Word And Action Essays On The Ancient Theater

Word And Action Essays On The Ancient Theater-61
Our appreciation of Ion has grown considerably since the mid-twentieth century, because of the more open, relativistic, anti-canonical taste which his arisen over the past generation and because of a growth of scholarly interest in the body of local Attic myth that lies behind its subject—not because of a renaissance on the stage.

Our appreciation of Ion has grown considerably since the mid-twentieth century, because of the more open, relativistic, anti-canonical taste which his arisen over the past generation and because of a growth of scholarly interest in the body of local Attic myth that lies behind its subject—not because of a renaissance on the stage.

As presented here, the drama revolves around family issues: the desolation of childlessness, the anonymity (or lack of personhood) of growing up as a slave without a family, a possibly barren wife’s terror of her loss of security at the appearance of an illegitimate son and heir to the throne, the affinity between a threatened woman’s behavior and that of slaves, and the function of legitimacy and inheritance in the Athenian royal family’s establishment of the Attic people’s right to their land and eventually, through Ion, of the Ionian coastal cities of Asia Minor.

This may strike you as a rather strange belief to come from Athens, the cradle of democracy, and in this production it seems convincing—largely because Elizabeth Heintges’ Creusa is such an appealing and sympathetic figure.

The one instance when people speak the truth almost leads to disaster, that is, when the chorus of Creusa’s women servants ignore Xuthus’ death threat and tell her his interpretation of the Pythia’s oracle and what he intends to do about it.

He has misunderstood the Pythia’s statement that the first person he sees on leaving her will be his son—but by gift, Apollo’s gift, not by his own seed.

He can find some consolation in his humble position, even without the social standing which would have been given him by even undistiguished parents. In fact, quality of family is very much on his mind, causing him severe anxiety, both in the potential of his being low-born, as the illegimate product of a fling with a slave girl, and in its reality, as his supposed father, Xuthus, a foreign visitor to Athens who married the king’s daughter, delves into his past to explain Ion’s existence, previously unknown to him.

Rachel Herzog’s direction and her actors were extraordinarily effective in conveying the unhappiness of Xuthus and Creusa and the bittersweet situation of Ion, as well as their seeking state of mind as lost souls. Xuthus and Creusa, the daughter of Erechtheus, the son of the earth-born founder of the dynasty, Cecrops, are at an impasse as far as continuing the line.The happy ending, based on divine revelation of the truth, is made fact by the expediency of Xuthus’ deception—a disquieting happy ending, but, at the performance, I responded happily to the denouement.I was convinced by the scene and rejoiced that the appealing mother and son did not kill each other and—less enthusiastically—that the legitimacy of the Athenian kings would expand over to Asia Minor through the descendants of Ion.Following Athena’s confirmation of their relationship, Creusa and Ion accept each other as son and mother, and the future of Athens’ royalty and their descendants through Ion—the Ionians—is settled.The foreigner Xuthus, however, will be left under the delusion that Ion is his natural son, as he believed at first, lest he resort to any of the desperate acts impulsively set in motion by Creusa.The political messages, the myth of the primordial Athenian kings, and the legitimacy they imparted to their subjects down the ages, as well as their hegemony, founded on blood relation, over the Ionians are primary, but the family situation, the relationships among Ion, Creusa, and Apollo are the human (“anthropotheistic,” in fact, for Euripides’ audience) form the material of which the drama is made.And this is what we respond to today, whether we are a student at Barnard or Columbia or a middle-aged male critic from further down the island.Today—although the condition of the United States and the world hardly inspires optimism—I see the play differently, after seeing it so touchingly performed.Little in my previous study of the Ion prepared me for the moving family drama I saw on the Minor Latham stage.The story begins with a childless couple—a lamentable, if not tragic situation for Greeks ancient and modern—and a youth who does not know who his parents are—also a painful situation, greatly compromising a person’s social status.Ion is a temple servant, a slave, but the slave of the great god Apollo, whom he reveres.


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