I have watched Fate unfold her pattern; Try endured/ What she endured; her captor now, by Helen’s decree,/ Ends thus.
I have done with tears. I will endure my death./ O gates of the dark world, I greet you as I come! Let me receive, I pray a single mortal stroke,/ Sink without spasm, feel the warm blood’s gentle ebb,/ Embrace death for my comfort, and so I close my eyes.
Friends, there is no hope, none – once the hour has come./ This is the day. Retreats wins little./ I go. Now in the land of the defeated I/ Will mourn my end and Agamemnon’s./ I have lived. I am not like a bird scared at an empty bush,/ Trembling for nothing. Wait: when you shall see my death, woman for woman; when in place/ Atoned with death woman for woman,
Then witness for me – these and all my prophecies/ Were in utter truth. This I request before I die. Alas for human destiny! Man’s happiest hours/ Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes,/ And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out.
Cassandra’s lines (1297-1328) from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon.
Conjecture on missing Malaysian Flight 370 might make for a good story, even if the cable channels bleed it dry.That said, relentlessly filming grieving relatives is not news. Nor will it ever be.
If these ambulance-chasers really want to get to the bottom of this kind of misery, all they have to do is read Agamemnon, indeed any Greek tragedy. Failing that, they could kill each other – or go missing – and their relatives could be interviewed instead.The problem being that no one in their families would care, knowing the disingenuous and self-serving nature of these jabbering shits.
It’s a challenge to think of a heroine who isn’t passive, either loving from afar or loving too hard.
Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
And while these passionate characters are to be admired, they tend to limit us in our view of what it is to be a woman of substance. Where are the heroines to rival Odysseus, Atticus Finch and the Cat in the Hat? I offer you my Top Six.
6. Joy Adamson (Born Free) The co-protagonist of the Born Free series, along with Elsa the Lion, Adamson is more outspoken and independent in the books – to say nothing of real life – than offered on film.
5. Hannah Arendt (Hannah Arendt)The 20th-Century philosopher, as portrayed in Margarethe von Trotta’s 2013 film, is intimidating, uncompromising and could smoke anyone under the table.
4. Gloria(Gloria)Gina Rowlands’ portrayal in John Cassavetes’ 1978 film, a modern-day Fury, is striking in her combination of anger and sentimentality.
3. Chihiro (Spirited Away)Even after her parents are turned into pigs and her name is stolen, Chihiro wants to help everyone, including the evil witch.
2. Clytemnestra (Agamemnon)While it may be true that she has the blood of her husband and Cassandra on her hands, Aeschylus makes it clear that she has her reasons.
1. Doctor’s Wife (Blindness)The only hope offered in Jose Saramago’s post-apocalyptic parable is a woman willing to sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else. Imagine that.
My screenplay Sister Prometheus is a reworking of the Promethean myth, utilizing elements of the Oresteia. I realize that this is a dangerous and foolhardy pursuit, as any modern work is likely to pale in comparison with the work of Aeschylus, exemplified in the passage below, describing Iphigenia’s death at the hands of the priests of her father Agamemnon:
Rough hands tear at her girdle, cast/ Her saffron silks to earth. Her eyes/
Search for her slaughterers; and each/ Seeing her beauty, that surpassed/
A painter’s vision, yet denies/ The pity her dumb looks beseech/
Struggling for voice; for often in old days,/When brave men feasted in her father’s hall/
With simple skill and pious praise/Linked to the flutes pure tone/
Her virgin voice would melt the hearts of all/
Honoring the third libation near her father’s throne/
The rest I did not see/ Nor do I speak of it.
This sacrifice is said to have appeased the gods and given the Greeks fair winds to Troy and eventual triumph in their bloody quest for Helen. My Prometheus is female. Her name is Virginia Adamantine, and she’s furious with the Agamemnons of the world, ready to fight anyone in her way. And she’s a stripper. That’s the part I doubt Aeschylus would have appreciated.