Journal Entry #12
Date: Thursday April 7, 2016
Time: 9:40am- 11:00am
Location: Douglas Hall, Rm 203
In today’s class we discussed the theme of “coming of age” as it pertained to Euripides’ Orestes. Euripides’ Orestes has a resonance similar to the Telemachus story in the Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with the idea of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is somewhat of a failed Orestes story because his mother sleeps with his uncle; however, Hamlet fails to avenge his father.
We went ahead to discuss the distinctions between what it means to be an adolescent and what it means to be an adult. Some of the characteristics of adolescence include less responsibility, less sense of identity (role in society, fitting in), supported by others, imaginative, careless, inventive, externally motivated, and it usually ends will the turning of age 18 (once you turn 18 you are as responsible for your actions just like someone who is 30).
Adulthood has a different dynamic. These characteristics include more responsibility and more accountability. More is expected of you when you are an adult, as you are expected to know and understand all of the consequences of your actions. Consequences are typically more severe and there are no more “slaps on the wrist” (prison vs. juvenile detention center). As an adult, you are also more worthy of blame, typically self supported and even supporting of others, realistic, possible, focused, aware of obligations and respecting of obligations. Adulthood also consists of rites of passage that include obtaining a driver’s license, having the opportunity to drink, voting, and even renting a car. Conversations with adults are even carried differently than conversations with adolescents. The topics, diction, and substance of the conversations are much different as they are usually more abstract and general. Adults also have a high sense of emotional regulation and seriousness (level of focus an attention as well as the importance). They also have the ability of knowing what is good for them with a high level of metallization (ability to empathize and understand others).
For the most part, our life story is about the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Some of the mechanisms that make up the transition for adolescence to adulthood are: financial situations, educational situations (institutionalized mechanisms, college causes you to mature emotionally), career changes/ profession (new level of discourse, more responsibility), marriage, kids, death of a loved one, social education, and expectations (family, community).
Dr. Sandridge posed the following question; to what extent does Orestes experience this kind of transition? Orestes is probably in his late teens, early twenties at the time of the play so he was definitely portrayed as an adolescent.
We began dissecting some of the passages in the play. The first passage we discussed was the dialogue between Helen and Electra. Helen is asking Electra to go to Clytemnestra’s grave. Represents Helen immaturity. (Line 72) She is very self-referential; she is buttering Electra up before she asks for something, lack of metallization as she points out all of Electra’s misfortunes… “But you poor girl, still not married!” Helen is afraid to show her face in Argos, so she asks Electra even though Electra is clearly in trouble for killing her mother. In line 108, Helen says, “Send an unmarried girl on an errand in public?” She is hesitant about sending Hermione to Clytemnestra’s grave but has no remorse for asking Electra, who is also unmarried, to go to her dead mother’s grave. Helen is full of excuses throughout this passage. Electra accuses Helen of being stingy for only clipping the ends of her hair.
In line 212, Orestes is seen in a possible adolescent state (although its pretty hard to tell), as he needs help. In line 215, Orestes says, “Oh goddess sleep, goddess of forgetting, to whom the unhappy make their prayers”. This represents Orestes in somewhat in an adolescent state. When you are younger you tend to want to sleep things off in hopes of waking up to a clean slate. In this passage, Electra is pampering and nurturing Orestes. She moves his hair from his face, helps him lie down and helps him sit up. There is some sense of metallization, as he acknowledges his wrongdoings and he tells Electra, in but so many words. not to be like her mother or aunt…. “Take care that you act differently: You can” (line 251). As the story progresses, Orestes is looking at Electra’s crying face and he feels regret and remorse for her, as he takes responsibility for her sadness. He tells her to allow him to take on the burden. This represents self-awareness as Orestes is showing signs of adulthood by recognizing and acknowledging others’ needs, the need for reciprocity, the consideration of others’ feelings (lines 296–298). As class came to a close, Dr. Sandridge told us to re-read Orestes’ dialogue with Menelaus and Tyndareus.
Date: Friday April 8, 2016
Location: My Living Room
Since the final is coming up I figured I could be proactive, so I decided to do the assignment that Dr. Sandridge suggested we do for Helen. He told us to use a Venn diagram to compare the character of Helen in Euripides’ Helen to the other works that we have read. For starters, in all of the other readings that we have done, Helen has been perceived as being selfish and sneaky. In Homer’s Iliad, Helen was seen as being somewhat disloyal when Telemachus comes to see Menelaus and they reminisce on Odysseus’ trials at Troy when the Greeks were hiding in the Trojan Horse and Helen tried to trick them by pretending to be their wives and calling out their names. Even in Euripides’ Trojan Women, Menelaus and Hecuba both accuse Helen of being disloyal for abandoning Sparta and going to Troy. Hecuba also accuses her of being self-indulging and barbaric because she is dressed in flashy robes when Menelaus comes to get her, while the other Trojan women are dressed in rags. Even in Orestes, she is seen as an adulterer and shunned by the others in the city. She is so much afraid about what others think about her that she is ashamed and doesn’t even want to leave the palace to go to Clytemnestra’s grave. This ashamed Helen is also seen in Euripides’ Helen when Teucer comes to Egypt and fills her in on what has been happening since she has been away in Egypt. She holds herself responsible for her mother’s death, Hermione’s loneliness, and her brother’s possible deaths. However, in Euripides’ Helen, Helen’s characterization is completely opposite than that of what we have conceived her to be. She is noble, loyal to Menelaus, and completed absolved from all of the crimes that she was thought to have committed. She is somewhat heroic as she tells Teucer about Theoclymenus’ disdain for Greeks as she warns him to leave Egypt before he is killed. She also comes up with the entire plan to trick Theoclymenus and ultimately save her and Menelaus’ lives. She is also seen as being loyal as she sits on the ship and cheers on the Greeks as they fight Theoclymenus’ men. This Helen completely contradicts the Helen that we believe abandoned her homeland and was responsible for the Trojan War.
