Euripides: Hippolytos, lust and helplessness

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Sam M says:

    “…the deranging, crippling, and devastating effects of unfulfilled sexual and romantic desire seem strangely absent in contemporary drama.”

    Maybe. But they see, like just about the only things covered on television, especially the sitcoms. How I Met Your Mother? 30 Rock? The Office? Everything else?

    If you are talking about “drama” in the hour-long non-comedy format… I dunno. There’s not much of it left. But Grey’s Anatomy? House? Bones? I don’t watch them, but it seems like “the devastating effects of unfillfilled sexual desire” is the entire focus of such shows.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Okay, that’s probably right. It occurs to me that I must be pretty uninformed about television dramas since I’ve never seen any of the dramatic shows you mention. Actually, yeesh, I don’t even think I’ve watched any of those comedies either. I seem to be the only person I know who has the attention span for books, but not a half-hour television show.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      I’m not familiar with Grey’s anatomy, but in House, Bones, and other hour-long dramas that I watch, the “devastating effects of unfulfilled sexual and romantic desire” are generally presented in a comedic light.

      Really, I think what we’re seeing is a shift in attitudes. Where once, unfulfilled longing was seen as a matter of grand tragedy, now it’s just laughably pathetic. When Phaedra can’t get laid, we’re meant to empathize with the curse she’s under. When Booth and Brennan can’t get laid, we’re meant to shake our heads and wonder how two people who are so smart at crime solving are so dumb at life.Report

      • Avatar Sam M says:

        I see your point. Those shows do appear to offer a mix of comedy and drama. But “Lost” certainly had enormous elements of what what Rufus is talking about here. So did “ER.” Even on the ubiquitous cop procedurals, where the main characters are sort of neutered, there’s a weekly cast of characters murdered and maimed in the name of unrequited love. Also, the low-brow daily soap-operas that remain cover this ground incessantly.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Did it really? I couldn’t think of anything other than the movie Heavenly Creatures that showed someone sort of brought low and enervated by desire (and that ends in a murder). But, again, in terms of television, I’m really just thinking of the shows I’ve watched with my wife and mainly showing my lack of extensive television viewing here.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      No, that’s really interesting. I’ve heard tell that Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a seducer was not limited to women who were actually interested in him in the past, but the French have a culture entirely their own when it comes to these things. To quote his wife Anne Sinclair when asked whether she minded her husband’s reputation: “No, I’m rather proud of it! It’s important for a politician to seduce. As long as he seduces me and I seduce him, that’s enough for me.” I can’t imagine any political husband or wife in America saying this. Well, or nearly any American husband or wife!Report

  2. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    “Hubris, in this context, is the belief that man can do anything at all without the favor of the gods.”

    This gets at what I tend to think is at the essence of much Greek tragedy, no matter the author — that human behavior becomes truly dangerous when we refuse to acknowledge the limits of human power, ability, or knowledge. You see it play out in various ways, of course. And what’s most interesting is the way in which it’s also coupled with challenges to behavior, or society.

    I also quibble with your use of “Judeo-Christian” in the post… primarily because its imputing something similar to original sin to Judaism, which, traditionally, holds that there’s an “evil inclination” inherent in everyone, not inherent fallenness — that is, in theory, there isn’t actually anything preventing a “perfect” life, just the realities of humanity. But back to yetzer hara/”evil inclination” vs. fallenness: it’s something to be overcome through constant vigilance and self-policing, rather than through faith/grace. And this strikes me as somehow a little more (Classical) Greek than the Christian attitude.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I originally wrote Christian there and changed it to Judeo-Christian on the chance that what I was thinking of had orginated somewhere in the pentateuch and I’d forgotten it. But what you say sounds more accurate. There are a lot of interesting similarities between the Greek and Israelite mindsets, especially since those first five books are all about the bad things that result from hubris. I wonder if the sort of similar tribal history helps to explain it. Christianity strikes me as more Socratic- sort of late Greek. But, anyway, I think you’re right about evil inclination vs. original sin.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

        If you think the first five books are all about hubris, just take a look at the Saul/David/Solomon/later kings arc(s). That’s the section that just feels incredibly Greek to me.

        As for why that particular similarity exists — it probably all depends on when you start seeing the concept of “yetzer hara” show up and gets developed in detail. The concept could very well be ancient; but I’d be interested to see where it first starts to get really developed and teased out — I could quite easily see it as a reaction to a rival theory (such as fallenness). But I am really, truly not the person to speculate with any accuracy on the history of Jewish thought/Talmud.Report