One of the most interesting points I took from seminar was the discussion regarding the unpopularity of epic theatre in society today. Epic theatre had already been established before Brecht in the early to mid-20th century, however he was the person who unified the practice, developed it and popularized it (Cash, Theatre Links). Brecht argued that “one of the goals of epic theatre is for the audience to always be aware that it is watching a play” therefore, unlike mainstream films, epic theatre must not immerse the audience but keep them constantly thinking (Cash, Theatre Links).
In current-day society epic theatre remains to be massively unpopular, this is due to the effects 21st century culture has had on society worldwide; multinational companies throughout the world has changed people in society into consumerist machines which changes the way we behave as a whole. Instead of being taught to think and question everything in the world, we are subtly changed into mindless consumerist zombies who simply buy the product, use it, then proceed to move on to the next once we tire of them. An example of this method of thinking in society are the songs we listen to today, unlike Beethoven’s symphonies which has survived through time, they are given simplistic beats and melodies in order to make people listen (consume) them for a short period of time. Multinational companies enforce this way of thinking so they can take advantage of our short attention spans and have their customers come back for more. This contrasts Brecht’s goal in epic theatre where they force the audience to think and question which allows them to become more knowledgeable.
Cash, Justin. “Epic Theatre.” Theatre Links. N.p., 1998. Web. 09 Jan. 2017. <http://www.theatrelinks.com/epic-theatre/>.
William Blake’s poem The Tyger depicts the creation of a being that can be considered as both beautiful and horrific, and questions what kind of creator could have made such a being. Blake portrays God as a smith in the poem, using metaphors such as “hammer” and “anvil” to create the image of a smith laboriously working to finish his creation. This metaphor was chosen because a smithy represents a traditional image of artistic creation; and the act of forging is a very physical and deliberate kind of crafting. Which is why Blake’s interpretation of the “Tyger” as a “fearful” creation questions what kind kind of creator could design such a dangerous and terrifying beast. The tiger thus becomes a symbolic representation of the introduction/presence of evil in the world. Replacing “Could” with “Dare” in the last line of the first and last stanza in the question “Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, challenges the idea that God is a benevolent being because he doesn’t just have the power to potentially create such an evil creature, Blake emphasizes that God “dares” to introduce such beings into our world. God’s creation of the tiger can be seen as a work of art, and Blake uses this concept to lead to the notion that art must display some vague reflection of its creator. Thus, the depiction of the tiger as an evil being questions what kind of God the world has, and directly challenges the religious view that God is benevolent, because the tiger is physical evidence that God has introduced evil into our world.
Something I found interesting while reading the selected writings in Hildegard of Bingen is her repetitive use of ethos in her letters when writing to other women. Firstly, Hildegard will often use a modest tone when writing to other women by portraying herself in a humble manner in her letters: “I, a mere female and a fragile vessel”. Whereas, when she writes letters to men, the structure of her writings slightly differ in the manner that she does not begin with any formality or introduction including ethos, instead Hildegard begins and ends the letter with the contents of the vision, starting from “A certain man rose…” to “…never be destroyed!”. Hildegard also continuously refers to the women she writes to as “Daughter”, “Daughter of God”, “Mother”, displaying further empathy towards these women. In contrast, Hildegard writes in a more distant tone to the Bishop of Bamberg by only mentioning him as “you” and commanding him to do something instead of asking in a compassionate approach as she does with women. The reasoning behind why Hildegard writes in a somewhat discriminative manner in my opinion is due to an unintentional action created by her actual sympathy towards other women who also suffer from gender inequality during her time.
In Plato Republic, he explains his famous cave analogy; which describes a process of education on particular individuals that will ultimately lead to them becoming ‘philosopher kings’ if they succeed. These philosopher kings are stated to have seen the sun at the end of the cave metaphor (they know and understand the real truth), and have the obligation to go back to the cave and lead the rest of the people in the best way possible. Thus, the cave analogy provides a metaphor in which it is possible to create philosopher kings who would best lead the city they have hypothesised (Kallipolis), because he would know the form of the good (the real truth). Therefore, the king would be deemed as omniscient and capable of leading the city they have formed in the best possible way.
This argument that Plato brings forward in his analogy is critically flawed in the sense that it is impossible to teach something to someone that you yourself don’t know. Socrates explains several times himself that they will never be able to reach the real truth through discussion: “You would no longer see an image of what we are describing, but the truth itself as it seems to me, at least” (Plato, 228). Through this statement it is shown that Socrates himself doesn’t know the full truth himself; hence, his assumption that he can teach people to know the real truth through a certain method of teaching that takes years and years of education is utterly ridiculous, and the sacrifices these people will have to make in order to attempt to become a philosopher king is much to great on its own.
Human beings are creatures of habit: We fight, question, and challenge. Seek power, freedom and knowledge. In the case of ‘Oedipus the King’, Oedipus embodies all these traits in the play as he attempts to defeat fate, save his people, and bring justice to his kingdom. However, feats such as these would be deemed far to great for any man. Thus leading us to the inevitable ending of the play where Oedipus fails to beat fate and in a sense the gods at which point he is left; stripped of his power, blind and crippled.
Nevertheless, this inevitability is challenged throughout the play when characters such as Jocasta and the Shepherd beg Oedipus to stop his investigation because his discovery of the truth is what will lead to his downfall. Finally leading to the key argument I’d like to discuss: “If Oedipus remained ignorant, would he still have failed?”
There were many different traits to the play that display that an ignorant approach to the problem could have led to a different result instead of Oedipus’s pre-determined failure and suffering. One of the forms this is shown through is the play’s Sophoclean approach wherein Oedipus brings himself closer to failure each time he gets closer to the truth, ergo the higher we climb, the harder we fall. This foreshadowed failure is even displayed by Oedipus himself in lines 1472-74 “And I, I am afraid to hear them… but I must”. At this point of the play it is clearly indicated that Oedipus has a choice to walk away from his investigation, however Oedipus claims that he can’t which stems from his human nature to question and seek knowledge even when he knows himself it will bring him great misery. Secondly, the moral of the paly is to accept that not everything is controllable, which is why we are given a character such as Oedipus who displays a great amount of hubris and attempts to succeed in areas in which he believes the gods have failed in because he thinks of himself as powerful as the gods. This leads to the ironic discovery that Oedipus is the master of all things, except for himself. Which is why Oedipus’s greatest weakness is himself; if not for his desire to question, fight and challenge fate, Oedipus may still have been able to retain his power as king.