HotFreeBooks.com
The Iphigenia in Tauris
by Euripides
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

NOTES TO IPHIGENIA IN TAURIS

P. 3, 1. 1.—Oenomaus, King of Elis, offered his daughter and his kingdom to any man who should beat him in a chariot race; those who failed he slew. Pelops challenged him and won the race through a trick of his servant, Myrtilus, who treacherously took the linchpins out of Oenomaus's chariot. Oenomaus was thrown out and killed; Pelops took the kingdom, but in remorse or indignation threw Myrtilus into the sea (1. 192, p. 11). In some stories Oenomaus killed the suitors by spearing them from behind when they passed him. Pelops was the son of Tantalus, renowned for his pride and its punishment.

P. 3, 1. 8, For Helen's sake.—i.e. in order to win Helen back from the Trojans.

P. 4, 1. 23, Whatever birth most fair.—Artemis Kalliste ("Most Fair") was apparently so called because, after a competition for beauty, that which won the prize ([Greek Text]) was selected and given to her. This rite is made by the story to lead to a sacrifice of the fairest maiden, and may very possibly have sometimes done so.

P. 4, 1. 42.—She tells her dream to the sky to get it off her mind, much as the Nurse does in the Medea (p. 5,1.57).

P. 5, 1. 50, One ... pillar.—It is worth remembering that a pillar was among the earliest objects of worship in Crete and elsewhere. Cf. "the pillared sanctities" (1. 128, p. 9) and the "blood on the pillars" (1. 405, p. 20).

P. 8, 1. 113, A hollow one might creep through.—The metopes, or gaps between the beams. The Temple was therefore of a primitive Dorian type.

P. 8, 11. 124-125.—The land of Tauris is conceived as being beyond the Symplegades, or, as here, as being the country of the Symplegades.

As these semi-mythical names settled down in history, Tauris became the Crimea, the Symplegades, or "Clashing Rocks," or "Dark- Blue Rocks," became two rocks at the upper end of the Bosphorus, and the Friendless or Strangerless Sea became the Euxine. The word Axeinos, "Friendless," has often been altered in the MSS. of this play to Euxeinos, "Hospitable," which was the ordinary prose name of the Black Sea in historical times.

P. 9, l. 133, The horses and the towers.—The steppes of the Taurians would have no gardens or city walls, but it is curious that Hellas should seem specially a land of horses by comparison. Cf. p. 86, l. 1423, where Thoas has horses.

P. 10, l. 168, The golden goblet, &c.—She evidently takes jars of libation from the Attendants and pours them during the next few lines into some Eschara, or Altar for the Dead. Most of the rite would probably be performed kneeling.

P. 11, ll. 192 ff., The dark and wheeling coursers.—i.e. those of Pelops. The cry of one betrayed: Myrtilus, when he was thrown into the sea. (See on l. 1.) For the Golden Lamb and the Sun turning in Heaven, see my translation of Electra, p. 47, l. 699 and note.

P. 12, l. 217, The Nereid's Son.—Achilles, son of Peleus and the Nereid Thetis.

P. 13, l. 238, The Herdsman's entrance.—Observe how Iphigenia is first merely disturbed in her obsequies: then comes the sickening news that there are strangers to sacrifice: then lastly, her worst fear is realised; the men are Greeks. This explains her exasperated tone in l. 254, "The sea! What is the sea ..." and "Go back!"—The Herdsman is merely jubilant and obtuse.

P. 15, l. 263.—The murex or purple-fish could only be collected in very late autumn or early spring; consequently the fishers made encampments for the winter and returned to Tyre and Sidon, or wherever else they came from, after the spring fishing. See Berard, Pheniciens et Odyssee, i. 415.

P. 15, 1. 270, Son of the White Sea Spirit, &c.—The man is, of course, made to use the names of Greek not of Taurian gods. He thinks first of Palaemon, a sea-god, son of Leucothea ("White- Goddess"), then of the Dioskori, Castor and Polydeuces; then vaguely of some spirits beloved of Nereus, the Ancient of the Sea.

