The theatre as we know and understand it today — essentially; all of it — was invented by the ancient Greeks. More specifically; Classical Athens.
Classical Athenian theatre was an integral part of society, and it was highly political in that it was religious. The Athenian calendar included the three major festivals of the year: Great Dionysia, Rural Dionysia and Lenaea; all cities which were named for the god, Dionysus. Classics Scholar, Paul Cartledge, views Athens as a “performance culture,” as it hosted more religious festivals (performances of both drama and tragedy for competition) than any other Attic state.
It is important to note that ALL Athenian tragedy was performed within a religious context. Antigone buried her brother (who died at the hand of his brother, both of whom fought on opposing sides in battle) in defiance of Creon’s decree. Despite the fact she was an unmarried women whose father was dead, she shunned both her duty to the State and to her family (Creon) and was wholly confident the gods would judge her actions as honourable. Likewise, Electra offers the notion that the gods will deem her actions just, whilst simultaneously, Clytemnestra begs Apollo not to punish her for killing her own son. There is, within tragedy, an almost bipolar element in that there are two opposing sides, with no grey areas. The tragedy lies in the fact that a resolution — a tragic one — is inevitable for one side. Note the religious element, as mortal law conflicts with divine law.
As a woman, I am acutely aware that despite the absence of legal status afforded to Greek women who were not slaves and their imposed seclusion and separation (see Solon Laws), women were not only not forbidden to attend religious festivals (as they were from entering into legal and financial transactions), they were INTEGRAL to them. It could even be said that women were superior to men in religious rites and festivals. however, there is no compelling evidence one way or the other regarding the attendance of women at either the Great Dionysia or Lenaea festivals.
I could say a lot more on the subject; however, I shall close by saying as a theatre-lover, woman and even an atheist, I thank religion (or the “STARS…” in your multitudes!) for “Les Mis!”
One of the perpetual ways to make fun of religion, at least in America, is to note that many Americans think that God takes an interest in sports. Athletes like Tim Tebow give thanks to God for their achievements and their teams’ victories, and Americans regularly pray for the success of their teams. (I doubt that this happens much in Europe, but I’m sure it’s common in South America!).
Well, now there are data showing that the belief that God (or demons) somehow affect the outcome of sporting competitions has been quantified by a survey—a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, and summarized int their report, “Half of American fans see supernatural forces at play in sports.”
This graph summarizes the data, with “average Americans” in tan, football fans are in maroon, and other fans are in olive. Now since the survey methodology reports a survey of 1,011…
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When I first ideated this concept, it was “twenty things…;” however, I am a rapid cycler. And for some serendipitous reason, they seem to find me when I am manic or hyper.
Twenty seemed an appallingly insufficient number.
Whilst these stories are true, they are also infused with my rather original demeanour and humour.
One winter’s Sunday morning, I was blowing off church and was outside training. I realised we needed something at the shop; so, I set forth. Still garbed in my training gear (complete with weight lifting gloves and Rocky Balboa hat), I set off. I prudently left my swords at home.
In the queue, I felt a sharp shove from behind, and upon turning around, spied an Asian man passing me (with plenty of room to have passed without making any contact at all). I looked him in the eyes and said, “EXCUSE ME.” A few minutes later, he passed me again and performed his dutiful shove.
My response: “your religion may teach you that women are beneath you; but, THIS woman can knock you on your ar5e; so, BACK OFF!”
Several people giggled, smiled and nodded. He backed off.
Atheist, bipolar martial artist – 1; linguine-for-brains Muslim man – 0!
Every last one of these people is orbiting the outer moons of Saturn…
This is part 2 of Religious Animal Craziness. You couldn’t make stuff like this up.
It’s bad enough that various species of Christianity and Islam persecute people for being gay, but now religion has injected its poison further—into supposedly homosexual felids. The Nigerian newspaper Leadership reports (and I give their piece in full, with bolding mine; I haven’t tried to fix all the misspellings and errors):
A middle-aged woman (names withheld) yesterday in Lafia, Nasarawa State, publicly disowned her cat whom she had kept as a pet for seven years for what she termed “an unnatural sexual behavior” which she finds disturbing and “a contradiction of the laws of nature.”
