Aeschylean tragedy inspires Honors students

Classics students set to present, in its entirety, Prometheus Bound, one of the most famous Greek plays

By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~

Dr Shannon Hogue - linkedin dot com
Dr. Shannon Hogue teaches the Greek course on tragedy.

Dr. Shannon Hogue’s upperlevel Honors Greek 351 class is preparing to stage a production
of Aeschylus’ classic Greek tragedy, “Prometheus Bound.” Dr. Shannon Hogue, whose area of expertise is Greek archaeology, described the class as an exploration of the work of Greek playwright and tragedian Aeschylus.

Throughout the semester, the 12 junior and senior Honors Bachelor of Arts (HAB) students will develop translation skills of complex ancient Greek by reading “Prometheus Bound” and enhancing their understandings of the Prometheus myth by examining other relevant works.

However, their study will be especially enhanced in a unique way through the final project: the production and performance of “Prometheus Bound.”

“The ancient Greek playwrights filled multiple roles in their ancient productions: author, director and, often, actor. Throughout the course, Greek drama and theater figure into our discussions as we envision how the playwright adapted the Prometheus myth for the 5th-century Athenian stage. I thought that the best way for the students to envision ‘Prometheus Bound’ and Aeschylus’ artistry as a whole was to create their own production based on their translations and interpretations of the text, as well as the surviving evidence
for ancient Greek theater,” Hogue said.

In preparation for this final project, the HAB students are translating the full text of ‘Prometheus Bound’ from ancient Greek into English.

According to Hogue, “Reading the text in the original Greek gives the class a better understanding of the poetic language and meter, which carries the subtle, and at times dramatic, changes in tone. The original play would have been set to music, and the Greek poetic meter is the best surviving evidence for the musical accompaniment.”

Furthermore, the class is reading secondary scholarship to examine the evidence for various elements of ancient Athenian stagecraft and its limitations.

Based on research and a careful reading of the play, the class will develop a complete production and fabricate masks and costumes, write stage directions for the actors and choreograph for the chorus.

As the class continues to prepare for the production, Hogue hopes that it will result in a greater appreciation for classical literature.

“Many works of Classical literature address questions dealing with the human spirit and mankind’s relationships with the divine, the natural world and the social institutions
of our world, especially family and politics.

“Homer illustrates Ancient Greek definitions of heroism but also the universality of war and its effects. Herodotus asks the question, ‘What makes a man blessed?’ And in tragedy the playwrights stage very difficult questions, asking their audiences to examine the choices that characters make in the face of cruel fates. These questions often capture the social pressures that tug on the characters, pitting against each other family and civic duty, democracy and tyranny, loyalty or defiance of corrupt leadership, divine influence and free will, male and female gender roles and so on.

“While we may come up with different answers than the Ancient Greeks, these questions are still broadly relevant and provide us with an opportunity to think and reflect on how we would answer them personally and as a society.”

Hogue is looking forward to the performance and the result of her students’ hard work. “This class of HABs deserves a tremendous amount of credit for their enthusiasm for this project. When I first suggested it to them in the spring, they were excited at the possibility to do something different.

“Now that we are a few weeks into the semester, their enthusiasm has not dimmed, and they are putting a lot of effort into the production, while also reading Ancient Greek. I am proud of them for jumping into the challenge and hope that everyone will join me in supporting them as they bring their version of ‘Prometheus Bound’ back to life on the stage,” Hogue said. The performance will be near the end of the current semester