Deidameia

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Pyrrha’s Original

Published August 23, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

As promised, now that I’ve posted my version, I’m going to talk about the 18th century original play.  I’ve mentioned it before, a bit, but I’m going to go into more detail now.  The title of the opera was “Achilles in Petticoats“, and it was performed in 1774 at Covent Garden, at the Theatre Royal.  The copy of the libretto I have is a .pdf of a microfiche–microfilm?–something?–of the original souvenir booklet from the time, or something.  So it has the cast list–all listed as “Mr. So-n-so” or “Miss Such-n-such”–and those horrible “long s” letters that look like “f”s and everything’s blurry like a bad old photocopy, and there’s dirt and obstructions, so sometimes it’s very hard to read.

Anyway, the interlibrary loan data on the front page of the .pdf provides the full data on the composer as the “author”, so I have his full info–Arne, Thomas Augustine, 1710-1778–but all I have on the lyricist is the “Mr. Gay” provided in the libretto itself.  Oh, no, wait, it’s here in The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s (by Jane Davidson Reid) which first told me about this opera in the first place:  “John Gay, 1685-1732, Achilles. Ballad opera (4 tunes attributed to Arcangelo Corelli).  Libretto, composer.  First performed 10 Feb 1733, Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.”  So Arne had altered (and presumably expanded) Gay’s original libretto, as well as changing the title.

Now, the most obvious changes in my version, apparent right from the start, are that I went with all-Greek names.  The 18th century preferred Roman names.  The cast list literally has “Ulysses” on it.  (Seriously.  Except it looks like it says “Ulyffes.)  So “Ulysses” and “Ajax” regained their dignity as Odysseus and Aias.  And I changed a few spellings while I was at it, preferring the Greek -os to Roman -us.  (The -eus ending actually is Greek, however.  Which is why it’s Odysseus, and not Odysseos.  In case anyone was wondering about that.)

Next major change, just in the cast list, is that I replaced the queen’s nephew with Patroclos.  In the course of “Achilles in Petticoats,” the queen engineers an engagement between her nephew and Pyrrha, and a jealous Ajax challenges her nephew to a duel over that engagement (which is fought entirely off-stage), yet her nephew, intent on sailing off to the war at Troy, has zero interest in Pyrrha.  (He is, in fact, about the only character in the play immune to Achilles’ charms.)  That doesn’t make sense and isn’t interesting or entertaining.  So I thought that if the nephew was replaced with Patroclos, then we could restore the bisexuality of the original myths, and give all those events some meaning and impact because all parties involved are actually interested.  Plus I thought that Patroclos is one of the few people who would stand a chance of surviving a duel with Aias for more than three seconds.  Also, as my favorite Achaian, I’m always eager to include him.  (May as well be honest, right?)

The final cast list change is the addition of Polyphonos, an aid to Lycomedes.  (Well, also there’s the nurse Eurycleia, but…she’s a minor character, just a servant.  And I removed Diomedes, who arrived at the end with “Ulysses,” but there was no need of him.  It had just become the traditional view that Diomedes had gone with Odysseus to fetch Achilles from Scyros, but it was hardly a task requiring two, and there wasn’t dialog enough to justify the addition of another character there.)  Polyphonos is mostly used as an aid to the death of Theseus sub-plot I introduced, but he’s also a good advisor to off-set the panderer imported from the original play.

Let’s talk about that sub-plot now, as we veer off into the changes I made to the plot.  My main goals in changing the story of the play were two-fold:  restore mythical accuracy (somewhat) and reduce sexism as much as possible (within the confines of the ancient Greek world it’s set in, at any rate).  I still kept various story angles added to the myth in “Achilles in Petticoats,” such as Lycomedes and Ajax falling in love with Pyrrha, and the jealous queen trying to marry Pyrrha off to get her out of the way, and the scene where Lycomedes tries to “ravish” Pyrrha.  (Little knowing that “Pyrrha” is actually a demi-god, and could have snapped him in half if he’d chosen.)

Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 20 and 21

Published August 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Day)

Pyrrha is marching along past the cliff when Patroclos catches up to her.

Patroclos: Please, listen!

Pyrrha sighs, and turns to face him.

Pyrrha: To what?

Patroclos: I just wanted to explain that it wasn’t my fault. Aias seemed to think that I had tricked the queen into—

Pyrrha: Look, I don’t care what he thought, said or did.

Patroclos: But…you…

Pyrrha grimaces, then looks around.

Pyrrha: This seems like a quiet enough spot. Maybe I can finally tell you.

Patroclos: Tell me what?

Pyrrha: Why Aias was so sure he’d seen me before.

Patroclos: I don’t understand…

Pyrrha: The truth is, I’m— Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 17, 18 and 19

Published August 21, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: The chambers of Lycomedes (Dusk)

{The king’s chambers would be ornately decorated, but not heavily furnished.  Possibly not really recognizable as a bedroom in the modern sense.  In fact, it wouldn’t have to be “his chambers,” just a setting where they wouldn’t be disturbed or overheard.}

Lycomedes paces his chambers, muttering angrily to himself. Diphilos approaches the king at a run, and bows low before him.

Lycomedes: You have nerve to lie to me, Diphilos. How shall I punish you for the gross deception you have played upon my fragile heart?

Diphilos: It is not I, sire, who stands in the way of your union with the young lady.

Lycomedes: No, it’s the young lady herself!

Diphilos: Nay, sire, listen to me, I pray you! It is those strangers, the men sent by Agamemnon!

Lycomedes: What? What do you mean by this cryptic accusation?

Diphilos: They both covet her for themselves, and their handsome youth distracts her from the love she truly bears for you.

Lycomedes: Then you think she will restore her affection for me once they’ve sailed off to die in battle?

Diphilos: Not if the queen has her way, sire.

Lycomedes: That blasted woman! Always standing in my way!

Diphilos: But I have a plan, sire. If her two handsome beaus should kill one another, then the lady Pyrrha will have no man but you. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 12, 13 and 14

Published August 16, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.  Scene 12 is going to feel pretty weird, fair warning, but it’s directly adapting a scene out of the 18th century opera this is based on.  I’ll explain in more detail after I’ve posted the full play.


 

Scene: A wide courtyard (Day)

{It’s a wide courtyard, surrounded by columns, which hold up the upper level of the palace. There would be a balcony overlooking the courtyard, but likely the balcony would just be part of the matte painting. Mycenaean columns, like Minoan columns, were wider at the top than at the base; they’re very cool-looking. The courtyard would be brightly painted and highly decorated.}

Lycomedes is just entering from one side of the stage as Pyrrha enters from the other.

Lycomedes: Ah, I’ve been looking for you, Pyrrha.

Pyrrha: Hmm? Why?

Lycomedes: Surely you know why.

Pyrrha: This isn’t about the silver vessel, is it?

Lycomedes: Vessel?

Pyrrha: I guess not. In that case, I can’t imagine what business you could have with me. But I’m expected in the garden, so—

Lycomedes: You will accept this token from me.

He holds out the ring.

Pyrrha: Zeus, give me strength! (to Lycomedes) Sire, I have no interest in your ring.

Lycomedes: There’s no need to play coy, my dear. No one can overhear us here.

Pyrrha: As I told your sycophant last night, I have not the slightest interest in receiving love tokens from you or any other man. I had hoped, for Deidameia’s sake, that he did not actually act on your instructions, but it would seem that my hopes were in vain.

Lycomedes: I will not have my hopes be in vain. Accept the ring, and with it my affections.

Pyrrha: I don’t want either.

She tries to leave, but Lycomedes blocks her path. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 8 and 9

Published August 14, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Night)

Queen Theaspe stands at the edge, leaning against a wall and staring sadly at the sea below. Patroclos enters, and approaches her.

Patroclos: Forgive me for interrupting you, but I seem to have gotten lost. Where am I?

The queen chuckles lightly.

Theaspe: This is the cliff where the Earth-shaker devours his own.

Patroclos: What?

