Sappho, Leonidas, and the Rainbow Banner

So Jack the sociolinguist, Jack the historical linguist, Jack the classicist, and Jack the social progressive got to talking this afternoon, and the following idea resulted:

pompei_-_sappho_-_man

Fun fact: the terms “sapphic” and “lesbian” in their modern sense derive their meaning from the Greek poetess Sappho of Lesbos, who in her poems expressed affection toward women. It’s pretty cool that a sexual orientation owes its names to a figure of classical literature so closely associated with wit and intellect.

Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece --- Greece, Peloponnese, Sparta, Leonidas statue --- Image by © René Mattes/Hemis/Corbis

The bonds of fraternity in the ancient Spartan army are often thought among scholars to have been reinforced by sexual intercourse. How awesome would it be if sexual attraction between males were referred to as “Spartan” or “Leonidic”? It could replace such ideas as flippancy, frivolity, effeminacy, and weakness (now so unfortunately* associated with the word “gay”) with images of strength, comradeship, and victory.

“Dude, that girl was flirting so hard with you. Did you get her digits?”
“Yeah, but it’s not going where you’re thinking. I’m spartan.”
“Aw, that’s awesome, brah!”

Just a thought.

*To clarify, I see nothing wrong with effeminacy or gaiety per se, but as stereotypes of a big chunk of the population they can be quite destructive.

Advertisements

Akallabêth…Greek-style!

Drowning-of-Numenor-port
A transliteration of Tolkien’s fractious Adûnaic account of the downfall of Númenórë into quasi-Greek orthography. The language is still that of the Men of Westernesse, but Tolkien’s “transliteration” in Sauron Defeated reads like a Latin transliteration of a Greek text. Hence comes this version. A translation is given below.

For more Tolkien texts and translations (including the original version of this), visit this awesome site:

KAΔÔ ZIΓÝΡYN ZABAΘÂN YNAKXA…
…HΡYXÍNIM ΔYBΔAM YΓΡY-ΔAΛAΔ…
…AΡ-ΦAΡAZÓNYN AZAΓΓAΡA AYAΛÓIIADA…
…BÁΡIM AN-AΔŶN IYΡAXTAM ΔÁIΡA ΣÁIBHΘ-MÂ HΡYYÔ …
…AZΡÍIA ΔY-ΦYΡΣÂ AXÁΣAΔA …
…ANAΔÝNH ZÍΡÂN XIKAΛΛABA…
…BAYÍBA ΔYΛΓÎ…
…BAΛÎK XAZAΔ AN-NIMΡYZÎΡ AZÝΛAΔA…
AΓANNÁΛÔ BYΡÓΔA NHNYΔ…
…ZÁIΡA NHNYΔ…
…AΔŶN IZINΔI BATÂN TÁIΔÔ AIAΔΔA: ÍΔÔ KÁΘA BATÍNA ΛÓXÎ…
HΦAΛAK ÍΔÔN IÓZÁIAN.
HΦAΛ HΦAΛAK ÍΔÔN ῾I-AKAΛΛABHΘ.

And so the Sorceror came humbled…
…the Children of Eru [the One] fall under the shadow…
…Ar-Pharazôn [the Golden King] was warring against the Gods…
…the Lords of the West broke the earth with the assent of Eru…
…so that the seas gushed into the chasm…
…Númenor [Westernesse] the beloved fell down…
…the winds were black…
…the seven ships of Elendil [Elf-friend] eastwards…
The shadow of death is heavy on us…
…longing is on us…
…in the West there was once a straight road ; now all roads are crooked…
Far away now is the Land of Gift.
Far, far away now is the Downfallen.

