Friday, July 20, 2012

Question: If You Were Asked to End the Play with a Line What Would it Be?

"What you've seen, you think it's true?"

Helen answers in her dialogue with Teucer. While trying to explain why I chose this title as the most important of all, I am given the opportunity to provide a comprehensible answer to the question examined by so many scholars: why did  Euripides use the character of Teucer in this play? Teucer arrives as a victor at his homeland of Salamis island (Greece) and is banished from his country by his father Telamon, due to the fact that he did not support his brother's Ajax's claim for Achilles' armor, he did not prevent him from committing  suicide and, even worse, he did not avenge his disgraceful death.
According to the ancient Greeks, a killer was a defilement, meaning he polluted his family and his compatriots. His exile would help purifying the city. This penalty also helped rehabilitating the criminal, since, being in exile, he was deprived of his fortune and was not allowed to participate in any political activities.
Teucer, although he did not  actually kill his brother, was considered by his father as an accomplish in the crime because he stood silent and did not try to prevent his brother from dying, nor didi he fight afterwards for his brother's honor. Teucer's actions gave Euripides the opportunity to sketch a character that would shed light on the weaknesses of some people.
Teucer, although he is one of the victors of the Trojan War, does not feel happy and proud of this result. He was forced to fight for the sake of an unobtainable woman. He was exiled. He wanders for seven years searching for a new homeland. All these events denote the tragic traits of this character, the greatest factor being the fact that, upon reaching Egypt, Teucer cannot discern the real Helen.
He believes that this woman only looks like her and is not the same person. So, this character has reached the stage of conjecture. This stage, according to the Pythagoreans and later Plato in the myth of the cave, is the first stage of Knowledge and represents the man who cannot tell the difference between shadows and reality. He thinks that Helen of Troy is the real one and not the woman he sees in front of him.
He answers to Helen when she asks him if he saw the woman who caused all these horrible events:

Teucer: - With my own eyes I saw magnificent Menelaus drag her by her hair all              around the city.
                  And Helen asks him again: - Did you really see this?
Teu.:- Just like I see you now.
Hel.:- And what you've seen, you think it's true?
Teu.:- I saw her and so did my mind.
So, he expresses the universality of his character, who actually lives trapped in the deception caused by his own illusions. This man trusts only his senses, the word "only" containing dogmatism and the word "sense" containing the present. So this man, who surrendered to his senses, lives only in the present and does not let himself take off his blinders and look clearly at the truth: the future. Because the senses do not link us to the future but to the present. I believe this is the stage we have reached nowadays.
The political powers try to convince us that the path which leads to the deliverance of nations and people and, in consequence, to the rise of the economy is the path of stability, resulting in frugality and income cuts. However, the political powers will continue to follow the course they followed the previous years, which is the same course that led us to this point. Because they did not have the foresight to deal with their domestic affairs. They did not foresee finding ways of salvation for their people, giving them the opportunity to develop mentally, not by reducing their income but by creating opportunities for staff orientation. This means that we've been taught nothing from the pain of lifelong learning. We will continue borrowing money and when comes the time for paying back the loans, we will find  ourselves in front of "Calvary", because we did not foresee increasing our income. In result, what we need is not stability but a mental change so that we are able to take off our blinders and look clearly at the truth.
On a smaller scale, we would say that this is also true regarding the common man. He should stop chasing "Helens" who are essentially vain and ephemeral and start fighting for Ideas (the noun comes from ἰδεν=seeing) which he will be able not only to look at but also to really see. We propose that people should know their past and learn from their mistakes, thus securing a future full of positive and not dramatic prospects.
Returning to our play, we are left with an unanswered question. Why did Euripides, among so many Homeric heroes, choose a victor of this war and especially Teucer? Teucer explains to Helen the purpose of his journey: "I came at this palace in order to meet with  the prophetess Theonoe. In an oracle, I was commanded by Apollo to go to Cyprus, live there and found a city that I shall name Salamis." Salamis was the capital of Cyprus for a thousand years  due to its geographical position. Evagoras, the son of Nicocles, descending from Teucer, was almost murdered, still being a teenager, by the tyrant of Salamis Abdemon, who feared that Evagoras would overturn him. His worst fear came true. In 411 BC,  Evagoras  killed the tyrant and became the  ruler of Salamis. When he came in power, he tried to promote the spiritual and material welfare of his people, while staying on good terms with the neighboring states. Darius II did not react against Abdemon's murder, due to the fact  that Evagoras continued paying taxes!

Eftychia Loizides, actress-director.

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