P. 17, 1. 328 f., Of all those shots not one struck home.—The object of this statement must be to explain why the two heroes do not make their appearance bruised and dishevelled as the Second Messenger does after his fight with the Greeks. Of course there is no great harm in making the Taurians bad shots as well as cowards, and possibly there is some value in the suggestion of a supernatural protection which is only saving its object for a crueller death. But very likely the two lines are interpolations.

Pp. 17, 18, 11. 342 ff.—A wonderful speech, illustrating the gradual breaking-up of the ice in Iphigenia's nature.—The Herdsman's story has, of course, been horrible to her; all the more so because he expects her to enjoy it and recalls wild words she has uttered in the past, when brooding on her wrongs. She controls her feelings absolutely till the man is gone. Then she feels like one turned to stone, pitiless; then, if only it were Helen or Menelaus that she had to kill! Then vivid thoughts of the misery and horror of Aulis and the poor foolish hopes and tremors in which she had come there; then the thought that Orestes, the one man whom she could love without resentment, is dead. Then a rage of indignation against the bloody rites and the infamy of the thing she has to do. She goes into the Temple broken in nerve and almost ready for rebellion.

P. 19, 11. 385 ff.—Leto, beloved of Zeus, was the mother of Artemis and Apollo, who were born in the holy island of Delos.— One legend, already rejected by Pindar, said that the crime of Tantalus was that he had given his child Pelops to the gods to eat.

P. 19, 1. 392, Dark of the sea.—The Dark-Blue of the Symplegades is meant. Sometimes it is only the Argo that has ever passed through them; here it is only Io, daughter of Inachus, loved by Zeus and hunted by the gadfly, who fled outcast through the East. Her story is told in Aeschylus' Prometheus and in a magnificent chorus of his Suppliant Women. (See Rise of the Greek Epic, pp. 247 ff.)

The present lyric begins by wondering how and why the strangers have come: then come thoughts of the voyage and places they must have passed; the coast, where Phineus was haunted by the Harpies, the enchanted sea beyond the Symplegades, and the mysterious Isle of Leuce ("White") where Achilles lives after death.—Then comes a thought of Iphigenia's longing for revenge on Helen: but revenge is no use. It is home they crave, or, if that is impossible, then sleep and dreams of home.

P. 21, 1. 431, The steering oar abaft;—The steering was done by an oar, or sometimes two oars, projecting into the sea from a hole in the stern. Cf. 1. 1356, p. 83, "And through the stern dragged out the steering-blade." If this oar was left free, it would ripple and beat against the side.

P. 23, 1. 472, What mother then was yours, &c.—Not very like a woman "turned to stone" or "without a tear." She had miscalculated her own feelings.—Observe how Orestes sternly rejects her sentimental sympathy. He needs all his strength.

P. 25, 1. 512, A kind of banishment.—He was driven by his Furies, not legally banished.

Pp. 26, 27, 11. 515 and 529, "Oh how sweet to see thee here!" and "Oh, give me this hour full. Thou wilt soon die."—Iphigenia is more than tactless. She is so starving for home or anything that brings her into touch with home, that neither this Stranger's death nor anything else matters to her in comparison. A fine dramatic stroke.

The people of whom she asks are, first, her enemies—Helen; Calchas, the prophet, who had commanded her sacrifice; Odysseus, who had devised the plot by which she was brought to Aulis (11. 16, 24); then Achilles, who had been the hero of her dreams; then, with fear and hesitancy, those for whom she cares most.—Observe, at 1. 553, how, on hearing of her father's murder, her first thought is pity for her mother. Her father is already in her mind "he that slew." But in every line of this dialogue there is fine drama and psychology.

P. 28, 1. 538, "Small help his bridal brought him; he is dead."— It has been thought curious that the mention of Achilles should immediately suggest to Orestes the bridal at Aulis, though of course it does so to Iphigenia. But after all it was Orestes' sister that Achilles was to marry at Aulis; and secondly, a large part of Orestes' troubles came from the carrying off of his betrothed, Hermione, by Achilles' bastard son, Pyrrhus. If the marriage at Aulis had taken place and Achilles left a true-born son, that would all have been different.