AMORES CATVLLI

Some of the love poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus:

ıı
pάſſér, délıcıαe meαe puéllαe,
quícúm lúdere, qu’ ín ſınú τenére,
quoı prímúm dıᵹıτúm dαr’ άdpeτénτı
éτ άcríſ ſoleτ íncıτάre mórſúſ,
cúm déſíderıó meó nıτénτı
cάrúm néſcıoquíd lıbéτ ıocάrı
úτ ſólάcıolúm ſuí dolóríſ,
créd’ úτ ιάm ᵹrαuıſ άcquıéſcατ άrdór:
τécúm lúdere ſícuτ ípſα póſſem
éτ τríſτíſ αnımí leuάre cúrάſ!
τάm ᵹrάτúmſτ mıhı quάm ferúnτ puéllαe
pérníc’ αureolúm fuíſſe mάlúm,
quód zónάm ſoluíτ dıú lıᵹάταm.
ııı
lúᵹéτ’, ó ueneréſ cupídınéſque,
é quάnτúmſτ homınúm uenúſτıórúm
pάſſér mórτuuſ éſτ meαe puéllαe,
pάſſér, délıcıαe meαe puéllαe,
quém plúſ íll’ oculíſ ſuíſ αmάbάτ:
nάm méllíτuſ erάτ ſuάmque nórατ
ípſά τάm bene quάm puéllα mάτrém
néc ſéſé ‘ ᵹremı’ íllıúſ mouébάτ,
ſéd círcúmſılıénſ modó huc íllúc
άd ſólάm domın’ úſque pípıάbάτ.
quí núnc íτ per ıτér τenébrıcóſum
íllúc, únde neᵹάnτ redíre quémquάm.
άτ uóbíſ mαle ſíτ, mαlαe τenébrαe
órcí, qu’ ómnıα béllα déuorττíſ:
τάm béllúm mıhı pάſſer’ άbſτulíſτıſ.
ó fάcτúm mαle! ıó mıſélle pάſſér!
τúά núnc operά meαe puéllαe
fléndó τúrᵹıdulí rubénτ océllı.
u
uíuάmúſ, meα léſbı’, άτqu’ αmémúſ,
rúmóréſque ſenúm ſeuérıórúm
ómnéſ únıuſ αeſτımémuſ άſſíſ.
ſóléſ óccıder’ éτ redíre póſſúnτ
nóbíſ cúm ſemel óccıdíτ breuíſ lúx,
nóx éſτ pérpeτu’ únα dórmıéndα.
dά mí bάſıα mílle, deınde cénτúm,
deın míll’ άlτerα, deın ſecúndα cénτúm,
deınd’ úſqu’ άlτerα mílle, deınde cénτúm.
deın, cúm mílıα múlτα fécerímúſ,
cónτúrbάbımuſ íllα, né ſcıάmuſ,
αuτ néquíſ mαluſ ínuıdére póſſíτ,
cúm τάnτúm ſcıeτ éſſe báſıórum.
uıı
quαeríſ, quóτ mıhı bάſıάτıónéſ
τúαe, léſbıα, ſínτ ſατíſ ſupérqué.
quάm mάᵹnúſ numerúſ lıbýſſ’ αrénαe
lάſάrpícıferúſ ıαcéτ cyréníſ,
órάclúm ıouıſ ínτer αeſτuóſı
éτ bάττí ueτeríſ ſάcrúm ſepúlcrı
αuτ quάm ſíderα múlτα, cúm ταcéτ nóx,
fúrτíuóſ homınúm uıdénτ αmóréſ,
τám τé bάſıα múlτα bάſıάre
uéſάnó ſατıſ éτ ſupér cατúllóſτ,
quαe néc pérnumerάre cúrıóſı
póſſínτ néc mαlα fάſcınάre línᵹuα.
xxxıı
άmάbó, meα dúlcıſ ípſıτíllα,
méαe délıcıαe, meí lepóréſ,
ιúb’ άd τé uenıάm merídıάτum.
éτ ſí ıúſſerıſ íllud, άdıuuάτó,
néquíſ límınıſ óbſeréτ ταbéllάm,
neu τíbí lubeάτ forάſ αbíre,
ſéd dómí mαneάſ pαréſque nóbíſ
nóuém cónτınuáſ fuτúτιónéſ.
uérúm, ſíquıd αᵹéſ, ſτατím ıubéτó:
nάm prάnſúſ ıαce’ éτ ſατúr ſupínúſ
pérτúndó τunıcάmque pάllıúmque.

Hamlet (2009) Review

Man, was this Royal Shakespeare Company version of Hamlet ever a breath of fresh air after Kenneth Branagh’s exhausting regurgitation of the Bard’s magnũ opus. I can never get over David Tennant’s sensitive, honest, heartbreaking performance. The text is slimmed down to aid in the pacing, the order of scenes is altered for the sake of tonal consistency, and the performances are understated and accessible.

