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Lamont_76_From Hero to Antihero

Lamont_76_From Hero to Antihero

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Rosette C.


FROM HERO TO ANTI-HERO Whether one believes the concept of heroism was invented by the Greeks, or seeks its roots in the myths of the Levant, it appears that a relationship between gods and men was established in that area of thought we call Occidental. This relationship is characterized by its individualistic aspects, allowing personal contact between a divinity and a great human. Moses speaks to God "mouth to mouth" (Numbers, 12:8) as they stand on the summit of Mount, Sinai, surrounded by fire and smoke. As He hands His prophet the two tables of testimony written on both sides in His own hand, Jehovah addresses the man Moses as though speaking "unto his friend" (Exodus, 33: I I). In The Iliad, the Trojan war is depicted as the sport of the gods, with Hera and Athena rooting for their champion Menelaos, and Zeus striving to safeguard from destruction his favorite among cities, King Priam's Ilion. The gods of Homer, however, are not content with reclining on their cloud bleachers, watching deadly games from on high; they descend on the battlefield, brushing aside flying arrows to save a friend for a brief span, a reprieve from the inevitable condition of mortality, or, on the contrary, to precipitate a foe's untimely demise. The· presence of God, or of the gods, in no way robs humans either of their initiative, or their glory; it adds a transcendental dimension to the boldness of heroic enterprise. The Lord may tell Moses what to do, but it is the latter's action of stretching his hands over the sea that makes the waters go back, leaving the land dry for the safe crossing of the children of Israel, just as the repeated gesture recalls the waves to cover the chariots, the horsemen, and "all the host of Pharaoh" (Exodus, 14:28). As Mircea Eliade writes:
This God of the Jewish people is no longer an Oriental divinity, creator of archetypal features, but a personality who ceaselessly intervenes in history, who reveals his will through events (invasions, sieges, battles, and so on). Historical facts thus become situations of man in respect to God, and as such they acquire a religious value that nothing had previously been able to confer on them. It may, then, be said with truth that the Hebrews were the first to discover the meaning of history as the epiphany of God, and this conception, as we should expect, was taken up and amplified by Christianity.'


Cosmos and History; the Myth of the Eternal Return, trans. from the French by
1959), p. 104.

Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper,

they do so as separate entities. forsaking Becoming. C. Permanence doesnottempthim. manifold masks. the hero possesses perfect unity. Joseph Campbell suggests that Eastern thought set little store by gains arrived at through the exercise of individual imagination since "the first duty of the individual is to play his given role-as do the sun and moon.. In the epic. a way of dying-to which his name will be attached.." Dulno Elegies. MacIntyre (Berkeley: Univ. his own appearance threatened by magical metamorphoses. are not connected with their crude physical datum but with their property of reproducing a primordial act. 1961). like a fountain. this poem reflects the labyrinthine exploration of the concept of heroic sacrifice by the consciousness of a poet penetrated by the horrors of the First World War. yet he is mortal. both God and Man are endowed with individuality in the Old Testament. testifies to the fact that he has crossed over to that realm where only those who deserve to be remembered await the poet who will resurrect them."! ' We meet the hero at the moment in his short. a postmythical genre as Northrop Frye elucidates in his Anatomy of Criticism. It follows the trajectory of the young man's life. and. doomed existence on this earth when he is about to enter history. his battles with humans transmuted into struggles against dragons.his point that gods and heroes. are his definition. This process of transformation has been thoroughly traced by Jean Seznec in The Survival of the Pagan Gods in which the euhemeristic spirit of the Renaissance is reinterpreted in terms of a double oscillation: "the metamorphoses of the gods" and "the reintegration of the gods. but a human being. F. continued in Paris in 1914.ter the fact of his vulnerability. but when we recover his original aspect. The poet compares him to the fig tree with which the poem opens. Oriental Mythology (New York: Viking. p. grounded in myth. one that must end soon • Meditations on the Hero: A Study of the Romantic Hero in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (New Haven: Yale Univ. or metamorphosed in the iconography and the literature of the • Cosmos and History. time is of the essence and he matures at once. therefore human. the hero attempts to shape events. The human being who is engaged in shaping an image of what he owes his society and himself may become exemplary. haunting condition. however. His presence in the epic song. Yet. and completed at Muzot on February 9. inhabiting. His rise is Being. in the autonomy of his acts. Middle Ages. 4. Of such a nature is the heroic act recorded in the mythological and legendary cycles upon which a priest of the temple. and the hero who performs the Lord's act in His stead. single-minded hero. 10. vol. shamanistic wonder is replaced by humanistic awe. It takes a great poet to transmit to us this elusive."? Following the same approach. God. greater perhaps than the common mortal yet having in common with the lat. It is true that the same hero may be recaptured at some later time by the shamanistic climate of archaic folk memory. since the hero moves in an ever-renewed present." Begun in November or December 1912 in Spain. In the ripe fruit of his death he carries an undivulged secret. without thought. the waters. or defined in terms of his divine antecedents the hero loses his peculiar heroic identity. s Rilke. the writer of History. his mortality.. Steadfastly he goes onward and enters the changed constellation of his perpetual danger. 1962). p. Reed stresses in his Meditations on the Hero: "Whether identified as a projection of the psyche. as we understand it. The Masks of God. belongs to a linear concept of time. A hero. trans. The heroic act. born to be reborn in his final destruction. C. absorbed by the archetype. heroes travel through time wearing various disguises. unseen by mortal eye. he is filled with an exceptional ethos. the sap rises within the tree. Few could find him there. Archaic man did not believe any more than primitive man does today . myth. Be he the man whose acts will lead to mythicization. or the tragic drama. the rocks and the stars-without resistance." An unequivocal figure.. One of the best images of the hero can be found in Rilke's "Sixth Duino Elegy. but he remains the man of a single act-a deed of courage. The elegy concerns itself with the single-hearted. It suffices to state at t. reach together a transhistorical reality. in the RUSSian byliny. 1922. 1974). 47. Danger and death are part and parcel of his daily quest. "The Sixth Elegy. As Walter L. in the year 621 B. that we are concerned with his choice to sacrifice his life for an ideal. and falls back. Strangely near is the hero to those who died young. captured by primitive lore as." Like the deities. As Eliade states: "Human acts . p. according to Eliade. of repeating a mythical example. to bathe its roots.Thus."? In such a society the historical heroes are mythologized. Even when they work in unison. It is because the hero is not a god. we are able to catch sight of him at that fleeting instant when he is poised between his act and his death. based the Book of the Law of Moses. The hero's life. only later. underwent a fusion so total as to exclude the notion of separation. he may stand on the brink of immortality. the loss of individual traits was a necessary state in turning these figures into astrological and cosmogonic symbols. cannot be a man who resembles others. the immortal form of a poem or a play. By his sacrifice. once he has received consecration. the various animal and plant species. For this exceptional being. p. 1 2 3 . 2. of California Press. and in particular his deeds. 3. transcending in the process of self-sacrifice the element of personal valor. glorious. we face a flesh and blood character. Press.