Theaspe: There used to be more of the palace here, but an earthquake sent it tumbling down into the sea below. And some years ago, in this very spot, my husband…

She shakes her head.

Theaspe: But I shouldn’t say that. Terrible and unfaithful as he is, he is still my husband.

Patroclos: Unfaithful?

Theaspe: He thinks I can’t see what’s going on, but I know the signs all too well. But what he sees in that intemperate ragamuffin, I’ll never understand!

Patroclos: Ah…is there something I can do to help?

Theaspe: I doubt it. Though in truth, I was thinking more of my poor brother’s fate than my own just now. You really do look precisely like him. If only he had never marched off to war! I’ve always prayed to Eileithuia, begging her not to deliver any sons of my womb, so I won’t have to see them die on the fields of battle.

Patroclos laughs sadly.

Patroclos: That sounds much like what my mother said in begging me not to sail to Troy.

Theaspe: Why are you going? Surely it doesn’t matter to you whether or not the Laconian adulteress is returned? Or did your father move to Laconia when he left Locris?

Patroclos shakes his head.

Patroclos: No, we moved north when I—when my father left Locris for my sake. As I’m sure you know, my father sailed on the Argo along with Jason and his companions, so when we left Locris, my father thought we should seek shelter—a new home—with one of the others who had sailed to Colchis with him.

Theaspe: Then you went to Thessaly?

Patroclos: Yes, to the court of Peleus, in Phthia.

Theaspe: My! That’s certainly an improvement over Opoeis! I’ve heard many a rumor about Peleus’ marriage to the immortal Nereid. How beautiful she’s supposed to be, and how all the gods themselves came to the wedding, and gave their blessings to the couple and their children. Though I’ve heard there’s only the one son, isn’t there?

Patroclos nods. He seems about to speak, but the queen steamrolls over his words.

Theaspe: I’m sure a fine, noble young man like yourself must have instantly become the bosom companion of the young prince.

Patroclos: Sadly, the prince—and his mother—disappeared from the court about a year before our arrival there, so I’ve never met him. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 5 and 6

Published August 9, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, consult the links on this page.  Scene 5 is where the play really picks up, because it’s when Patroclos and Aias arrive.  Yay!  (Yes, I’m biased.  So what’s your point?)


Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Day)

The throne is empty. Aias and Patroclos enter.  Aias is an enormous man, but Patroclos is of a more normal size.  Both wear armor and carry a sword, but only Patroclos has a shield.  {Shields, as I forgot to mention in discussing Bronze Age armor, tended to be gigantic in the Bronze Age, and warriors literally had to have guards on the backs of their ankles to protect them from chafing from their shields.  (Seriously, there’s mention of those guards in the Iliad, in talking about Hector’s shield.)  Aias does not have his shield with him because his was larger than most, and carrying it outside of battle is impractical.}

Aias: Hoh? No one at home?

Patroclos: Is it just me, or does this feel like a trap?

Aias laughs.

Aias: It’s just you.

Patroclos: “They will be welcomed as royally as they deserve.” That didn’t sound suspicious to you?

Aias: It’s just flowery court talk.

Patroclos grimaces.

Patroclos: I don’t know why they sent me on this mission, anyway. What do I know about courts and kings?

Aias: Ask Odysseus.

Patroclos: I’d rather not.

Aias laughs.

Aias: How long are we going to be made to wait?

He looks around.

Aias: (shouting) Is the palace deserted?

Patroclos: Don’t shout like that!

Lycomedes, Polyphonos and others enter.

Lycomedes: My pardon, guests! I was preparing for your arrival.

Aias: And yet you missed it.

Patroclos: (sotto) A-Aias! That’s rude!

Lycomedes turns to his servants.

Lycomedes: Fetch some wine immediately! Have the feast made ready at once!

Several servants bow, and run from the room.

Aias: We can talk business while we wait.

Lycomedes: I should not like to be so rude as to ask my guests’ business before they’ve supped.

Aias: You’re not asking. I’m offering.

Lycomedes coughs uncomfortably. Patroclos is stifling laughter.

