Categories
Theatre

Wagner and Aeschylus

“In any serious investigation of the essence of our art of the day, we cannot make one step forward without being brought face to face with its intimate connection with the art of ancient Greece. For, in point of fact, our modern art is but one link in the artistic development of the whole of Europe; and this development found its starting point with the Greeks”.

 Thus wrote Richard Wagner in his essay ‘Art And Revolution’ (Die Kunst und die Revolution), published in 1849. Interestingly enough, Wagner’s work was influenced on many levels by Aeschylus. Let’s see how:

Axial Age (Achsenzeit)

The period of ancient history from about the 8th to the 3rd century BCE, is when humans began to conceive and develop theologies of religion and philosophy. The famous German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers called this period of unprecedented religious and philosophical creativity “The Axial Age”.

Those thinkers that emerged from this “Axial Age” included Classical Greek dramatists and philosophers,  Lao Tze, the Buddha, the Upanishads, Confucius and Hebrew prophets. Aeschylus belongs to this group of thinkers. His theater plays, never ceased to have a profound influence not only to ancient thinkers but also to intellectuals of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Aeschylus: the innovator

Did you know that Aeschylus introduced the concept of trilogies? Think of “Lord Of The Rings”, “Star Wars” or any other set of three theater plays or movies that are connected and can be seen either as a single movie or as three individual movies.

He introduced ‘stochasmos’ and ‘logos’, transforming the plot into a vehicle to explore other concepts and ideas! (The term ‘stochasmos’ can be translated in English as ‘conjecture’. while the Latin term is ‘status coniecturalis’.)

Aeschylus (523-456 BCE)

Influence on Wagner

One of the most loyal fans of Aeschylus was Richard Wagner. On the last day of his life, the great German composer and theatre director said of Aeschylus, ‘my admiration for him never ceases to grow’.

Wagner records in his autobiography, “Mein Leben“, that he then:

‘for the first time . . . mastered Aeschylus with real feeling and understanding’,

and goes on to say that the impact on him of the Orestes trilogy was so great that:

‘I could see the Oresteia with my mind’s eye, as though it were actually being performed; and its effect on me was indescribable.

Nothing could equal the sublime emotion with which the Agamemnon inspired me, and to the last word of the Eumenides I remained in an atmosphere so far removed from the present day that I have never since been really able to reconcile myself with modern literature.

My ideas about the whole significance of the drama and of the theater were, without a doubt, molded by these impressions’ …(!)

Categories
Politics

Martin L. King and Robert Kennedy

April 4th 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Robert Kennedy, that was at the time serving as senator of New York, wanted personally to deliver the shocking news to the people of Indianapolis.

Robert Kennedy
In his improvised speech, he informed the gathered crowd of the assassination, adding:

‘… But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black’.