or erases the purity of single-minded purpose. the natural one. Now you will not swell the rout Of lads that wore their honors out.ffers the follo. such as Hector feels not only for his person. Greene states: The hero of myth is a god. While the poet must toil to effect his mission. the Hero possesses greater Being. Carried to an extreme it turns into the fanatic sense of self-worth which motivates Achilles' wrath.! Both C. • On the Iliad. All heroes are endowed with physical prowess and the desire to demonstrate it..:"ing definition: "The god is the hero as he appears in ntual. This is beautifully summed up in A. He is denied something. A Study in Epic Community (New Haven: Yale Univ. In this creature. Time is the hero's enemy since it either destroys him."? If the above is particularly suited to the hero of myth. In the latter. to slip betimes away From fields where glory does not stay • Duino Elegies. Paradoxically. instructing by the nature of his existence. where he chose further and could do it! Rilke implies here that the hero has two births. To be godlike means only to BE. even Achilles. the transformation of the visible into the invisible has been accomplished. Myth and Drama. Rilke exclaims: Wasn't he hero already within you. He acquires an austerity which is peculiarly human. the hero. 4 5 . p. the figure of the angel expresses that unity. • The Descent from Heaven. from the French by Mary McCarthy (New York: Pantheon Books. . there is a unity between both realms. he chose and could do it. Thus. Bowra in Heroic Poetry. is the poem. Press. see preheroic poetry as a stage of development in which magic played a prevalent role. Eyes the shady night has shut Cannot see the record cut. particularly those things which would render him a god. 1947). a Study of Tradition. like the sap of the fig tree. cannot set himself above the human. This closed circuit opens ultimately on immortality. the hero of romance must be viewed in a different light.. even in the womb. Runners whom renown outran And the name died before the man. trans.itations of his being. In The Hero. is a concentration of all his energies into the all-powerfulness of an instant. Lord Raglan o. and Thomas M. so that human qualities were overlooked. the hero and the god are two different aspects of the same super-human being. 45. but which we must envision with our inner eye in order to achieve greater consciousness. 13-14. pp.. 207. did not his imperious choice already begin there within you? Thousands teemed in the womb and wished to be him. And when he threw down the pillars. his death. for Rilke. . an ideal. The hero teaches what it means to determine one's birth. but the more admirable type does so for a cause which transcends his own self. M. 1963). In The Descentfrom Heaven. nor a beyond.. p. and the self-created one. 1957. the transformation of the earth. And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth has stopped the ears."! What are some of the human qualities which enter into the make-up of the epic hero? One of them is self-respect. Houseman's poem. than most men. the hero himself. In Rilke's private mythology. it is the principle of surging action which mounts in his veins. One must agree with Rachel Bespaloff that "in Homer. The hero's fate embodies Rilke's belief that death is that side of life averted from our gaze. p. and owe one's being to oneself alone. derived from his act. in a separate sense. and his immortality. It is within his capabilities to span the abyss dividing the separate spheres of our world and the beyond. superior not in kind as a god but in degree . 0 mother. London: Watts and Co. . For the poet there is neither a here and now. it was when he burst from the world of your body into the straiter world.after it has begun. Like the Angel. What the poet depicts as a heroic trait is man's universal longing for autonomy and self-determination. be it merely the image of . the hero IS only as he IS NOT. Greene in the above. but for his family and his city. one's entry into life. Thomas M. "To an Athlete Dying Young": Smart lad. The hero (of epic) encounters a new sort of resistance and reaches the lim. The hero's act. 47. But look: he seized and refused. And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose. the hero of romance is superior to other men and to his environment.. the hero is both teacher and guide. E. at once his essence. This unity of being is a way of annulling time. Addressing Samson's mother. the hero IS the god as he appears in myth. extensions of his persona. his blood turning to aurum volatile-alchemical gold-cleaned of materiality.

I~ this agon of arete in which the hero pits himself against the common lOstmcts-fear of pain. and that a traitor lives in their midst. emperor. but rather the fact that kingship being a definition in itself.n battle. archbishop. PierreHenri Simon writes: "The appearance of heroism. such was Hektor as he went through the battle and rallied his companions (41-49). yet for their king. nor turns to run. the emperor must return in order for the Christian knights to defeat the Saracens.'2 The man w~o ~reaks his Own demise in order to set upon the world the ~ta~p of his wl!1 and the memory of his name is a raging. white beard. deprives a man of his freedom of choice. 231). Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: Univ. men of lower rank to act on their own. 259. Roland's death is a true hero death because it is self-inflicted for a noble. he is "wild with rage" (1. their God. C. The same can ~e said of Hector. As to Charlemagne of the flowing. IS:.. burdened as he is with wider responsibilities. Of such a nature is the true significance of self-mastery for the Greeks. makes of risk-taking his modus operandi. Homer. of Chicago Press. and in spite of this the proud h~art feels not terror. Now. and the community of which they are the living center. in Book Eight of The A eneid where Virgil presents an extended description of the fight between Hercules and t~e mo~ster Cacus. is blinding revelation of a spiritual freedom which reverses the order of the necessity. p. The Aeneid. or thought. This is perhaps most obvious in La chanson de Roland in which the protagonist does not die of his wounds.l3 Waith makes sure to point out a footnote that the anger ascribed to Hercules in such encounters cannot be compared to the mad rage in which he kills his wife and children. he is metamorphosed into an essence purged of human foibles. The same holds true for Charlemagne and Roland. the lives of his peers and friends have been sacrificed for sweet renown. however. yet ready to fight till the end. Walter L. N. lending history. an entirely novel. and. 1963. 1953). closing themselves Into a. therefore. killed by "his own courage. The tremendous discipline and self-control which allow brave men to carry out their purposes are d. p."!' Although one must agree with Reed that the hero is the "cynosure" of those around him. passionate lOdtvldua~. mutilation and death-he must exercise th~ special powers of a creature of the extremes. No one kills the hero but himself. an evidence of greatness. In Le Domaine heroique des lettres francaises. outnumbered by the enemy. an unforeseeable course.:ing an uneve. II See note 4. and tossing away his life with the elegant unconcern of a gambler. His men lie dead around him. On the philosophical plane. that propensity to rage which contrad~cted the Renaissance Ideal of the golden mean. or spiritual authority. Shakespeare in some of his history plays. Turoldus.efined by the very fact that they counterbalance a seething sea of emotions: wrath. As Eugene M. not content with taking risks." In -Book Tw~lve of The Iliad. The translation is provided by the author of this essay. and scours the precipitous heights of Mount Aventine "in furious anger" (1. Homer presents a most vivid scene of the battling TrOjan hero: ~s when among ~ pack of hounds and huntsmen assembled a wild boar or hon turns at bay III the strength of his fury. above all. Y. and cast at him with the volleying spears thrown from their hands.: Doubleday Anchor. and the men. The mythic figure that combines vital anger with disciplined action is that of Hercules. p. thought-out I. in their name. or even traits. Follo. Reed provides the most satisfying capsule definition of the hero as "that singular and energetic individual whose character contains his fate. but of a haemorrhage in his temple due to the way in which he blows his famous horn in order to recall Charlemagne and his troops. The hero is characterized in that passage in terms of his bellicose anger. Nor does the warrior bring back his liege in the hope of personal survival. Agamemnon and Priam allow Achilles and Hector to perform the acts of courage and sacrifice in their stead. walking a narrow line between glory and death.. Corneille. even a form of madness. 6 7 . stand up to face him. trans. p. The Herculean Hero. he grinds "his teeth" (1. he knows at once when he hears the horn that his nephew is dying. common to the cultures of the Ancient world. the ruler of men cannot afford the luxury of individuality. Christian thought attempted to allegorize many pagan feat~res of Hercul~s. Day Lewis (Garden City. achieves what reason deemed impossible. Once a human being is made king. heroism is a manifestation of human freedom. it is interesting to note that it is rarely the king. who undertakes the heroic deed. All subsequent references are to this edition. Waith explains in his study. purpose. this final act testifies to the greatness of the Christian knight's mind and soul. but that it must be in . Paris: Librairie Armand Colin. trans. The critic finds further proof of this view. 230).. and it is his own courage that kills him: . The Iliad. Age alone does not account for this delegation of action. give proper Christian burial to their noble companions of the rear guard. wall about him. or memory did not know. Waith goes on to remind hl~ reader that the anger of Hercules is a form of ira per zelum. 10."lO Simon goes on to explain that the hero. Racine teach us that the state of supreme ruler.manhood. 1951). as that of genius. It befalls. 228). I..