Polyphonos: I’m sure it won’t offend the gods, sire.

Lycomedes sighs, and takes a seat on his throne.

Lycomedes: Very well, then. The herald said he worked for Aias, son of Telamon. No other man could have such godlike proportions, so you must be he.

Aias: (laughing) Godlike?

Patroclos: Yes, he is Aias, sire.
Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 1 and 2

Published August 7, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, since no one told me not to, I’m going to go ahead and post my play.  How many scenes per day will depend on how long the scenes are.  There are a total of 22 scenes, but some are pretty short, so a number of them will be doubled up, while others are pretty long, and will definitely stand alone.  The play will not be pre-empting the usual Monday, Wednesday and Thursday features.  So don’t worry about that.  Once I’ve finished, I’ll do a final post talking about the 18th century opera (operetta?) on which this was loosely based.  If you have any suggestions regarding dialog and characterization, please pipe up at any time, ’cause this is only an early draft.  Story matters should probably wait until after the whole thing has been posted, though.

I have no idea how plays are formatted these days, so I’m just kind of formatting this on the fly, and trying to make it clear what’s going on.  I apologize if I’ve goofed up in that regard.


 

Dramatis Personae
(In alphabetical order)

Aias, Prince of Salamis
Deidameia, eldest daughter of Lycomedes
[Diphilos], a courtier of Scyros
[Eurycleia], nurse serving the daughters of Lycomedes
Lycomedes, King of Scyros
Odysseus, King of Ithaca
Patroclos, a warrior of Phthia
Pyrrha, a mystery
[Polyphonos], advisor to Lycomedes
[Theaspe], Queen of Scyros
A Herald, in service to Aias.
Other daughters of Lycomedes.
Servants of Lycomedes.
Traders from foreign lands.

[The names in brackets are to be search-replaced once I have better ones; Diphilos and Theaspe come from the play I based this on (though there it was spelled Diphilus, but I changed it to Diphilos in order to match the other spellings, since I prefer the Greek -os endings to the Roman -us endings), Polyphonos just seemed a reasonable name for an advisor, and I borrowed the name Eurycleia from the Odyssey, since this one is a servant in the same basic position. As far as I know, there are no ancient sources which give a name for Lycomedes’ wife, so I just went with the name from the play I was basing this on, for now, but I don’t like it as a name, and would prefer to replace it with a better one.  If she did, in fact, have a name in antiquity, that would be perfect.  But I don’t recall seeing one in Statius–in fact, I don’t recall Lycomedes even having a wife in Statius, though surely he must have done, if he had daughters–and there aren’t actually that many ancient accounts of this myth to consult, so…yeah, for the moment, I just have to stick with this name I don’t like one bit.]

General stagecraft explanation: I imagine this as being the type of play to have minimal sets—especially given the rapidity of some of the scene switches—so it would probably just have backdrops and the bare minimum of props to make a scene work. Costumes and set design, ideally, would be based on the Late Bronze Age, not the Classical Era, since I’ve based various tidbits of dialog on LBA cultural realities—talking about Hatti, the kingdom of the Hittites, for example—and the stuff about the traders towards the end wouldn’t make sense if they were living in an era with coinage. I’ll give a brief description of each location the first time it shows up.

As to how people dress, the men would be wearing either kilt-like loincloths or short-sleeved tunics, either way stopping at about their knees. If they’re anything like the Greeks of the historic era, they don’t shave (well, except the historic era Spartans shaved their upper lips, for whatever reason, but as there aren’t any Spartans in this, that’s rather a moot point) but based on Mycenaean art, it’s not completely certain that they practiced the same non-shaving policy, so we’re free to imagine a handsomely clean-shaven Patroclos. (Yes, I’m biased in favor of the clean-shaven look. There’s nothing wrong with that.) How women dressed is even less clear from Mycenaean art, especially in the “everyday” sense. Formal, ritual attire may well have been like the famous “snake goddess” faience statuette found at Knossos, but for everyday purposes, it’s fairly certain that regular girls would not have walked around with their bosoms exposed. However, it’s very possible (even probable) that royal girls like the daughters of Lycomedes would have worn dresses with flounced skirts like those of the snake goddess, just not with the open top like that.

