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the name of Ion's mother. Jealous and indignant, she confides to the servant her intention to poison the youth with some of the Gorgon's blood which she possesses, when he is beneath her roof; but the servant points out she will certainly be suspected, a step-dame's hate is proverbial.' So she entrusts him with the poison to infuse secretly into Ion's goblet after supper. In the midst of a choral ode, an attendant enters hastily in quest of Creusa, saying the plot has failed, the old man is arrested and has confessed, and the Delphian authorities are in pursuit of her. The Chorus elicit from the messenger that an ill omen having been uttered as Ion was about to drink, he poured his wine on the ground, and a dove that drank some of it died in convulsions, which led to the discovery. Creusa now returns; she has been doomed to death by the Pythian Conncil, and Ion is to be her executioner. Clasping the altar, she appeals for life, but is told,
'Ill becomes it that the unjust
And just alike should seek protection there.'
The old prophetess, however, who tended Ion as an infant, produces the basket and embroidered clothes in which he was found, and Creusa claims them as her work. She em. braces her long-lost son, and acknowledges that Apollo is his father. Minerva comes forward and explains the reasons for the concealment, bidding Creusa seat her son on his grandsire's throne, with a prediction of the fortunes of the Ionian race, and that she shall be the mother of another son by Xuthus, from whom will descend their rivals the Dorians.
AFTER an exciting and agitating tragedy, it was the Greek custom to calm and sooth the audience with a cheerful and ironical piece, designated satyric drama; of which this play is a sample.
The Homeric story of Ulysses and the Cyclops was of course as familiar as it was popular. Polyphemus enters, made up as a giant, with one enormous eye, and a stentorian voice, whilst his man Silenus and his companions were probably caricatures of Socrates and other philosophers. The Cyclops has been hunting on Mount Etna, and calls lustily for his dinner. Discovering that something unusual has happened in his absence, he threatens to beat Silenus, until he rains tears, unless he promptly explains. Then his eye lights on the strangers, and he observes bruises and stripes on his servant, who declares he has been beaten in defence of his master's goods. On hearing this Polyphemus declares he will eat the rascals. In vain Ulysses assures him he has not touched Silenus, but that he purchased some lambs for wine, as the lying fellow's nose will vouch, and as the Chorus, who intervene, assert to be the truth. You lie, exclaims the giant, I believe this old fellow's story. For a while, however, he forgets his hunger, and insists upon Ulysses giving him a full account of himself. He conceals his name, but tells his adventures as one of the chiefs from Troy, and attempts to appease his host by professing that he, and his companions, are all worshippers of Neptune, and have built the god many temples in Greece. A fig for your temples and gods,' replies the monster, 'the wise worship nothing except wealth; I have a weather-proof cave for my flocks, and care as little as they do for Jupiter; in short,
I will not cheat my soul of its delight,
Ulysses begins to feel that this is the worst dilemma he was ever in, and recounts some of his previous escapes. Then the Chorus sing how the giant demolishes his human prey,
'He roasts the men before they are cold,
Ulysses returns and relates that he has seen Polyphemus in
his kitchen, piling three waggon-loads of oak on the hearth, filling an enormous bowl with the milk of his cows' setting a huge pot on the fire, and heating several spits; after which he seized two of the Ithacans, dashed out their brains, and then boiled one and roasted the other, whilst he, Ulysses, was compelled to minister to the monster. He left him talking of sharing his wine with some brother giants; and he now comes in, shouting to the stranger to bring the cask. Silenus, however, persuades him to enjoy his potations alone, and he so far relents towards Ulysses as to ask his name, and to promise to eat him last. My name is 'Nobody,' Ulysses tells him, and plies him so well with wine that he is soon sound asleep, when the travellers, seizing the pointed trunk of an olive tree heated in the fire, thrust it into the eye of the insensible barbarian, whilst the Chorus sing an appropriate and encouraging accompaniment to the operation. Rousing up in pain and fury, the giant strives to bar the way and catch them as they make their escape, but he only strikes his head against the rocky walls, or is misguided by the Chorus, who taunt him that 'Nobody' has blinded him, and therefore no one is to blame.
Ulysses now tells his real name to the baffled monster, who confesses that an ancient oracle foretold that he would lose his sight by the hero's hand, but adds that it predicted also that he should pay the penalty by a long wandering over the homeless sea.
Of the other plays of Euripides, several contain some beautiful poetry, and some effective scenes; but they were either written for special occasions, or relate entirely to the politics of the day; and, consequently, none of them are sufficiently national in plot or allusions to be interesting to a modern general reader.
DIED B.C. 406.
HIS poet was contemporary with the two dramatists whose plays have already been noticed; but he was
many years younger than Æschylus, and his tragedies bear the impress of the gradual transition of Greek thought from a blind belief in destiny to the doctrine of divine retribution, with the consequent substitution of human sympathies and affections, as the springs of action, for the wild conceptions and exaggerated passions portrayed by his older competitor. He also more fully developed the musical accessories of the stage.
EDIPUS THE KING.
No fiction was ever conceived more horrible than the plot of this play, a man slaying his father, and marrying his mother; and yet, as worked up by Sophocles, it was considered by Aristotle the master-piece of tragedy.
Laius, King of Thebes, having no child by his wife Jocasta, appeals to the oracle at Delphi, and is told that a son shall be born to him, but that he will die by his hand. To avert this calamity his mother exposes the infant in the
wilderness; but a shepherd carries him to Polybus, King of Corinth, whose wife, being also childless, adopted the foundling, and he grows up in the belief that he is heir to Polybus. Thirty years afterwards Laius makes another pilgrimage to Delphi, and on his way home is slain by an unknown hand. Creon succeeds him, but his reign is brief, for the Sphinx, a monster combining a woman's face, a bird's wings, and the tail and claws of a lion, had proposed a riddle which no Theban could solve, and the life of a citizen was the penalty for each failure. Creon offered the crown, and the hand of Jocasta, to whoever would unravel the mystery. Edipus comes from Corinth, and, on hearing the riddle, which was, 'A being with four feet has two feet and three feet and only one voice; but its feet vary, and when it has most it is weakest; he at once interpreted it thus:
'Man it is thou hast described, first as a babe, four-footed creeping his way; then in old age as a third foot he useth his staff.'
He is accordingly made king, and by Jocasta, not knowing she is his mother, has sons and daughters. Heaven and earth are silent for a generation, and then bear joint witness against him. Pestilence smites the cattle, mildew blights the products of the earth, and children die at their birth. The gods are appealed to in vain, and, in the opening scene of the play, a throng of citizens are seated before the palace with laurel and olive branches, the emblems of supplication, in their hands. Edipus tells them he has already sent Creon to consult the oracle at Delphi, and the late king brings back the answer that the murderer of Laius must be found and punished ere the troubles of the people will cease. Edipus undertakes the discovery, and threatens the most terrible vengeance on the perpetrator of the crime. He consults Tiresias, the old blind soothsayer, who declares him to be the culprit, upon which he taxes Creon with instigating the prophecy, a charge which the Chorus support him in disavowing. Edipus is confident in his own innocence, until the queen mentions that the murder took place at a spot where three ways meet. Then he relates how, on his way from Corinth, he was pushed aside