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Greek Myth Modern Relevance Essay, Research Paper

The Relevance of Greek Myth to the Modern World

At first glance, an ignorant person might dismiss Greek myth as the superstitious ramblings of a long dead culture…

I shall endeavour to prove here that the works art, drama & literary splendour handed down to us by the ancient Greeks are still very relevant, and can serve many more purposes to modern civilisation than can possibly be covered in this essay.

Take a look at Diana, roman name for the Greek goddess Artemis. More than once the late Princess Diana has been compared with Artemis, particularly for her role as protector of children, and of the vulnerable. Those who were unjustly treated by the patriarchy sought her help, and Diana took action in their behalf. Like Princess Diana, Artemis was not known for particularly successful relationships with men, she too was portrayed as vulnerable.

Greek Drama

Throughout the world, Greek Tragedy is being re-presented to the general public via a variety of media. One only has to look at the television to see such programs as Zena & Hercules. Greek drama now occupies a regular place in the London theater season, and large scale productions have also been mounted not only in Europe but also in Japan, India, and Africa. Translations are even beginning to proliferate in China, sometimes with unexpected results. In a recent Chinese translator of Sophocles Oedipus Rex , all the Greek gods were referred to as Apollo, since the audience had all heard the term as part of the US space program. The question is why has there been such a revival of interest in Greek Drama?

If it is irrelevant to the Modern world, why can references be found to Greek heros, in Tv, blockbuster movies, books, and theatre? The use of mask, dance, music, ritual, and poetry in Eastern and other world theater traditions not only overlaps with that of Greek tragedy, but offers an opportunity to bring to life those aspects of ancient drama that are alien to the tradition of Western nineteenth-century realism. Greek tragedy permits a political response to irresolvable, extreme situations without being crudely topical. Set in an imaginary past that offers few specifics in the way of setting or physical description, it is also amenable to both changes of venue and to multi-racial casting.

Greek Drama has been used in this century as a facade for staging political protest or a response to a particular political climate, for example, Antigone, has served this purpose, in occupied France during World War II, in Ireland during the 1980s, and in Athol Fugard s South African prison play, The Island. In Chine the most widely translated play is Prometheus Bound, possibly due to its imagery of resistance to tyrancy by a divine hero. As Timberlake Wertenbaker (a playwright & transaltor once said, the Greek Poets didn t look down on women and didn t give them small, stupid roles. The great flaw of modern plays is that they always try to make women nice. These women are terrible, and they have the courage of their horror. , or in the words of David Leveaux , director of the Sophocles Electra currently on Broadway, It s hard to find a play that pits a number of ferociously powerful women against each other.

A more compelling reason, than those previously mentioned, could be plot. American TV, film, and theater are often based on the tales, trials & tribulations of dysfunctional families. Still, some stories, as Aristotle noted (Poetics 1453a.17-22), are more effective at moving a theater audience than others.

Sophocles Electra is far more than a timeless family tragedy and a lurid tabloid crime story that the Times reveiwer drescribed it as.

Greek plots can, as Freud demonstrated, aim at uncovering deep psychological truths without degenerating into soap opera and, due in part to the presence of divine forces and a public, political setting in the remote past, provide a more complex notion of motivation than can be projected by reduced, modern characters in the present. Many performances have exploded the sexual and psycological dynamics of the original, especially in the case of Oedipus. Recently Jocasta has been painted as both intelligent and sexually liberated, possibly in response to modern societys call for women who are free from the moral & social contraints endowed upon them by society up until the last 3 or 4 decades. Both Rita Dove s Jocasta-figure in The Darker Face of the Earth and Philip Freund s heroine in his play Jocasta deliberately choose a black slave lover; he becomes the father of a mixed-race, rejected Oedipus, making the failure of the parents to recognise their lost child a little more credible. In the play Greek by Steven Berkoff, Eddy greets the discovery that he has married his mother, not with dismay, but with a desire to bed her.


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