and performing in fact all his immortal deeds of valor. he would shed it. "under the name of Dexion. a pnest of the cult of a hero about whom nothing is known today. with its collective character."16 It was a cult of the departed. celebrated in the darkness of the night. In battle. What may be significant. 'the welcomer'. the act is performed in the swiftly running water of a stream. o. the snow-white bull of Crete. Sophocles. In a sonnet on this scene written " Gerald F. such as the one that confines Achilles to the tent where he sits sulking. Mostly. strong madness/forever holding his heart" (542543). implore. he refuses to accept the limitations of contingency. as Gerald F. armours and shields of oxhide. however. with its limitations.the CIty'S fall from greatness. Unlike the latter.?" The protagonist's suicide is seen by Cedric H. caps of marten. The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy (New York: W. Else. but to the drama.. A Study of Heroic Humanism (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. ~ophoc1es drew "the first full-length portrait of a tragic hero 10 Western literature.ne by the name of Halon. His humanity. p: 44. a middle ground between two modes of thought. 44.':" time. he must fall on the sword given him by Hector after their duel. As "the 'actor' from one realm. the absurd quality of hIS would-be act of vengeance leaves him no alternative: to cleanse his name of shame. The latter is made apparent by the trophies he carries.viewed as the effect of passionate intensity. 55." Knox attnbutes the somber aspects of Sophocles' vision to the fact that "the worship of heroes was concentrated on the grave itself. is like ill-fitting clothing. and of spreading its influence on all of Hellas. is Else. this purpose. representing 'citizens' or 'ordinary men' or 'the world' "I' meet in ~his no man's land. The Greek tragic hero does not yield to persuasion. Knox writes: " . It can drive a noble mind mad. and his body's coverings: wolves' pelts. of California Press. The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (Berkeley: Univ. the warriors of The Iliad are compared to beasts: Hector is a wild boar." follows them "fiercely with the spear. Above all it rejected any yielding to misfortune. representing a hero. a way for the hero of defining his arete. and realizing the inevitability Of. " Knox p. 1964). 1951). those who mock. the same quality that assisted the hero in wrecking two cities renowned in war. p. A shrine was set up for. they spring and stampede with bestial ardor. the triumphant fighter. W. p. T~e noble madman is the wrathful hero sunk beyond redemption.mpenahstlc autocracy. . Knox explains th~t Sophocles participated directly in hero cults. being both his essence and his hamartia. Aeneas a lion. or to give in to the imperative of change in whole. were it not his skin.ophocles' manhood and old age. The chorus. He was. Whitman as a moral act. that of a creature who rejects the existential condition. The paradox of herohood is that the very qualities that define the hero in combat may serve to upset his psychic balance. capturing the Erymanthian boar.. severing the heads of the Lernaean Hydra. or eagle swooping down on its prey. 60. The Athens of Pericles dreamt of empire building. moreover. As a result of this intransigence. Achilles a bull. ~hen Ajax emerges from the delusions of madness. Else expounds in The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy. his Ajax. The Sophoclean hero. a vulture. He hears just enough to react with violence to outside pressure. as the Trojans are described fleeing from Achilles towards their city's gates. he manages to steer clear of others. p. It had yielded to an intelligent. "violent after glory.':" In c0':1posing. Odysseus a deep-fleeced ram.. expect. It becomes clear. W. moral energy alone cannot account for the valor of heroes. It can turn to impotent rage. magnificent course to the final disaster. Press. nor does he allow himself to be swayed by emotional appeals. (Athens) pursued its stubborn. 8 9 . animal power coupled with violent anger are the vital attributes of the fearless man. belongs not to the epic. An angry man is one who does not listen.. Solon's enlightened archonship was a thmg_ of t~e pa~t. throughout the course of S. and. yet rigidly aggressive an? 1. 1972). This wrath may also prove the hero's undoing. Another reason ca~ be culled fr:om the historical situation: Sophocles' witnessing the purs~lt of destructive wars by Athens. strangling in his cave the Nemaean lion. Whitman. . be it that of sentiment or rationality. Norton. Knox states. that "the hero is the fulcrum of the In ~is magnificent book. brings out the isolation of the tragic hero. Thus. It is particularly in this opposition between the exceptional man and the conscience of the polis that one becomes aware of the outside character of the protagonist. is akin to the irreconcilable Homeric warrior. This knowledge. The contest against wild beasts in which the hero conquers the animal is not only a way of dramatizing a great human's superiority to brute strength. to leave no trace of ridicule. 64. as in the case of Ajax. He cannot be measured by the standards we apply to the common man. he is doomed to solitude. Bernard M. however. is that since he ~ad been designated to welcome the hero-god Asclepios. The Heroic Temper. As they pursue their enemy. and a chorus from another. and realizes that lnst:ad of killing his enemies he has slaughtered cattle. in particular. Sophocles was m turn honored after his death with hero-worship. In Book Twenty-One of The Iliad. Cedric H. . One might say that the hero shares in the animal forces he conquers. but a symbolic representation of the savage passions that enter into the hero's makeup.