P. 31, 1. 569, Light dreams farewell! Ye too were lies.—This does seem a wrong conclusion. The dreams only suggested that Orestes had died the day before, long after this man had left Argos. But perhaps it is not unnatural.

P. 32, 11. 576 f., We too have kinsmen dear.—A most characteristic Euripidean saying. It also leads up to the personal interest in the Chorus which we feel after 1. 1075, p. 63, when they are taken into the conspiracy and then abandoned.

P. 32, 1. 578, Listen; for I am fallen upon a thought.—It must not be supposed that this use of the tablet is an obvious or easy thing. It is a daring project that crosses her mind, as one possible way of avoiding the death of this Stranger. Her hesitation at 1. 742—where a pause is indicated in the Greek— shows that she is only trusting to her special influence over the King to get him to relax the law. Presumably merchants sometimes were admitted to the Tauri; for instance, those who brought the Chorus. The safe way to use the tablet would have been to make sure of the friendship of one of these. But such questions lie outside the play.

P. 34, 1. 618, This altar's spell is over me.—I translate the MS. reading [Greek text]. In my text I accepted the usual emendation [Greek text]. But [Greek text] means "spell" or "infection." See Rise of the Greek Epic, p. 86.

P. 34, 1. 627, My sister's hand.—i.e. Electra's.

Pp. 35-39, 11. 645-724.—Observe that all through this scene it is Pylades who is broken and Orestes strong. Contrast their first entrance, pp. 6-8.

P. 45, 1. 804, Argos is bright with him.—Literally, "is full of him." I am not sure that I understand the expression, but I think she feels Orestes as a magnificent presence filling all his home.

P. 46, 11. 809 ff.—The "signs" are clear enough. He remembers that there was an embroidery of the Golden Lamb story worked by Iphigenia; that when she started for Aulis she had cut off her hair for her mother and her mother had given her some Inachus water to use in the sacred washing before her marriage; also, there was an old spear belonging to Pelops in Iphigenia's room.— Apparently Pelops carried a spear in the chariot race, just as Oenomaus did.

Pp. 47-50, 11. 827-900.—In this scene Iphigenia simply abandons herself to one emotion after another, while Orestes, amid all his joy, keeps his head and thinks about the danger that still surrounds them. When he reminds her that they are "not yet fortunate," she thinks only of Aulis and her old wrong. At last Orestes gets in the word, "Suppose you had murdered me to-day," and she is recalled by a rush of horror at her own conduct: she has nearly killed him, and he is still in imminent danger. She tries passionately and despairingly to think of ways of escape, but it needs the intervention of Pylades (which she rather resents) to bring her into a mood for sober thinking.

P. 51, 1. 915, A wife and happy.—The last we heard of Electra was that she lived "unmated and alone" (1. 562, p. 31). But that was said when Pylades was regarded as practically a dead man. Electra was apparently betrothed to Pylades, but was not actually his wife.—There is no mention of the Peasant husband of the Electra.

P. 52, 1. 818.—Anaxibia (?), sister of Agamemnon, was wife to Strophios. See genealogical table.

P. 53, 11. 930 ff., That frenzy on the shore!—It is only now that Iphigenia fully realises her brother's madness. His narrative immediately following makes her feel it the more, and it is evidently in her mind while she speaks 11. 989 ff.

P. 54 f., 11. 940 ff., Orestes' Trial at Athens.—According to one legend Orestes was finally purified of his guilt by a trial at the Areopagus, in which Apollo championed him, and Athena, as President, gave a casting vote for mercy. (This is the story of Aeschylus' Eumenides.) By another, he was healed when he had brought this Image of Artemis to Attica. Euripides combines the two.—It must often have happened in a blood-feud that some of the kindred of the slain man would accept the result of a trial and obey the law, while some cared for no law but clung to their vengeance. Euripides makes the Furies do the same. Some accept the judgment and stay as "Eumenides" in Athens; others know no law nor mercy.

P. 55, 11. 949-960, Mine evil days are made a rite among them.—At the Feast of the Anthesteria, each family summoned its ghosts from the grave and after the feast sent them back again. While they were about, it was very important that each man should keep his ghosts to himself: there must be no infection of strange or baleful ghosts. Hence a rite in which each man ate and drank his own portion, holding no communication with his neighbour. The story then went that this was done in commemoration of Orestes' visit to Athens with the stain of blood upon him. (See Miss Harrison's Prolegomena, chap, ii.) There was a similar feast in Aegina.

