Wednesday, October 25, 2006

RE: Richard III - Catabasis

Gilbert and gang,

What literary riches you spread before us. The hells you raise bring me back to our earlier thread on evil and dualism. The difference between the shades that Odysseus meets and the devils in Faustus suggest that hell has changed – from a mere lack of life (Achilles says it is better to be a living stable boy than the king of the dead, but only because of the powerlessness and colorlessness of the afterlife, not because of any active torment), to a place of active retribution by agents of evil.

I think we have a parallel shift in the heroes themselves. Odysseus is every bit as scheming (famously) and murderous (see Illiad, Book 10) as Richard III, but he is presented as the sympathetic hero of his epic. We may be fascinated by Richard and his ilk, but is it possible any more for such a character to be presented as a hero with whom we may sympathize? My point is that both the cosmos and the individual has undergone a split, and the consequences for literature and life are enormous but not fully acknowledged.

I'm sure these issues will arise in other contexts, so we need not let it stop us from moving on.


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