The use of security cameras and settings at once glossy and gloomy build a sense of paranoia and foreboding that contrast beautifully with the silly moments of dark humour. The actors move in an extremely believable manner, and the entire production feels intimate and voyeuristic. There is no pretense of “edginess” (cough-Ethan Hawke-cough) or annoying sense of self-importance: this is the story of a troubled young man’s quest for revenge and his identity, not of the lurid Elsinore shenanigans depicted in Branagh’s version. The choice to omit the invasion of Fortinbras and end the show with Hamlet’s death feels much more consistent with the tone and style of the production. An invasion of hitherto absent Norwegians would have felt out of place and unnecessary within the context of the story the RSC was trying to tell. The audience doesn’t get to see Horatio’s shining moment in the final lines of the play, but this dramatisation isn’t Horatio’s story. It’s Hamlet’s.

Patrick Stewart steals the show as Claudius (and, in an intriguing casting decision, the late King Hamlet), putting Derek Jacobi’s valiant effort thirteen years prior to shame. This is no mean feat even for Stewart. David Tennant gives a performance as Hamlet to eclipse his entire four-year run as the Doctor on the BBC’s Doctor Who and mop the floor with Branagh’s well conceived but overacted take on the prince. Peter De Jersey is the perfect Horatio and plays an enviable best friend and compelling straight man even without his exchange with Fortinbras. At a relatively slim three hours, this version beats Branagh’s overcooked turkey by miles. Yes, I know I just used a mixed metaphor, but ya know who else did? Mr. “take arms against a sea of troubles”, that’s who.

Hamlet (1996) Review

Let me begin by saying that I love Hamlet. I have since the fifth grade when I read a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip in which Calvin’s questionable-looking dinner came to life and performed the first half of the troubled Danish prince’s soliloquy from Act I Scene ii. In recent years my appreciation for Shakespeare has blossomed and led me to seek different interpretations of his work, and few of his plays have been adapted so often and with such diverse results as Hamlet. I recently revisited Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 screen version, and my thoughts on it are as follows:

Boy, did I remember this hulking thing more fondly than I received it this time around. The performances are as fine as one would expect from an all-star ensemble cast such as this, many of whom had worked with director and star Branagh on other Shakespeare projects. Branagh, however, despite his extensive experience in film, seems to think he is still on a stage judging by his bombastic gestures and blustering line delivery. To watch him with no audio were to see a performance more suited to the opera than to the silver screen, which is rather disappointing when compared with his compelling 1989 big-screen debut as Henry V.

The movie is extremely well-lit, and while it does often work to the film’s advantage by leaving nothing hidden to the eye and taking full advantage of a rich colour palette. However, the æsthetic’s strength turns out to be its greatest weakness. A dearth of shadow robs many scenes of a sense of realism and paranoia. If every single shot is equally pretty, the visual aspect of cinematic storytelling is lost, along with the justification for adapting the full text of the play to the screen: with little variation in the visual texture and sound quality (each voice is perfectly crystal-clear and pristinely equalized) one loses interest in the actual experience of seeing the film and has no reason to sit for four hours listening to a literary masterpiece that could have been much more enjoyable without any picture at all (I highly recommend the Arkangel audio dramatizations of the Bard’s complete works.)

The sets and movements are just as grand and gaudy as Branagh’s performance, the entrances and exits a mixed bag ranging from tense and gripping to awkward and cartoonish. The scenes are presented exactly in the order in which they are set down in the play, so the staging is quite by-the-book and for the most part predictable. The film’s visuals all blur together after the two-hour mark, and one is left wondering why one is still sitting while other more worthwhile activities are readily available options. The film ultimately holds no visual interest on a cinematic level despite the odd shot of a topless Kate Winslet (way to name draw, Ken) and an absurd bit of swashbuckling at the end. It seems that Branagh learned the hard way that to adapt a written work for the big screen one must add some level of visual interest for the non-Shakespeare scholar to justify the runtime of a full-text production. Without a reason to watch a film, one might as well listen to a full-text audio dramatization. Branagh’s Shakespeare films are intended to bring the Bard into the mainstream Hollywood consciousness, but this overlong, overlit, overstuffed, overwrought behemoth hasn’t enough cinematic merit to justify its existence.