The promise made in a Machiavellian spirit to the sick man must now be acknowledged and kept.':" ~eoptolemus' reversal will in turn precipitate the transformation of Philoctetes from a man wallowing in self-pity to the active hero he was meant to be. the young man is like Antigone. He must be brought back. his eyes darken. When the crisis comes upon him. he emits animal sounds and falls into a deep swoon. and it is no easy task to leave these " See note [6. for he knows that justice and the gods are on his side. the straight hero was moved by noble anger." The poet agrees with the scholar who says that "the true Greek hero raises the standards of his own excellence so high that he is no longer appropriate to life. To Odysseus he will say: "Justice is sometimes better than wisdom. the bard depicts Ajax. Few are the men who can withstand the spectacle of this inhuman suffering. however. and Neoptolemus must indicate to Philoctetes that they share the same resentment. Philoctetes will be reintegrated ·into society and mto . p. deep in the stream. In so doing. Islands are quiet ships sailing the seas for unknown parts.. Odysseus' youthful companion is the son of Greece's greatest hero. Neoptolemus is his father's son. together with the bow and arrows given him by Hercules. In the process. He IS «better" than this for his newly educated heart knows that he ha~ no recourse but to sacrifice personal honor for a sacred duty. Odysseus has come to Lemnos on a mission: they are to bring back from exile a man the Greeks abandoned many years ago because they could not bear the sight. Phi/Deletes. he recognizes in the throes of pain the obliteration of those attributes we call human. with a fervent affirmation of future triumphs. and when he confronts the horror of suffering. Like Achilles. devis~ by Odysseu. F.the ~erolC eXls~ence. he becomes a spectator viewing the tragedy of man's condlt~on. Now. Achilles. Philoctetes has a festering wound. Accompanied by Achilles' son. it has been prophesied that the Greeks cannot win their war without the assistance of the man abandoned by Odysseus on the island of Lemnos. In a sense. he is no longer the understanding. Watling (London: Penguin. and sound of his physical pain. p. A Study of Heroic Humanism.. trans. The rest of the plot is left to cunning Odysseus. the latter part being given over to a discussion between Odysseus and Agamemnon on whether such a man should receive formal burial rites. in order for the Greeks to secure final victory. E. the abandoned man used the great bow merely to shoot the creatures necessary to his sustenance. 204. and the ~ppearance o~ Her~ules. however. 22 10 11 . Odysseus. In obedient duty to the prophecy. True heroism will be regained by both. He sacrifices his own cherished ambition of glory to make up for his s~ameful ~onduct . p. Ajax in Electra and Other Plays. the older.umscribed world of the contemplative life. '" Sophocles. Philoct. 64. the wily parlementarian provides Agamemnon with a new definition of kingliness: "Here you have a chance to rule/By being overruled. The renunciation of his future glory to atone f~r his past misconduct shows a nobility of soul which surpasses even that his father showed when he. as the result of the youth's sacrifice. the locus of his greatest solitude but also the ci~c. 138.. wiser man is his guide. He has been content with survival. the result of a snake bite incurred on the occasion of his visit to the temple of the goddess Chryse. Neoptolemusis to tell Philoctetes that he is homeward bound."19 The death of the protagonist cleaves the play in twain. but deceit does not come with ease to this young man. Ajax's erstwhile enemy argues in favor of the latter. adds a new dimension to the nobility of his great f~ther." For Brodsky. the subsidiary character becomes at that instant the protagonist of the play.s. Only at the end will the tragedy become once again the story of Philoctetes.s a shift in Sophocles' view of the heroic code. Neoptolemus. Up to now. his particular manhood which is the proud VIr1h~yof Achilles' son. His unimpeachable ancestry and extreme youth render him the perfect instrument for Odysseus' purpose. but the youth is appalled by the disloyal act he is to do. smell._tes '. fighting side by sl~e With his new friend. he lives by the aristocratic code. "his own life streaming from his eyes/in search of Hector. self-controlled realist we admire in Ajax. Odysseus. but with Philoctetes' tender farewell to the island of Lemnos.by the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky in 1961. p. 1954).t'P When Odysseus reappears in Sophocles' Philoctetes. and a clear image o~ self-worth. the sick warnor Will travel With Neoptolemus to Troy where his malady is to be cure? by ~scl~pios. Neoptolernus could have combined Odysseus' cunning and h~s ?wn fat?er's wrath to walk away with the great bow and a captured victim. See note 20. This late play of Sophocles does not end. "Ajax stands near the center of the world order. 64. The latter were given instead to Odysseus. the agreement entered into with Odysseus must be broken. For all these years.lar~. Now. no longer able to be an actor in the charade " Sophocles. Neoptolemus passes irrevocably from the state of Y?~~h into that of manhood. 21 Yet. H: will bring victory to the Achaians.yielded to old Priam's plea and gave up the body of Hector for burial. having left the Greeks who offended him in refusing to let him have his father's arms. Bernard Knox explains: Neoptolemus' ~ecision.

