Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Salon: An Iliad part 2.

I am going to summarise the chapters in one post and then publish all at once.

This is told from the point of view of some elderly guru-type figure. After a lots of dilly-dallying around Agamemnon is convinced to go into battle against the Trojans by Odysseus. Just as they are about to engage, Paris comes face to face with Menelaus. It turns out that's why they've been here for nine years, camped outside Troy: Paris (who is good-looking, apparently) kidnapped Helen from Menelaus. To everyone's delight they decide to go head to head. This will save everyone else from being killed too. Good move.

Helen watches them posturing and as she talks to Paris's father we learn a little more about Paris, Agamemnon, Menelaus and Odysseus - who 'has a voice so deep it is like winter snow'. Paris and Menelaus have a duel, Menelaus succeeds in removing Paris's helmet but he runs off. Paris, apparently, is a wimp....or very sensible.

Helen is then summoned to Paris's bedchamber by a scary seamstress (scary because she is old, apparently) Then, after Helen has said that she tells him that not only she wishes he were dead, so does everyone else as well, she follows him to his bed. Odd..and smacks just a little of the dominatrix.

Pandarus and Aeneas
Panarus is a Trojan warrior who is enticed into shooting an arrow at Menelaus. This is a mistake. The arrows hits him but not fatally and instead drives the Achaeans really wild. Battle commences and is described in detail with lots of fatal injuries. Spears go through skulls and cut off tongues more than once. Pandarus dies (or his strength abandoned him, and with it, life); and Aeneas discovers something significant about himself: he cannot die. He is then cajoled (by someone called Helenus who I thought had already died, but it must have been another one) into fighting until the end - and that is how he is left.

This part is added later...

The Nurse.
This the voice of the nurse of Hector's infant son. Hector returns from battle and tried to persuade Paris to return, but he is with Helen, and says he will come along later. Meanwhile the older women take their best clothes and pray at the temple of Athena for Diomedes to die because he is 'a savage fighter, and is sowing fear everywhere.' Hector then goes back out to battle with his wife and all her women weeping because it is unlikely he will return.

Nestor is one of the elders and hence people listen to him. The Trojan and Achaeans fight, halt for the night and fight again. The Achaeans build a wall around their ships and are eventually beaten back behind it so that 'we who came from far away to lay siege to a city, became a city under siege.'

The Achaean princes go to Achilles in his tent and ask him to help them fight the Trojans but he refuses. He tells them to go back to Agamemnon and tell him that he refuses to go because Agamemnon stole the woman Achilles loved.

Diomedes and Odysseus
The Achaean princes decide that they need to send a couple of men in to attack - a kind of guerilla tactic. Diomedes volunteers and then asks for Odysseus to accompany him because he has a good brain. On the way to the Trojan encampment they encounter a Trojan spy, Dolan, who on interrogation suggests they attack Rhesus and his men who have only just got there. They then cut of Dolan's head and follow his instructions. The mission is successful. They kill all of Rhesus's men and steal some of his horses. Then they come back to the Acaean camp and have a good bath.

Mostly a battle scene - fairly bloodthirsty - but interesting because all the way through it is clear that Patroclus is doomed. He comes through though, after promising Nester that he will have a word with Achilles and ask him to reconsider - and if he does not to take his armour and pretend he is Achilles to distract the Trojans.

Sarpedon, Telamonium Ajax, Hector.
Another battle scene. Somehow, crossing the trench and scaling the Acaean wall, the Trojans are scattered. Ajax throws a rock at hector and badly wounds him but he is carried away. The Trojans then run in retreat. Even though he coughs up black blood (usually a terminal sign) Hector renews the attack and finally boards the Aceaen ship. He sets it alight and says this is how he should be remembered - not his fate.

Patroclus persuades Achilles to fight the Trojans, and Achilles, seeing that Agamemnon has been forced back, and everything look pretty hopeless, agrees. He lends Patroclus his armour but tells him to come back once he has driven the Trojans back to the plains (somehow you know when he says this that Patroclus will disobey and do the opposite). So there is another battle scene, Patroclus gets carried away and Hector comes out and kills him.

Antilochus is prevailed upon to break it to Achilles that his friend Patroclus is dead. He takes it badly.

Agamemnon and Achilles are reconciled amid much rejoicing. Agamemnon gives Briesis back.

The River
Achilles massacres many Trojans and shows no mercy until the river can stand no more blood in its waters and sends a wave to overcome him. Achilles runs away but still the wave comes, the river overflowing its banks almost has him when the trees on its banks are set on fire and Achilles escapes.

All of the the Trojans escape into the city except for Hector. Then, as his father, mother and Andromache, wife of Hector, watch, Hector is chased by Achilles until his brother, Deiphobus comes out to join him and persuades him to stop and fight. However, once Achilles has thrown his spear, Deiphobus disappears back inside - a dramatic moment. Achilles then, inevitably, kills Hector, strips him, and drags his body around in the mud.

A strangely written chapter because it is sometimes written in the first person (i.e. from Priam's point of view) and sometimes in the third person realting what Priam did. Priam, Hector's father mourns his son and eventually rides out to Achilles's tent with gifts in return for his son's body. Achilles is won over by the father and gives him the body to be taken back.

This is an additional chapter. Years later a bard called Demodocus sings to a mysterious stranger at the court of the Phaeanicians. She tells of how Odysseus builds a wooden horse and sacks Troy. Achilles, and Paris, the cause of the evil, are dead by then. After she finishes the stranger weeps. When he is asked why he confesses to being Odysseus.


It flows quickly - and I notice from doing a little research (Wikipedia) that it was originally a play for several voices which spanned over three nights "during which the best contemporary Italian actors would impersonate one character each, eight per night." Unsurprisingly, given the technical difficulties, it was only staged twice. I think this would be a very good play for a school since lots of people would have a turn and they'd learn a lot about the Iliad in a really enjoyable way.

I am now going to review the book and publish it on Revish.


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