P. 56, 11. 990-1006.—Iphigenia's speech. We must realise that Iphigenia has been suddenly confronted by a new and complicated difficulty. She was prepared to make some plot to save her brother's life. She now realises that he is on the verge of madness; that he is determined to commit an act of what will be considered desperate sacrilege by stealing the image of Artemis; and that he expects her to help him to get the image to his ship. —She might hope to send him away safe and be forgiven by the King: if she helps him to steal the image, she cannot possibly be forgiven. Again, she might very possibly fly with him secretly, if she went alone; but to steal the statue and fly seems impossible.

Confronted with this problem, she deliberately abandons both her thoughts of vengeance and her hope of escape, and agrees to give her life for Orestes.

P. 59, 1. 1029, I think I dimly see.—Compare Electra, translation, p. 42, where Electra suddenly solves the difficulty of slaying Clytemnestra.

P. 63, 11. 1075 ff., Be of good heart, sweet Mistress.—The women of the Chorus are indeed "true of heart and faithful found," as Athena says later. And one feels that Iphigenia, after her first gush of gratitude, does not think of them much. She will save her brother, and they will be left with very little hope of ever seeing Greece, if indeed they are not fatally compromised by their share in the plot.—One can hardly blame Iphigenia; but it is like her.

P. 64, 1. 1089, Bird of the sea rocks.—A wonderful lyric, as spoken by these exiles waiting on the shore.—In their craving for home the island of Delos becomes the symbol for all that is Greek. Delos, the birth-place of Apollo and of a kinder Artemis than that which they now serve, was the meeting-place of all the Ionians. The palm-tree, the laurel, the olive, and the Orbed Lake of Delos were all celebrated in ritual poetry. The singing Swan is not a myth; it is a migratory swan, with a bell-like cry, which comes in the winter down from South Russia to Greece.

Isle of Pain and Love.—Literally, "Beloved birth-pang of Leto." When Leto was about to give birth to her twin children and no land would receive her, the little rock of Delos pitied her and gave her a resting-place.

P. 64, 11. 1106 ff., Ah the old tears.—The singer's mind goes back to her old grief, when her city was taken and she sold as a slave from market to market till she reached Thoas. Then comes the thought of Iphigenia's happy voyage to Greece and freedom; then a dream-like longing to fly home, to watch the dances where once she danced for the prize of beauty.

P. 67, 1. 1156, Iphigenia enters, carrying the Image.—It would probably be a sort of Palladion—a rough figure with a shield (originally typifying the moon?), not very large. She would probably hold it in a robe of some sort, that her bare hand might not touch a thing so holy. At sight of Thoas she would probably cover it up altogether. It is not quite clear when she puts the image down.

P. 67, 1. 1161, I unsay that word.—It was a bad omen for Thoas to say at so critical a moment that a rule was broken. The priestess declares the word unsaid—just the opposite of "accepting" an omen.—Dr. Verrall, however, suggests to me that the line means, "I ask Hosia (the spirit of Holiness) to take in charge what I am going to say"; i.e. all the falsehoods into which she is about to plunge.

This scene of the fooling of Thoas is full of wit and double meanings. The end of it is rather like the famous scene in Forget- me-not, where the Corsican avenger is induced to turn his back in order to let a lady pass out of the room without being seen and compromised, the lady in question being really the person whom he has sworn to kill.

P. 72, 11. 1203 ff.—This change of metre denotes increasing tension of excitement.

Each individual invention of Iphigenia seems clearly to have its purpose. She wants to combine a great appearance of precaution against the escape of the strangers—hence the soldiers, the bonds, &c.—with the greatest possible reality of precaution against any one preventing their escape: hence she takes the soldiers without an officer, the townsfolk are forbidden to follow or even to look, and the King is left at the Temple. The exact motive of all the veiling I do not see; perhaps it adds to the effect to represent Thoas as deliberately hiding his eyes while he is deceived. But in any case her precautions all seem sound according to ancient theology.