'?' His thesis is that the epic character could n?t step. Oedipus says: Or do you dread My strength? my actions? I think not. Whitman's statement that "the real ancestor of tragedy IS t~e epic. 65. 65. p.'?' Thus. reflects the precarious equilibrium between life and death which is forfeited by the active hybris of Achilles and passive hybris of Agamemnon. Noles and Counter . Robert Fitzger1939). . which.ou.. not the superhuman valor and might which set h~m o!f fro~ the rest of us who eat the bread of earth. comedy the wild and careless. it is history gazing beyond history toward the deepest truth. but my story and our story-my truth. the ragged Oedipus at Colonus does not doubt that he Will be well received by Theseus and his people since he can teach contentment. Notes (New York: Grove Press. It is in the nature of a dramatic masterpiece to provide a superior pattern of instruction: it reflects my own image. L Gerald F. no~ in his o~n name b~t m that of the personality he was putting on With his traveler s cap. Oedipus at Colon ald (New York: Harcourt Brace. drinks.drifting planets for rebirth into the world of violence. it is a mirror.?" If one accepts E~se's view then one. fighting for his honor and his Ideal. makes love to Calypso and Circe without forgetting for one moment that he is due home. or Oedipus.'?" This line Of. Else. p. not to be explained. war-peace. bringing with him his speeches. The wedded lover. explaining: "I bring advantage to this race..'?" with. p. indeed. bring to Athens? We can use Oedipus' own words: "These things are mysteries.the dlffer~nce that the focus of drama is not on action but on the hero's suffering. 1964). an actor. it is a comic success. urging them to unite for the recapture of the island of Salami~.lscours. once a great king. Private woe may be hard to bear.tragedy began as a self presentation of a single epic hero. With Cedric H. (Scene . using Aristotle's term from ~he Poetics. his bones spiritualize the sacred spot where he Will recel~e b~nal. his awareness of himself as hero.':" The hero/anti-hero dialectic is one of the basic manifestations of the opposition between the tragic and the comic. a belief in survival. There is an irony implicit in the hero's choice since his success is also his undoing.d showing us a being whose suffering teaches the rest ofhumamty t ragot os .. whose passive presence transforms life arou~ 1m. d hi ft endurance. who rejects traditional hypotheses of the birth of tragedy as the end result of gradual development. based on antinomic symbols of light-darkness. The consciousness of these polar modes is embodied in the balance between The Iliad and The Odyssey. it is not history that (Shakespeare) shows me. 65. is the Mediterranean wanderer as homme " Sophocles. In Solon. As Albert Cook points out in The Dark Voyage and the Golden Mean. but lending it "wider extension. independent of my 'times' and in the spectrum of a time which transcends Time.. See note " See note as See note 20 See note ZI See note 14. 28. p. t?e ". a. on w~at Gerald F. Thousand Faces (New York: Meridian.' as..n from "Solon's awareness of himself in relation to others who are not himself. Campbell. 12 13 . s~~gests that the ge?re IS based on Solon's self-dramatization of his political role as mediator. Since all I have done was suffering. In discussing tragedy and comedy. hero-king. Homer defines the conflict between man's submission to his mortality. Addressing the Chorus. cruelty. a hero reborn without dying. but that which alhes him With us: death.. trans. p. pp. 14. 14. 14. is the first anti-hero. Through Hector and Achilles.e is that of Athenians of the Sixth century who could respond to an Immediate socio-political context. VII). p. and he asks for sanctuary. society-individual. 71. the ingenuous adulterer who eats. repeats a universal and inexorable truth . [58. the 20 0: product of suffering and time. ambivalences unknown to the forthright epic mode. the concept of heroism might have arise. Oedipus at Colonus. suffering. Thus ". the Iliad's tragic structure. it is soulsearching. could say that the seeds of the anti-hero are present in the hero of AttIC tragedy. not his success but hIS failure. Else sees a p~edecessor o~ Sophocles. 65."?' or we can draw on Eugene Ionesco's explication of the message of Shakespeare's Richard II: " . 1956). strife.t of his frame. but that the tragic hero s d. 18. S~phocles tragic vision reveals the complexities of the heroic code. a poet-statesman who put on madness ill the Athem~ marketplace to harangue his fello. er death. Else calls his pathos. Ionesco. p. According to the author of The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy. mortality..?" What advantage can this eyeless beggar. more ~o~cretely... as that of Achilles. not action. Thus.?" Else would not agree. Joseph Campbell states: "Tragedy is the shattering of the forms of our attachment to the forms.argument brmgs. p. above all. The Hero with a us (Scene H) in The Oedipus Cycle. m relation to others who are not heroes. 31·32. ~hose to depict "not the hero's life but his death. Else to conclude that the creator of tragoidia. 96. Odysseus who escapes from the dangers of war by craft and. inexhaustible joy of life invincible. the tragic and the comic epic poems of Homer. and his yearning for immortality. but how much weightier is the load the man who enters his society to alter the course of events. The success of Odysseus is not self-destructive. . the poet-mterpreter Thes~ls.:" citizen~.

19. and in The Art of Greek Comedy. The Bi~ds reveals Aristophanes' feelings in regard to dreams of conquest. Thus.: Princeton Univ. set his house in order. rides a Dung Beetle up to th~ heavens in order to snatch from Zeus the Goddess Peace. J. The sterile copulation of the principles of darkness formed a WInd egg whence issued an airy throng. Odysseus may prove to be a man of easy enterprises. the triumphant bunglers of the co~mc dramatist are larger than life. p. 14 15 . The divine rule of otherness is Pisthetaerus. lascivious. Albert COOk. despite its tragic implications. universal breadth. Subsequent parenthetically in the text. Odysseus is jeered at by Penelope's noble suitors.':" Albert Cook reminds us that both Aristotle and Longinus see in The Odyssey a comedy of manners. 1949). 1956). water-rails. armed with sanity and imagination. a passionate realist who must. "the cosmogonic content" of The. as William Bedell Stanford points out in his Ambiguities in Greek Literature. that zone of free beings. He will defeat the latter with the ease of one who has acquired in his wanderings deep knowledge of suffering coupled with a healthy obsession with concrete. of nocturnal explorations and attacks. Press. Cedric H. Odysseus is represented wearing the pilos. when war with thePe!oponnesus appeared endless. N. the only sanguine expectancy arising from the sailing of the fleet to Syracuse.a hero. . the savior of his people leaps into the center of the social cosmos. The germ less egg. the falsely beautiful) have helped him achieve a personal unity of being. an epic written in what Northrop Frye calls "the low mimetic mode. The man who dwelt with the witch Circe. disguised as a broken down tramp. giving up his life to safeguard the survival of his society.. Four Essays (Princeton. Birds. the humorous situations. lazy throng of rivals for Penelope's hand. The Trojans. a fool's cap). '" Oxford: Basil Blockwell. Press. 53)."36 Such a pattern can be discerned in all of Aristophanes' extant comedies whether the protagonist." has become the ruler of both worlds-the kingdom of the dead and the human planet. The hero of comedy battles to create a rational world." and the shaman Calypso. or plunges l~to the abyss led by a chorus of swan-frogs. Repeated confrontations with non-being in all its deceptive forms (the monstrous. "a grotesque. cranes. more ancient than the Ol~mpian gods. and "the identification of (the latter) with all the phenomena of life.. I~ The Birds.-nstophanes.sensuel moyen. the romantic episodes. water fowl erect in the Between. "a family man returning to sexual union and the social power of his home kingdom. The mask of the scapegoat falls. ' To approach the enigma of Aristophanes' comic universe a cosmic dance of questio~s whirling to the silent music of the spheres: one must explore what Whitman calls "the anatomy of nothingness" (p. ·171)..34. the comic protagonist of Aristophanes Is. Katherine Lever states: "The Odyssey. (in) verbal subtlety'?' than in force of arms. but they deal with . every-day living. but. the comic hero leaps into the heart of chaos. a Man-Bird-Deity who grows wings at the end of the ~ Cambridge: Harvard Univ. references will appear p. It is this outward foolishness. yields the supreme Joke of an absurd anti-world. a Philosophy of Comedy (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. 98." gives the playa "suprapolitical. p. . it is not so in :. 1964. and opposite.. it in different ways. The protagonist of tragedy defines his individual code of behavior in regard to ~he nearness of death. which makes of The Iliad's alazon the hero of The Odyssey. the wily general puts greater trust "in weapons of subterfuge and deceit.first anti-hero."?' Back in his kingdom in Ithaca. Whitman points out in his Aristophanes and the Comic Hero that we are dealing with a metaphysical poet whose constructs are metaphors of reality. appealing fellow. " The Ar! of Greek Comedy (London: Methuen. however. Anatomy of Criticism. rowdy. take him for a fool. Both the tragic and the comic hero confront the absurdity of the world. who extends ~ne hand toward the blacker recesses of the psyche and the other toward the divine world of perfect supremacy and freedom" (p. 165. p. goat-like man could be an orator till they hear him speak. 1939. HIS comedy proclaims that what men consider momentous is nought as compared to sublime nonsense' it rises above civil neuroses to sing the winged ruler of a floating Acropolis built by creatures ~hat bring humans the much sought knowledge of omens.. Composed in 414 B: C. "the hawk. . Press. If nothing Comes of nothing for Lear. (In a vase painting. a symbol of the void. and the awareness drawn from the rich chaos of the seas. his hand does not shake when he strings the great bow to rid his realm of the decadent.?" As a warrior. excessive in their passions and driven by visionary impulses. inh~blted by a race brought to the shores of light by the conjunction of Night and ~haos. is essentially comic in character and technique: the crafty hero. and the structure with its repeated obstacles successfully overcome. unable to grasp that this short. reborn into kingliness.. "the concealer. an anti-society where men will be instructed in the meaning of unlike. If he has played the fool. The Dark Voyage and the Golden Mean. Thus. If O~ysseus is the . the satyr's stance changes to the hero's straightness. it was the better to fool his enemies. He brings to Ithaca the life-giving gifts of civilized order. storks. Proclaiming a JOYous lawlessness. Like Sophocles' protagonists. 1957). however. He is the embodiment of human intelligence able to cope with destiny.or Homer's demi-gods. 183. p. a Cloud-Cuckoo-Land rises between earth and sky.

