Please let it be a farce, please

Shortly after watching a performance of Timofey Kulyabin‘s production of The Broken Pitcher (or The Broken Jug) – a remarkably well thought through interpretation – I learned that Kleist had been thinking of Oedipus Rex while writing his comedy:

The naming of the judge as Adam and the tempting young woman as Eve suggests that behind the levity of the trivial incidents of the play, Kleist is pointing to the irony that, since the Fall, man sits in judgement on his own guilt, just as Oedipus does in Sophocles’ play.

If not for this likeness of their roles, Judge Adam’s affinity with King Oedipus would sound ridiculous. Adam is lecherous, gluttonous and voluble – amusingly but self-destructively. And, unlike Oedipus, Adam knows he’s the culprit.

Turning to another Greek parallel, here’s what Charles McNamara, a classics lecturer at Columbia, has to say about an attempted Hellenization of Trump:

With his new book, the Greek-military historian Victor Davis Hanson amplifies our misunderstanding of tragedy by shoehorning the current occupant of the White House into the tradition of Sophoclean protagonists, positioning Trump as a so-called “tragic hero.” In The Case for Trump… Hanson asks us to see in Trump a modern Ajax or Antigone, or even a “tribal” “outlier” like Achilles whose “service is never rewarded commensurately by the Greeks’ deep-state leaders.” The problem, of course, is that being a tribal, “unstable loner” has nothing to do with the tragic genre, properly understood.

Agreed. But I’d still like to add something. Perhaps Trump is about as close to a tragic hero as Kleist’s Judge Adam is to King Oedipus. There may be a certain similarity of the circumstances but not of the characters or the genres. One has to hope we’re only watching a farce.

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