THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO
04 JUNE 2013
ThingsThat Make You Go
The tiny island of Salamis in Greece was the birthplace, in 480 BC, of one of the three greattragedians of the Classical Athenian era. Aeschylus and Sophocles were the other two, but thethird member of that legendary triumvirate was not only the author of some 92 plays but alsothe subject of one of the earliest knock-knock jokes ever recorded:
Knock-knockWho's there? EuripidesEuripides who? Euripides trousers? You menda dese trousers.
OK, so the Ancient Greeks in general (and Atheniantragedians in particular) were hardly renowned fortheir jokes; and certainly, modern-day Greeks havepainfully little to laugh about as their country slidesheadlong into a depression, thanks to political intransigence amongst European politicians;nonetheless, Euripides was a man who made his mark on the theatrical world and, despite hisreputation as one of the great tragedians, he is widely acclaimed for having pioneered dramaticdevices that were later adapted to comedy:
(Wikipedia): Euripides is identied with theatrical innovations that have profoundly inuenced drama down to modern times, especially in the representation of traditional,mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This new approachled him to pioneer developments that later writers adapted to comedy, some of whichare characteristic of romance. Yet he also became "the most tragic of poets", focusing onthe inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown. He was "thecreator of ... that cage which is the theatre of Shakespeare's Othello, Racine's Phèdre,of Ibsen and Strindberg," in which "... imprisoned men and women destroy each other by the intensity of their loves and hates", and yet he was also the literary ancestor of comic dramatists as diverse as Menander and George Bernard Shaw.
Euripides' most famed works are familiar to anybody who studied the classics in school.
The Suppliants, Helen, Medea,
have all kept schoolchildren from havingfun spellbound for hours, but there is one dramatic device with which Euripides becameassociated that has led to even his most celebrated works being heavily criticized by dramatic
scholars (and by that I don't mean scholars with a air for the dramatic, but rather those who
study... oh, you know what I mean) down through the ages.That dramatic device is known as
deus ex machina,
which literally translates as "god from themachine".