Dionysus should declare that he is taking back with him not the "clever fellow. the Athenians. The Frogs testifies to Aristophanes' apocalyptic vision. simple courage. if only by initiation. The Frogs reflects the uneasiness of Athens after the crushing defeat in Sicily. are a reminder of his exile from the Sacred Way. In fact Robert W. but the Dionysus of Aristophanes is a deity afflicted with human frailties. Nor will he be punished for transgression like Prometheus. The comic dramatist suggests that if the city is to be saved it can be done only by means of the joint efforts of a poet with the serene. but Euripides. indignant at th~ c:ime of neglect. with the Eleusi~nian mysteri~s. In order to avert losing his celebrants. disjointed at first. middle-class society in which individualism had replaced the hierarchical system based on an established cosmic order. the poet-dramatist Aeschylus. 7. In Aristophanes' play he is also shown as a forgiving person. to Euripides. later made use of his troops to protect the procession of the mystic Iacchus being conveyed from Athens 17 "Introduction" Dell. Dion~" sus was the ruling deity of the festival. committed in tum violent injustice. survival is at stake. and the oldfashioned "classic" whose ponderous language. even cow" ardly incarnation of Dionysus. followed as it was by the trial of the generals accused of having failed to order in.play to enter a universe created in the image of his fantasy. the god of dramatic enactment is to wrest from Hades the greatest teacher-preacher the people ever had. the community of Athens. Why did the dramatist turn Dionysus into a comic protagonist? Did this not smack of sacrilege? The conventions of comic drama allowed for certain gods and minor demigods to appear as figures. but an anti-heroic god. C. Like poets and madmen. . so that Dionysus must opt between the clever Euripides. yet made of the tragedy of Xerxes the argumen t of The Persians. Logic would seem to dictate the choice of the modern writer whose untraditional approach to matters of religion and morality had shocked and delighted his fellow citizens. of the mutilation of the Hermae. shows man doomed to defeat. and obscure metaphors appeared outmoded fifty years after his death. the protagonist of The Birds defeats confusion by embracing it. Hippolytus. Alcestis.":" one who like Adamov and Samuel Beckett perceives the basic futility of human endeavor. who died a few months before the performance of The Frogs and shortly after the news of Euripides' own death in Macedonia had reached Athens. Driven to the brink of despair after thirty years of war. and a weighing of their respective lines of poetry. could it not be because the young man who stood accused in 415 B.time the rescue of the drown" ing crews of twenty-five sunken Athenian vessels. ending for some with a hero's death. the divinity who sets out on the arduous path of initiation in The Frogs is a hybrid. but. but slowly reachieving civic coherence through a journey into the unknown" (p. If Dionysus seems to favor the recall of Alcibiades. is armed with the stalwart virtues essential in troubled times. Pisthetaerus may be a grotesque human grown to heroic proportions. ethical vision of a traditionalist. 1965). to transcend their condition. as Sophocles also. As a recent arrival among the shades. they require wisdom. enthroned and sanctified. a divinity in search of his own and the city's salvation. the comic god triumphs over the king of deities. but the stumbling quest of the second brings us back to the shifting relations between mas" ters and slaves. m a complex way. we see the success of the conquering hero. His mythical water crossing under the leadership of Charon." but "the good man. A quality of dejection suffuses the wildest outbursts of humor in The Frogs. Cedric Whitman reminds his readers that Dionysus was not only the god of the dramatic ritual.IS carefully "built around the development of Dionysus. for instead of bringing fire down to earth. Medea. gods and humans. Even the victory of Arginusae did not restore self-confidence. and the instruction in rowing he receives from the Frogswans." Men have no need of cleverness when. Written six months before the submission of Athens. p. following a mock-agon between Aeschylus and Euripides. he teaches men to rise above their planet. are a parody of the heroic voyage. Watching the progress of the first. By being joined to Basilea who makes lightning for Zeus. hesitant. but "a deity affiliated. be it a clown-hero. The play . Aristophanes shows his audience not merely a human anti-hero. c. 234). The wanderings of Dionysus. Sophocles does not qualify for resurrection.. and the profanation of the Eleusinian mysteries. The Bacchae (New York: 17 . a sense of justice. slow-moving plots. In Pluto's realm Dionysus meets with Sophocles. The Dionysus of The Frogs is a dethroned deity embarked upon a sear~h for a society long dead. and of his threatened 16 situation in a polis where theatre might no longer be able to continue existing. sapping the very pnn~lples of their Primary Assembly. the supreme anarchist. . The soldier who fought the Mede at Marathon. who represents. 232).of fun. one who would give Alcibiades a second chance. and the modern dramatist went even further in exploring what we call today the absurdity of man's condition: suffering for the living. Corrigan goes so far as to call Euripides "the world's first 'absurdist' playwright. . If the protagonist of The Birds becomes a rival of the gods. It is not surprising then that. and the daring controversial general. The lessons of Aeschylus are rooted in the development of democratic institutions. the citizen of an urban. the greatest of Athenian cults and the only one which dealt specl~" cally with the eschatological fortunes of the soul" (p. Produced at the Lenaia of 405 B.

1964). but. i8 19 . but to keep the unlikelihood of it all alive. the master and the servant exchange clothing. the question of the slaves' status had come to a head. an androgynous figure. 156). See note 36. at the entrance to Hades. The ironic implications do not escape those who have been made to witness the cowardice of Dionysus in his encounter with the beastwoman Ernpusa. Finally. Xanthias: Whichever of us squeals first or even bats an eyelid isn't a god at al1. trans. he is indistinguishable from his slave. and the deity's humiliation in his test of physical courage. Dionysus yields Hercules' lion skin to his servant when he realizes that the demigod has not been forgiven for his throttling of the poor. Before the battle of Arginusae. 179. A previously strictly structured society was thrown out of balance. See note 36. he had to be brought to Eleusis by sea. Aristophanes does not shirk this duty. the divine judge of the dead. By yielding his lion skin which he wears over his priest's robe. Xanthias. Let's be consistent and forgive the others (p. Long wars had sapped the body politic. as teacher of the people. According to Whitman. p. to complete the inverted image of society where nothing is any longer what it is supposed to be. And not only Aeacus. No wonder then that The Frogs dramatizes the shifting relations between masters and slaves. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically. 239. p. Aristophanes suggests that the best way to secure loyalty is to give all good men full rights as citizens. 182). revolving as it did around the definition of what constitutes true citizenship. But if we're going to treat these men as brothers. Because Dionysus issues from . Uncertainty was part and parcel of the Athens of Cleophon. Aeacus waves both in. exiled from the Sacred Way. No. like Xanthias hereNot that I disagree with the decision. experts in godliness since they are "gods themselves" (p. In The Frogs. As the gates to the Underworld open. 181). unable to tell the god from the slave. As Cedric Whitman explains: The recognition of Dionysus by Pluto could scarcely have made good comic material.to Eleusis along the Sacred Way. a comic version of the Greek mysteries of atonement which solemnized the renewal of the cycles of nature. leaving the process of identification to Pluto and Persephone. no.?" The whipping scene could be interpreted as a mock rite de passage imposed on Dionysus-Dithyrambos. a possible reminder of the time when. 181). but does it seem quite right. It was the task of the poet. Hades' gatekeeper. freedom had been promised to slaves. The trial of '" Aristophanes. yes. they erred. . to provide guidance. A funny bit of slapstick stage business is achieved when.. Clearly. Sexual ambiguities deepen societal ones as Dionysus. thus reestablishing the practice he had helped to destroy when he encouraged the Spartans to occupy Decelea? But what of the Dionysus of The Frogs? Is he the mystic deity of the Greater Dionysia? He appears as a wanderer guided in his mythical water-crossing by Charon and the croaking of the Frogswans. traditionally a male-female deity. The Frogs. Above all. Comic ambiguity is one of Aristophanes' cherished devices. Athens' last victory in the Pelopponesian wars. p. Far from being a proud deity." Whipped by Aeacus. and nowhere is this more clearly displayed than in The Frogs. by disguising the reality of suffering. it can be seen as a step on the hero's path to the psychic zone of the unknown from which he must wrest his new identity. the Leader declares: Oh.. himself the slave of Pluto. three-headed Cerberus. he turns Aeacus too into a slave. testified to the deep malaise of the times.38 the generals. The test of endurance is suggested by Xanthias who is to be flogged as well. but also Zeus has been transformed into a slave. that of having to prove he is a master and a god by enduring the pain of whipping without flinching. they open themselves to further punishment. Aristophanes stages the parallel unmasking of Xanthias. Dionysus puts himself in an ambiguous position. 239. instead. it showed intelligence and vision. however. Since it takes place at the Underworld's gate. Xanthias and Dionysus must find excuses to account for their squirming and moaning. the recognition scene forms "a skillful transition between the role-changing of the first part and the slow discovery of the true poet in the second. When slaves who helped us in a single fight Now vote besides our allies from Plataea And put on masters' clothes. so do the floodgates of doubt. Addressing the misguided souls who paid heed to Phrynicus (one of the leaders of the oligarchical revolution of 411) and were disenfranchised when democracy was restored in 410. and to resident aliens citizenship for services rendered in the state of emergency. David Barrett (London: Penguin. is shown in the playas wearing Herac1es' lion skin over his priestly robes which "resemble a woman's garment" (p. a vaudeville act which is parallelled in our time by the passing of bowler hats in Waiting for Godot. through the Leader of the chorus he states that it is essential to "pardon and forget" (p. little.