Date: Sunday April 10, 2016
Location: My Living Room
In Thursday’s class, Dr. Sandridge told us to reread Orestes’ dialogue with Menelaus and Tyndareus, and decide if this was mature or immature dialogue. In my opinion, Orestes’ first Dialogue with Menelaus was somewhat immature to me. You know when a child does something bad and then goes to the “nice parent” in hopes of not being reprimanded? I felt like that’s what Orestes was doing. He also expected Menelaus to save him as if he had owed him (Lines 453–454). I could see if Orestes was asking Menelaus to borrow $5 or his car even, but Menelaus was asking to be absolved from killing his mother. Even though I think Clytemnestra’s adultery was wrong, I definitely think Orestes was wrong for killing her; however since he did murder his mother, he could at least accept accountability and responsibility for the consequences that are to follow. His inability to accept fault is a clear sign of his immaturity and adolescence. He even goes as far as to blaming Tyndareus’ for the murder since he was the one who fathered Clytemnestra (Lines 584–586).
One of the characteristics of adolescence that we identified in class was the inability to consider the possible outcomes for wrong decisions. When Tyndareus is speaking to Orestes in lines 497–502, Tyndareus represents the adult in the situation as he scolds Orestes for taking matters into his own hands. He says, “When his father died — killed, I admit it, by my own daughter’s hand, an atrocious crime which I do not condone and never shall — he should have prosecuted his mother, charged her formally with murder, and made her pay the penalty prescribed, expulsion from his house”. Tyndareus acknowledges his daughter’s wrongdoing immediately. He goes on to speak about how although Clytemnestra was wrong for murdering Agamemnon, Orestes is no better than her for committing the same crime. Adolescence is usually the time when teens and young adults make the most mistakes due their lack of judgment and their inconsideration of the possible outcomes for their decisions, this dialogue completely embodies that aspect. Orestes definitely represents the immature party in the conversation as he pleads for forgiveness despite the fact that he blames everyone but himself for the murder that he committed.
Date: Monday, April 11, 2016
Location: My Living Room
A few classes ago, Dr. Sandridge emailed the class a video link to Robert F. Kennedy announcing the death of Martin Luther King. After watching the video, I think I may have a newfound love for RFK. When I was younger we always talked about Martin Luther King Jr and his contribution to black history; however I do not recall much about RFK’s role. RFK’s speech was definitely a pivotal moment in history. The fact that he was willing to prepare his own speech to address the people of Indianapolis about MLK’s murder was very important as it showed his dedication to the progression of desegregation. RFK was aware that the police would not be able to protect him if any riots were to break out after he broke the news of MLK’s murder to the people of Indianapolis; however he went and gave his speech regardless. That is what true courage looks like as he made it know that he was willing to do what ever it took to make sure Martin Luther King Jr’s dream lived on. I had never seen the video before so this was new to me; however it made me wonder why I was just now finding out about it. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was undoubtedly an influential figure in America’s history, and his work should definitely be remembered and carried on. Although it was only six minutes long, this is definitely a heartfelt speech that I believe everyone should watch.
Date: Tuesday April 12, 2016
Time: 9:40am- 11:00am
Location: Douglas Hall, Rm 203
It’s a good thing that I re-read the dialogue between Orestes and Tyndareus because today’s class focused on breaking down and analyzing that passage. In this part of the play, Orestes is having feelings of shame, stress, and insecurities as he is being constricted by his own feelings. When he sees Tyndareus coming towards himself and Menelaus, he becomes sad and regrets killing his mother. He refers to himself as being worthless and he reminisces about how Tyndareus took care of him when he was younger. During the conversation between Tyndareus and Orestes (beginning with line 200), he lacks metallization as he dehumanizes him and calls him monster, creature, and snake. He goes on to say, “Your foreigners have taught you their ways,” in which he attempts to accuse Menelaus of picking up Barbarian ways for conversing with Orestes who doesn’t follow the law.
