Preparation for Mon. Feb. 20
*Orestes in the dock: today in class we try Orestes for homicide (remember that the Areopagus court in the play is both an early mythical prototype of the court and a dramatic representation, so it doesn’t accurately represent current procedure). We will divide into prosecution and defense. The division will be gendered. Women will form the prosecution, with the exception of a group of three women who believe that they must in all things uphold the Olympian gods (Group 8); all men will form the defense. The ‘facts’ of the case (the internal evidence of the plays) will be given more weight than arguments external to the plays. So if you speculate about elements of the case that are not raised in the trilogy, the other side can call you on it and question the admissibility of the evidence. Conversely, introducing relevant quotations from the text lends extra credence to your case. However, your argument should not just be a series of bullets – it should be rhetorically persuasive. Remember that you should also anticipate your opponents’ arguments and be able to counter them. Divide the preparation for the case according to the groups listed below. Each of you should come to class with a written brief. This need not be in essay form, but it must be well thought out, as you will be presenting your pooled responses in the stand. Feel free to prepare the written study question as a group too if you prefer.
Note: today is Senior Day, so we may well have a few prospective students attending our class. Please welcome them into our midst.
Group 1 will devise a case to exonerate Clytemnestra (Aila Crumley, Amanda Glaser, Sarah Heinbigner)
Group 2 will devise a case to prosecute Orestes (Lauren Hom, Jenna Kesty, Polina Kharmats)
Group 3 will devise a case to challenge Apollo’s involvement (Kate Klippen, Kirsten Kuiken, Heather Lovaasen)
Group 4 will devise a case to challenge the ruling of Athena (Laura Mardian, Magen Nelson, Jennifer Paulsen)
Group 5 will find flaws in the defense’s case, e.g. irregularities in procedure, rhetorical exaggeration etc. (Caitlin Revier, Thereasa Schollett, Stephanie Soiseth)
Group 6 will devise a case to exculpate Orestes (Trevor Brown, Timothy Bruss, Johan Erixon)
Group 7 will devise a case against Clytemnestra (Micah Fransen, Sean Harrison, Charlie Hoag)
Group 8 will devise a case to defend the role played by the gods, Apollo, Athena (Ellen Sullivan, Sybylla Yeoman-Hendrix, Laura Zelinski)
Group 9 will find flaws in the prosecution’s case, e.g. the involvement of the Furies in this case, irregularities in procedure, rhetorical exaggeration etc. (Chris Lofgren, Brian McBroom, John Thielman)
Preparation for Wed. Feb. 22
Read Sophocles’ Electra (the whole play, with accompanying notes, sent in email form, also available at the reserve desk in the library). As you read, think about what is different in Sophocles’ treatment of the story from Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers. Concentrate on differences that you think are particularly significant. Below are some general suggestions, but feel free to focus on what YOU find most strikingly different, and jot down your thoughts. Every class member will be expected to be ready to share one key difference: if possible, be ready to point to a passage or line in the text that illustrates your point.
In Sophocles’ Electra, with whom do
our sympathies lie, and is our response to characters different than in
Aeschylus’ version? How is the structure of the play different (esp. the order
of events)? What is missing from
Sophocles’ version? Can you say anything about the differences in Aeschylus’
and Sophocles’ use of language?
Preparation for Fri. Feb. 24
*Today, we will workshop one scene from Sophocles’ Electra, the Tutor’s false messenger speech. Each of you will be assigned a group and will have to produce a written response to your particular assignment.
Group 1 (students with surnames A-H): Tutor’s false messenger speech
(lines 680-760). You are a director deciding how you will perform this
scene. The speech itself is a
rhetorical tour de force, but a modern audience is not used to listening to
such long speeches. How will you bring
this scene to life? Remember, you don’t have to stick to how you think the play
was performed in Sophocles’ original production. Here are a few preliminary
questions to get you started:
(a) Who is present on stage apart from the Tutor? How might you get other characters involved in the scene?
(b) How might the false messenger speech be most effectively conveyed? Who would you make the primary addressee: Clytemnestra, the audience, all the characters on stage, or some other combination?
(c) The Tutor’s messenger speech is so vivid, you almost believe you’re there at the scene of the accident — and yet, it is all a pack of lies. How might you convey this in performance?
(d) Would you keep the speech in its
entirety? Would it all be spoken, or would some elements be conveyed in
*Your written assignment is a director’s note on your interpretation of your assigned scene. You should give an overview of your approach to the scene (explain, as you go, the rationale for your choices). The best interpretations are the ones that fit within the interpretative framework of the play as a whole. Express yourself as clearly as possible.
2. Groups 2 and 3: Your assignment is to create a script for your assigned passage. NOTE that you will be working from the translation by Lloyd-Jones. This is a literal translation and so is the closest you can get without knowing Greek to what Sophocles wrote. Write your own version of your assigned scene that is designed for the stage: Group 2: (surnames I-M) lines 660-679; Group 3 (surnames N-Z): lines 707-730, following Lloyd-Jones’ line numbering. Rework Lloyd-Jones’ literal translation independently of my version. You should feel free to take liberties with the original text to create a version that works well in performance. Here are some preliminary questions that you should answer before you get started on your written script:
(a) What tone do you want to convey? An everyday conversational tone, or a tone that is rhetorical and grandiloquent? Does the passage and your interpretation of it call for a high tone or not?
(b) What are the most powerful words in each sentence? What words are ‘filling’ words and don’t add anything?
(c) Are there
phrases/sentences that might be confusing in a live performance? Remember, an
audience can’t go back and reread lines. What might you do to make the scene
more direct and immediate?
(c) How might you rearrange phrases/sentences to produce a script that is powerful and elegant?
As you write your script, try reading the lines out loud and think about acting them. A good script has a natural rhythm to it - if you find yourself tripping over your version, it needs to be adjusted.
*Your written assignment is a script for your assigned passage, preceded by a brief statement (just a short paragraph) outlining your approach.