God from the Machine

Euripides gets a bad wrap.

Critics have been busting his chops since at least 431 BC, when he debuted his play Medea. He wraps up the conflicts in his plays by having an actor lowered down to the stage via crane or lever, portraying one of the many gods in the ancient Greek pantheon. The god comes down (or, if it’s Hades, comes up through a trap door) and waves away all of the characters’ problems and angst and confusion with a single pronouncement.

“It is I, Athena! Allow me to explain everything and tie up all loose ends!”

Sophocles did this bullshit too.

Lowering a god to the stage to magically save the day is an insult to the audience’s intelligence. But when most of the audience isn’t all that intelligent to begin with, the playwright gets away with it. Most people just want to leave the theater smiling.

Imagine if Gilligan’s Island had ended with Poseidon pushing a steamship to the beach to rescue the castaways, as opposed to the way I think it ended, with the Skipper eating everyone, picking their carcasses clean as he slowly goes insane from the loneliness.

But upon further inspection of the works of Euripides, it becomes apparent that, with one or two exceptions, most of his plots were not necessarily saved by these deus ex machina (literally, God from the Machine) endings. The plots were wound up already and then the god merely shows up to provide a coda of sorts. The more modern explanation for the way the ancient Greeks

Keep reading this article on The Reformed Brocker.

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