Tyndareus is adamant about Orestes being wrong for taking matters into his own hands. Although he acknowledges Clytemnestra’s affair and murder of Agamemnon, he still argues that Orestes should be punished for his retaliation. Orestes’ sole argument was that Apollo told him to murder his mother and that as Agamemnon’s son it was his duty to avenge his father. Not only did Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon but she was also having an affair, shaming their marriage and their home.
Location: My living Room
Today while I was on the metro on my way to work, I decided to read over Euripides’ Orestes. I saw this guy constantly looking at my book and then her finally asked what I was reading. I told him and his eyes just lit up. He began to tell my how he was a teacher and he recited one of his favorite quotes that ironically came from the Orestes play, he said “One good friend is worth a thousand relatives”. His wording was a little off but I knew exactly what he meant. He began to recite other Euripides quotes and we ended up have a pretty interesting conversation about Euripides’ works, even though the metro ride was pretty short. He also spoke about how the beauty of Euripides’ readings is that you always have something to gain or something new to learn every time you read. He also talked about how Euripides has a way of saying things that not every one perceives the same way and I have to say this is what I love most his work.
Date: Wednesday April 13, 2016
Location: My living Room
I decided to take the time to answer the following questions for the final common session.
1. What is your favorite play that we read and why?
2. With Which character did you most identify and why was that character relatable to you?
3. What impact do you think watching these plays on stage have compared to reading the text? What moment in the plays we have read would be the most exciting to see on stage, in your opinion?
4. How do you think the theater audience (both today and in Ancient Greece) responds to the characters of Euripides, especially Helen in her various incarnations?
5. Why do we continue to read, study and perform these plays today? Why are they still relevant?
My favorite play would have to be Euripides’ The Trojan Women. I enjoyed this play because I feel like it showed a lot of raw and genuine emotion within the characters. Whenever I used to think of Greek literature, I would always think about the Trojan War and the famous Greek heroes that were always talked about such as Odysseus and Achilles; however, I never actually thought about how the Trojan War affected the women. It was very interesting to see the different views of these feminine figures such as Andromache, Hecuba, and Cassandra. I think it is so easy to forget about the women in Greek literature even though they play such a crucial roles to the different events that take place.
In my opinion, the character that I think I identified the most with was Andromache. I wasn’t really able to understand everything she has been through because she’s definitely dealt with some unfortunate events in her life; however, her feeling and emotions within the Trojan Women and book 6 of the Iliad were so effectively depicted and heartfelt, it was extremely hard not to empathize and feel for what she was going through. I like her character so much because despite everything that she was faced with, she remained strong and I admire that trait about her the most. I probably also identified with her because she seemed to be somewhat of a young character in comparison to Hecuba, who had also been through some major hardships but she was much older.
I think that watching these plays on stage allow the audience to get a closer connection with the characters. It puts the audience right in the middle of the scene, which gives them an entirely different perspective than reading the play. However, I actually enjoyed reading the plays because I was able to re-read the play to see what I may have missed during my initial reading and it allowed me to dissect the scene and the characters at my leisure; I assume it would be much harder to do this if I were watching the play because it would be easier for me to miss things. I think some of the moments that would be exciting to see on stage would be Orestes’ confrontation with Menelaus and Tyndareus, Orestes’ fits of rage when the Furies are attacking him, the scene in Trojan Women when Menelaus and Hecuba were trying Helen before Menelaus wanted to kill her and the encounter among Odysseus and Clytemnestra when arrives back to Ithaca.
When it comes to the way the theatre audience would react to Euripides’ characters, I believe a lot has to be considered. In today’s world, I would like to think that the audience would act somewhat similar to the way that we reacted in class: empathetic to the hardships of the Trojan women, amused at Odysseus’ sly tactics, and disapproving if Helen’s conniving ways. However, in ancient Greece I think the audience would have reacted much differently, considering the fact that during that time, the men were held to a higher standard and the tensions of man vs. woman and husband vs. wife were much more prevalent in society. For instance, they probably wouldn’t have been as forgiving and understanding of Helen’s account of the events that led up to the Trojan War in Euripides’ Helen.
I think the reason why we still read, study, and perform these plays today is simple: it’s history. History has a way of teaching us things and providing guiding mantra to our daily endeavors today. I can honestly say that there is not one play that we’ve discussed where I haven’t learned something that could be applied to my daily life. Also, this Greek literature course has taught me different origins of words that I use everyday. Ultimately, no matter how much we ignore it, Greek literature has various components that play a major role in our day-to-day lives.
As I reflect back on this Greek literature course I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed taking this class. Before taking the course, I assumed it was just going to be another unnecessary graduation requirement with way too many expectations; however, I was wrong. This was definitely one of my favorite classes of the semester and that says a lot for me as a chemistry major. I usually take a liking to math and science courses but this class was more of an outlet for me with all of the journal writings and the fun extra credits opportunities that felt more like field trips, but hey, I wont complain. Even on the days when I didn’t have this class, I found myself making time out of my day to catch up on readings or discuss my class discussions with my other friends. Overall, this class was very beneficial and I recommend it to any and everyone here at Howard!