By this, the cat has made a record as the first cat to be so publicly declared gay and disowned by its owner.
The cat, named Bull, was alleged to be in the habit of making sexual advances only…
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I think most states in the U.S. now provide a place on your driver’s license to verify that you’d be willing to donate organs, corneas, etc. in the case of a fatal crash (or other cause of death). I routinely check that box, of course, as should everyone, for what better use for a dead body than to give life or sight to others?
Yet the percentage of people who elect for donation is surprisingly small. According toNBC News:
Only about 45 percent of adults in the U.S. — nearly 109 million people — are organ donors, a figure that donation and transplant experts say seems tragically low when the public’s attention is riveted on the lack of organs for a child such as Sarah.
“We have millions of people that are concerned or outraged about this particular situation, yet 55 percent don’t sign up to donate,” said…
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The Classical Greeks embraced an evolved value system. Authors utilised their art to convey the value system (and their own thoughts on it) by creating an inevitable conflict between two characters. The tragedy lay in the conclusion, which would obviously leave one side devoid of, for example, Δίκη – or justice.Extensive study has been undertaken by Classics scholars to understand the role of G reek values (predominantly Δίκη) within Classical tragedy and epic poetry, its interaction with the contemporaneous legal system and allegiances to family and the State. Where was religion?
On responsibility to the State, Family and Justice
“…If I were a mother, and my children rotting to death, or my husband, I would never have taken on this task against the City’s will…”
(871-875) (Sophocles, Antigone, trans. Franklin and Harrison, 2003, p. 67)
This duty was the one that may be perceived to have superseded one’s allegiance to family; or φίλος. Antigone echoes Creon’s feeling (Sophocles, Antigone, trans. Franklin and Harrison, 2003, p. 15) that the city should come first; owing to the fact that children and husbands are expendable. Herein lies a conflict. Creon and Antigone argue that Polyneices was brother to one (Antigone) and traitor of Thebes to the other (Creon). Citizens’ highest callings were said to be to family and state (Pomeroy, 1976, p. 60); therefore, this presents an unquestionable dilemma for Antigone.
This speech was regarded to be unfit for a heroine on account of the high child mortality of the time and the fact that if the marriage dissolved, any children would transfer to the father (Pomeroy, 1975, pp. 100-101). Therefore, were children not so replaceable as Antigone suggested? Pomeroy’s assertion is irrelevant, as Antigone was neither a wife nor a mother. I am in agreement that masculine woman of Greek tragedy (equivalent of today’s feminist and compensating for the passive role of women in tragedy) would reject the role of wife and mother; and therefore, experience a markedly closer familial bond to a brother.
On the Role of Religion
“…Justice determined his death; I wasn’t alone…”
(527-528) (Sophocles, Electra, trans. Raeburn, 2006, p. 152)
Given the importance of the State and one’s family, it may be asked where the supernatural fit?
When she claims to Electra she was not alone in “demanding justice,” to whom was Clytemnestra referring? Possibly divine intervention? However, Gill offers a concept called ATE, or delusional behaviour, or the notion of belief in divine intervention (Gill, 1995, p. 383). One may interpret this as Clytemnestra asserting the gods also “demand justice.”
Additionally, Clytemnestra leaves Electra to sacrifice to Apollo and admits, during her prayers, to having nightmares. She further asks that if Apollo should – in his divine wisdom – choose to punish her act, that he punishes her enemies and not her. Even so many centuries ago, people could not guess at the wishes of their deities.
Gill also argued that by the fifth century, humans in lyric poetry were possessed of the capability to make and be responsible for their own decisions and actions; therefore, acceptance of this argument will nullify the probability of Clytemnestra’s expectation of divine intervention. One wonders if Sophocles also recognised this level of evolution. Perhaps a question for further study? Another question worthy of note is: does Clytemnestra feel vindicated because her act was successful (Gill, 1995, p. 384)?