.42 The attempt to disengage the values of heroism from temporality is an absurd enterprise. the people's tragic bard.their d~ed of valor. inclined goat path that leads to the summit of an arid mountain. his strength from tenderness for man's vulnerability. he is a Common man of the comic. . a disenchantment with simple solutions. the creator par excellence.een in the last plays of SOP?. to transcend both life and death. not death-bearing. The latter results from the anti-hero's feeling that he is no different from anyone else. Spirits of the darkness. that of the unborn infant maturing in his father's thigh. for a kind of stasis. and often to himself. " See note 31. the linearity of existential progression is altered. he embodies in his person the interplay of the female forces of life creation. he is closer to Shiva than most Western gods. sweet-smelling country lane. and a respect for human life. The latter accepts life and the process of change instead of struggling against nature and his nature.·. there emerges the ~gure of the anti-hero. If the hero pursues his image through an ever-receding chain of Becoming. and metaphysical reality-but also healthy humor.· 1 'r . or a nation led by an inspired. in order to perform the ceremony of incorporation. aiming for enduring qualities. in the context . 20 21 .· . Thus. What we have s. If this seems to denote passivity. of the play. but also the growing wisdom of a civilization. J' fI . Symbolically this is achieved when Pluto offers the pair a drink of mead. He believes with Montaigne that virtue must not necessarily be sought on the narrow. Whether he is called Odysseus. acquiring the aspect of a circular. the union with the father figure of Aeschylus can be interpreted in psychoanalytic terms as a true return to the young god's original state. I. as an anti-hero. The chorus of the comic frogs has been silenced as the play ends with the mystic chant of the initiates. . :. resignation.. ~. As the racing motion of an ideal pursuit slows down. the true Zeus is all-important for the rebirth of Dionysus and. The choice of the father. Heroes.estroyed by time. (p. Aristophanes' transformation of the myth would not fail to strike his audience. It has to do with an awareness of the dangers that envelop all power divorced from self-sacrifice. through him. s?metlT~es ruthless. Semele. that he shares in the general human condition. 147. Dionysus can be seen as the son in search of a spiritual father. If he appears at times ridiculous to others. Berenger.· ·I·~·:·'!. Aristophanes' Dionysus operates as an anti-god. while progressing along a grassy. he is doomed to lose himself.·· ·.. Besides. or Aristophanes can be applied to Shakespeare.ocles. shady. or Simply their ardor. the heroic project. p. leader is necessarily short-lived. Yet. and surface as a twin-deity. if they surVive. Before he can fuse with this figure. and. or tragicomic mode. it is because of the abyss which separates Corneille ella dialectique du heros (Paris: Galli- " I am indebted to Serge Doubrovsky. courage and justice. Moliere .. Pierre Bezukhov. the hero grounds his values in Being. Speed him on his way. if woman is associated with flux and time. Safely may he journey To the light of day.: $········ ~:: Often it reveals a certain bitterness. are d. the creator. The shift reveals an awareness of the complexities of ethical choice. Thus.• 1 . of illusions. the savior of the city. Gogo and Didi. To the City's counsels May he wisdom lend. Panurge. heroes and nations are undone by aging. by the very fact of having outlived their usefulness. "the coming of the forms of time out of eternity is the germinal secret of the father. self-contained universe of fossilized attitudes. mard. his plight is not unlike that of Alice in Through the Looking Glass when. . the essence of life. sunny meadow. 212) The synthesis Aristophanes effects between hero and anti-hero marks a turning point in our occidental awareness of this particular dialectic. whether of a noble individual. led by The Red Queen. Nor is the passage from hero to anti-hero a moden phenomenon since we can identify it in classical literature. More female than male in all his reactions. he must be humbled into sharing the puny humanity of his slave Xanthias. yet. I i ·· I . Thus. he must endure the pain of being mortal.. patient waiting. ~. There are no aged heroes as Corneille demonstrates in Le Cid. or simply non-living. the anti-heroic protagonist of The Frogs must fuse with the virile soldier-poet. stony. There is of course a good measure of irony implicit in this objective way of seeing one's role in society-wisdom permeates the awareness of the dichotomy between the world of appearances.the East. but that it can be culled in a fertile. It is important to recall that the Dionysus of Greek mythology visited the Underworld for the purpose of wresting from it his mother. his nobility comes from endurance.':" In The Frogs. however. and the male power to destroy. If. death. 1963). or an individual. of the city of Athens. she has to move as fast as she can simply to stay in the same spot. Corneille. it is not negative. Then of war and suffering There shall be an end.· the potion of eternal life. Only then will the ceremony of incorporation be complete.. engulfed in the dark shadows of the process of entropy.. the ability to sustain hope.

in Mozarabic Spanish there must have been thousands more. the man with the Arabic title (Cid = Lord) was no religious fanatic. as whole as we were before. it had little intellectual competition. for three or four centuries. While the rest of Europe was experiencing the Carolingian renascence. We have no way of knowing. Hlt~er. the sons. In Spain classical written Arabic virtually replaced church Latin and Biblical Hebrew as the language of learning.." Beckett's heroes of eternal resignation and choiceless awareness. of his society. naive expression under all his disguises: the comic Oedipus afflicted by the complex that bears his name in Cocteau's La machine infernale. on the contrary." The only test we have learned to apply to fellow human beings is whether we could entrust them with our lives." And the difference is undoubtedly traceable. exactly how Latin culture survived in southern Spain from the eighth. the more odious they are. was culturally subordinated to the brilliant intellectual creativity of the Arabic Caliphate of Cordova. and reduced their taxes. eventually took root in Castile. fostered by crusading French monks in northern Spain. as Unamuno. but many thousands were converted to Islam. He may assume varied aspects. and return us to ourselves. Hence the thousands of Arabic words even in Castilian Spanish. But the Latin alphabet was not used for writing Arabic. Paradoxically. . that is. (And there were many Spanish words in Andalusian Arabic). Our feelings are those Voltaire voiced to Frederick the Great: "I do not Iike heroes. though in Hebrew characters.mass. they make too much noise in the world. Elias L. . Ortega y Gasset and Americo Castro have each argued in different ways. from the inside. learned to read and write Classical Arabic at school. and Dostoyevsky's "underground man. Ours is the age of the anti-hero. murder we no longer admire the heroic dreams of mad tyrants. the Ubus of our age. which gave them access to Arabic schools. The cult of the Christian hero.his efforts to retain a modest humanity from the bestiality of his surroundings. Latin Christendom was Semiticized. of theology and science. a brother of Kafka's Joseph K. A few Christians did deliberately seek martyrdom. and bilingualchildren. the Mozarabic kharjas. yet with the added knowledge that we need not be alone. clumsily. OUf earliest Spanish literary text written in the Latin alphabet is the Poema de mio Cid. anticipating the Latin scholasticism of Europe north of the Pyrenees. Rivers THE ANTI-HERO IN SPAIN "Spain is different. But we do know that the Visigothic or Mozarabic church. like the Sephardic Hebrew community. Ionesco's hero in spite of himself. the "absurd man" of Camus. to the peculiar structure of Spanish history and culture. Even Maimonides wrote Arabic. Islam in the East had absorbed Greek science and philosophy. The more radiant their glory. Arabic and Hebrew characters were used. But as everyone knows who has compared Ruy Dlaz de Vivar with Roland. who would never have taken Valencia from the Moors if he had not been exiled by his king and obliged to support his men by fighting. In a society ruled by mass production. Visigothic Spain had been converted into a vital part of Islam.to the twelfth century. if lucky. He was a family man. the new hero is the anti-hero for he would hold our existence as a precious gift. in the West. an Arabic-speaking father. This gives some indication of how. 23 22 . for transcribing the earliest known fragments of Romance lyric poetry. in Spain. Stahn. in many ways akin to both Zhivago and Ivan Denissovich. We can imagine in a typical home a Spanishspeaking (Mozarabic) mother. mass consumption and . he saw battle essentially as a bread-winning activity ("como se gana el pan"). Under such circumstances there could be no cult of the Christian hero. while the daughters tended to merge the two vernaculars. nor did he take unnecessary risks in battles or duels. but we recognize his sweet.


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