Iphigeneia at Aulis

Angel of Abraham

"The Angel of the Lord Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son Isaac" (1616) by Pieter Lastman.

“The Angel of the Lord Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son Isaac” (1616) by Pieter Lastman.

In the (Brome) Abraham and Isaac play (15th century) of the English Religious Theater, Isaac exclaims when confronted with Abraham’s purpose:

“Now I would my mother were here on this hill!

She would kneel for me on both her knees

To save my life.”

Like Iphigeneia at Aulis, Isaac eventually consents to the sacrifice. But when Abraham raises his hand to strike his son, an Angel appears and takes “the sword in his hand suddenly” (A.C. Cawley, ed., Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, 1967).  In René Marqués’ allegorical play Sacrificio en el Monte Moriah (1969), Sara (Isaac’s mother) masquerades as the Angel, tricking Abraham into believing that God wants him to substitute a ram as a burnt offering for the boy. (more…)

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Send the Twins to Iraq

With his left hand resting on a family Bible, President George W. Bush takes the oath of office to serve a second term as 43rd President of the United States during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005. Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, and Jenna Bush listen as Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the oath. White House photo by Susan Sterner.

With his left hand resting on a family Bible, President George W. Bush takes the oath of office to serve a second term as 43rd President of the United States during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005. Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, and Jenna Bush listen as Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the oath. White House photo by Susan Sterner.

On posters during a presidential trip in 2002, on car bumper stickers, on signs raised by protesters in Washington during the second inaugural, the harsh, mocking laughter of trickster was heard ridiculing George W. Bush: “Send the twins to Iraq.” The call was for the president to send his 20-year old daughters to serve in his war. Trickster’s howl pointed out the hypocrisy of North American ruling classes, and conjured the political lessons to be learned from the Greek armies which mustered for the Trojan War.

Send the twins to Iraq because the Achaeans have gathered at Aulis and profaned the countryside, killing a hare “bursting with young unborn,” and Artemis “the undefiled” has bound the fleet with crosswinds until Iphigeneia is slaughtered by her own father. In spite of its seeming barbarity, the command of the virgin goddess of nature and wild things is a metaphor for a wise, tricksterish policy that imposes trauma in order to arrest war. Before the host sails to Ilion, the Greek generals are forced to prove their conviction that the war is worthy and necessary. An exchange between King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra in Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis reveals the dramatic conflict that can be resolved only through Iphigeneia’s fate.

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