Read the rest of this entry →

Ulrich von Lichtenstein

Published December 6, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

I had no idea there was really a person by that name.  (Or using it as a pen name?)  But there was.  He wrote a (probably fictional) autobiography in verse that was largely about him courting ladies and jousting, sometimes in a dress.  (Seriously!)  Apparently, he lived in the early-to-mid 13th century.

Sounds like his autobiography hasn’t seen much publication in modern times:  the book listed a German one in 1812 (he was from Styria, a place in Austria) and a “condensed” English one in 1969.

If I had more time, I would look to see if I could find a copy.  I bet it’s a really interesting read.

(Speaking of interesting reads, I was disappointed by the ending of “Achilles in Petticoats.”  After Odysseus reveals Achilles’ secret, there’s no “wait, that’s a guy I was hitting on?!” moment for any of his admirers, just an “oh, so that’s why ‘she’ was so close to Deidamia!” moment, followed by the promise of an o’er-hasty marriage prior to his departure for Troy.  Very dull when compared to the comedy that preceded it.  I am totally writing an updated version, only mine is going to add Patroclos, and hopefully maintain the same tone throughout.  (To assert that it will be funny throughout would be overweening confidence, I fear…)  But I’ll keep some of the narrative devices that were not a feature of the classical myth, like Lycomedes developing a passion for the “girl” left in his care…)

Getting worried now.

Published October 22, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

It seems like every paper I write for this class is worse than the one before it.  That wouldn’t necessarily bother me if I had any idea what we’re doing for the final paper.  I mean, I know it’s supposed to have something to do with what we want to do our eventual Master’s Thesis on, but…honestly, I’m not sure he was prepared for students who already know precisely what they want to study.

Thing is, at this point, I know exactly what I want to write my thesis on.  I even know half of the title.  It’s going to be tracing the changes in the perception of the Trojan War myth as society has changed over the millennia.  It’ll be called “The Love Life of Achilles” with a subtitle that will clarify the subject matter.  (The subtitle is the half I don’t know yet.)  Obviously, it’ll especially focus on the changes during the early portion of history–say up until the fall of Rome–but it’ll also describe how the perception has changed since then, how changing attitudes towards homosexuality either repressed the idea of a romantic/sexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclos or turned it into something vile or to be mocked.  And whenever his relationship with Patroclos was robbed of its pederastic side, then one of Achilles’ female lovers rose to prominence, usually Briseis, but sometimes Deidameia.

That may not sound like a particularly deep thesis–and it probably isn’t–but books have been written on similar subjects (I’m currently reading one about Helen, and I’ve gotten another one out of the library about Orpheus) so I shouldn’t have any trouble making it long enough for a thesis.  (Not that I actually know how long a Master’s Thesis is, mind you, but I could easily make that topic last several hundred pages.  I could probably get a good thirty or forty just out of classical antiquity, to say nothing of the Medieval and Renaissance changes.)

More importantly, it’s a snappy title, so it’ll catch the attention of admissions people for PhD programs, and/or prospective employers if I try to get work at a community college or something.  And it covers a wide range of subjects.  It’s literary, it’s classical antiquity, and because of the LGBT elements, it has a topicality as well.  Plus it’s really interesting, so spending years working on it won’t be a problem.

However, all the planning in the world doesn’t help if I can’t make it through this class to reach the thesis part of the program.

And I’m starting to worry that if my final paper isn’t awesome enough, I’ll flunk this class.  The final paper is a third of the grade, with the other two thirds being class participation (I’m probably at least mostly okay on that score, as I’ve never missed a class and I always manage to add something to the discussion, even if that something isn’t terribly intelligent) and the weekly papers.  So even if I get full marks on the class participation, if I get lousy marks on the weekly papers, I’ll need to get full points for the final paper even to pass, let alone get a good grade.

It’s really worrisome.

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