section, provide a summary of the larger project ? no more than 200 words ? situating the submitted section in relation to the larger work and offering some context. This summary will not be assessed in itself, and it won’t feature in the word or page counts.

Your script should not be an adaptation of work by another author or an adaptation of a piece of your own work which has been submitted for an earlier TMA.

This part constitutes 15% of this TMA?s grade.

Write a commentary (700 words) about the process of creating your work, the context in which it was developed, and your relevant further reading.

WHERE YOUR TMA SUCCEEDED

A Fair Wish World is powerful piece about loss, vision (actual sight and second sight), mental health and how war and conflict shapes or rather twists people.  It’s full of big ideas and you work within a very imaginative immersive theatre setting.  Also you have two people, one of whom has apparently saved the other, when it turns out that Vladimir is more reliant on Eve.  History is full of unusually talented women who have surrendered their power to a man (Doris Day’s third husband was abusive and stole her money, Billie Holliday was permanently attracted to abusers).  There’s a link here to the depressing litany of young women and their exploitative lovers, so this theme has a timeless resonance (although Vladimir isn’t a villain).

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-music-industry-men-who-got-away-with-exploiting-female-pop-stars

There is an interesting piece I’ve linked below here about Peter Brook (he’s 91!!) and his latest production – how stripped back and bare it is and how for example a single piece of cloth can represent several things, eg a piece of cloth is twisted into a snake at one point.  This is, in my opinion, a true sense of live theatre, where the audience invests their imagination as opposed to being passive observers – as we are a bit with television. (Also it keeps costs down!)  So your idea of the immersive, promenade production is a good idea as well as showing that you are using the medium of theatre as fully as you can.

https://dctheatrescene.com/2017/03/31/peter-brooks-vision-battlefield-stage-kennedy-center-review/

All the characters resonate, but none more so than Panacea (I’ve got this image of Coco Chanel in my head) and Vladimir, the Russian aristocrat.  Panacea because of her contrasting powers and down to earthiness but Vladimir because it was only a few years since the entire Russian imperial family, the Romanovs with their five children were murdered at Ekaterinburg in 1918.  The British royal family offered mealy mouthed excuses for not offering them shelter but the real reason was they were afraid of a similar revolution in England, as I’m sure you know.  I read the play a couple of times before I read the commentary, so I wasn’t pre informed. I really like the way that Eve can ‘see’ certain things and how when her sight returns, it becomes a curse.  You may to have to indicate this quite strongly to the audience but it’s a bold and exciting idea.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE NEXT DRAFT

I have a few suggestions for the next draft (and I really hope you continue with this play).  Firstly it would be to add some more movement to scene one it as it’s currently a little static.  I’m wondering if Eve could get up from the piano and be doing something – getting dressed perhaps in her evening finery?  Panacea could offer to help her lace her boots or maybe at some point she could loosen Eve’s corset so she can breathe or brush her hair?  You could even have Eve trying to find things which have been placed among the audience – depending on whether you want the audience involved or not.

(I recently went to a promenade production of ‘Jane Eyre’ in a stately home.  At one point, the actress playing Jane had placed the sketches she was going to show to Rochester on a piano and an audience member was leaning on the piano without realising.  There was an awkward un-Bronte moment as Jane tried to yank the sketches from under the audience member’s elbow!)

Because Panacea comes across as a slightly mystical character who just shows up, I wonder if she could be slightly earthier, in contrast to Eve’s more romantic language.   She does have some lovely moments such as her laughter over how useless mirrors are to her, but as much of the play is between her and Eve, and she is a magical creature, perhaps making her the more down to earth seeming would contrast more brightly with her supernatural gifts.  See my L4 comment.

In the final scene there is quite a bit of explanation and it feels just a bit squashed.  With maybe ten or fifteen minutes more you could find a way to blend in the back story a little more but I understand the difficulty of covering an entire play in eighteen minutes.

Overall, I think you’ve written a big, brave play, which tackles big subjects.  It has flaws and needs some development but it’s part of your development as a writer that you take some risks, and personally, I don’t think you can really tell whether a play has legs until you’ve heard it spoken out loud by other people.  But I’ve read it out loud and it packs a punch.

You’ve probably already heard of the London Playwrights Blog but if not, they publish opportunities every week.  There’s no substitute for

COMMENTARY

In your commentary you discuss the process of writing the play, in comprehensive detail including the difficulties, and with references to course materials and a commendably large amount of outside reading.

As this is an MA, a high level of both analysis and presentation is required, and your presentation is fine here.  It can be helpful when you are sick of the sight of your script/story to give it to a trusted friend or at least leave it a while to give yourself some space.

You don’t have to agree with course or outside materials, either, just show that you have reflected on the ideas within and show how they might have affected your own creative choices.    It’s also helpful to explain briefly what you intend to reflect on – such as characterisation, structure and dialogue (maybe picking one area you feel confident in and another where you may feel less confident).  Your tone is good, in that you are aware of your own style and what you are trying to achieve without adopting the I-have-achieved-a masterwork-and-now-I-will-reflect-on-aspects-of-its-awesomeness. Instead your tone is curious and questing and always willing to learn.

Thank you for the peer group references.  You have always been very active on the forums.  Also your references are very good.

I’ve given you a high merit for both the script, and the commentary, an overall high merit pass of 82%  As mentioned, scene one is a little static, and the final scene has a slightly ‘expositiony’ feel, but these are very fixable.  What I would suggest now for the script is to read out loud and perhaps workshop it as the most difficult bit is letting it out of your head and into the mouths and bodies of actors.  You’ve done really well Tasha and taken risks with your writing.  Well done.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

Kind Regards

MY  TUTOR

I can’t believe it’s Easter already. This will be the first Easter where me and my family don’t go and see my Gran in her care home. I’ve mixed feelings about this.

I don’t get to see my gran – 😦

I don’t have to go into a care home this year 🙂

credit to all the care workers out there who deserve a hike up on their wage. We should invest gratitude and time and resources to the people who look after the vulnerable people in society – in my opinion- of course.

We are all going to my Ma’s house on Sunday (family tradition). Gran will be in our thoughts.

How do other people celebrate Easter?

Happy-Easter-300x182

❤ Daisy xoxo