P. 77, 11. 1235, 1282, Oh, fair the fruits of Leto blow, &c.—A curious and rather difficult little ritual hymn explaining how Apollo came from Delos to Delphi. It acts more as an interlude than anything else, to fill the time until we learn the issue of the attempt at escape.

All Delphi originally belonged to Mother Earth. The oracles were given by her daughter Themis, and the place guarded by an ancient earth-born Dragon. Apollo came, slew the Dragon, and turned Themis away. Earth took revenge upon him in a curious manner: she invented Dreams, which told the future freely, though, it would seem, confusedly, and, so to speak, spoiled the trade of Delphi until Apollo appealed to Zeus for protection.—The story is not very creditable to the gods, and is expressly denied by Aeschylus on that ground. According to them there was never any strife; Earth, Themis, Phoebe peacefully succeeded one another at Delphi, and Phoebe gave it as a birth-gift to Phoebus or Apollo.

I think the story is probably a case of the infant Sun slaying the Serpent of darkness. The ancient identification of Phoebus Apollo with the sun and Artemis Hecate with the moon seems to me to withstand all modern criticisms, though of course there are many other elements combined with the Sun and Moon elements.

P. 79, 1. 1284, Messenger.—This excited rush upon the stage of a man clamouring for the King is very clever as a next step in the story. One sees at once the sort of thing that has happened, and wants to know what exactly.

P. 80, 1. 1302, "This good messenger."—There is nothing to tell us what the good messenger is. Probably a large sacred knocker, such as were often on temple doors. (They served for suppliants to catch hold of as well as for summoning the people inside.) But it may be a gong or a horn hanging by the door, or the like.

P. 82, 1. 1325, Aye tell thy tale.—It is perhaps a little awkward that Thoas should ask for the whole story before taking any steps to pursue Iphigenia. But partly he is so amazed that he wants to hear all he can before moving; partly, he is represented as being really sure of his prey, as king of all the Taurian seas.

P. 83, 1. 1350, The prow was held by stay-poles.—The ship was afloat, having been just dragged off the shore, bow forwards. The men were raising the anchor, and holding the prow steady by long punt-poles. The ladder seems to have been a rope-ladder; but the Greek is difficult, and I do not know of any mention of a rope- ladder elsewhere in Greek literature.

P. 84, 1. 1384, The Maid of Argos and the carven wood of Heaven— Observe how closely Iphigenia and the image are united. She appears with it in her arms; she must fly together with it, or die; she and the image enter the ship together. There is religion behind this. Perhaps there was some old statue of the goddess carrying her own image, as Athena sometimes carries a Palladion; when Iphigenia became the priestess and Artemis the goddess, this was interpreted as the priestess carrying the goddess' image.

P. 85, 1. 1415, There is One who rules the sea.—Poseidon, the sea god, was traditionally a friend of Troy. See the first scene of The Trojan Women.

P. 86, 1. 1435, ATHENA.—Modern readers complain a good deal of this appearance of the God from the Machine. Some day I hope to discuss the Deus ex Machina at length, but in the meantime I would point out the following facts: 1. A theophany or appearance of a god seems to have been in the essence of the original conception of Greek Drama; a study of the fragments of Aeschylus will illustrate this. What Euripides did, apparently, was to invent, or use when invented, an improved kind of stage machinery for introducing the god in the air. 2. The theophany seems to have been effective with the Greek audience, and I believe it would usually be so with any audience that was not highly sophisticated and accustomed to associate such appearances with pantomime fairies. 3. In nearly all cases the god who appears not only speaks lines of great beauty and serenity, but also comes with counsel and comfort which have something of heaven about them. The Dioscori of the Electra are most typical, healing the agony of revenge by sheer forgiveness; the beautiful Artemis of the Hippolytus is different, but divine also. But every case needs its special treatment.

P. 87, 1. 1457, Artemis the Tauropole.—On the rite of Artemis Tauropolos at Halae, see Preface, p. vi. There is a play on words in "Tauropole"; it is interesting to see that Euripides has prepared for it as early as Orestes' first speech, 11. 84 f., though I did not think it worth representing in English there.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse