The ancients knew a thing or two about madness.
Shakespeare's Lear was tricked by ruthless
flatterers and self-seeking courtiers. MacBeth
was ruined by venal ambition
Sophocles's protagonist was a morally upstanding
hero, cruelly mocked by the Fates. Despite
prophecies, Oedipus couldn’t see in front of his
nose; he wound up killing his father and
marrying his mother.
The 'Father of Comedy', Aristophanes, may have
regarded the incumbent king (with a small 'k')
a latter-day demagogue, like Cleon.
Cleon was a trenchant critic and accuser of
state officials, but he now came forward as the
professed champion and leader of
the democracy and rapidly came to dominate
politics. Although rough and unpolished, Cleon
was charismatic, with
natural eloquence and a powerful voice, and he
knew how to work upon the emotions of the
The Greek aphorism 'know thyself', was inscribed
on the Temple of Apollo, wise wise advice
never reached the moaner-in-chief, whose attempt
to undermine democracy failed.
A short play in one act
"Omg that was fantastic. The best. Hey you
chould run the country."
"Like the top job."
"Are you nuts. It's a mean
"But look vot a mansion you get, it comes vid job."
"OMG!!! It's huuuuge!!"
"Yeah, way bigger than the shack in
"OMG, no taxes!"
"It's a steal big boy."
Fast forward 2020
Our protagonist is lying on the sofa in his
mansion, sanity collapsing. His courtiers
toward the exit, gently, stage left.
"Perhaps a spell in an upscale sanatorium,
Aristotle's treatise on drama, resonates most of
all. In 'Poetics' he discusses the role of
catharis in Greek Tragedy.
A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action
that is serious and also, as having
complete in itself; in language with pleasurable
accessories, each kind brought in
the parts of the work; in a dramatic, not in a
with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith
to accomplish its catharsis of such
Source: Aristotle, Poetics
The founders of democracy excluded women from
public life but the ancient Greeks certainly
strength of character, both male and female,
which they saw as essential for long-lasting
Greek democracy accorded honours to some of the
most brilliant female minds in history. Women
like Hypatia a genius mathematician and
inventor of the Astrolabe - murdered by
Another great lady in the ancient world was
Diotima (5th century B.C.) a priestess
Mantineia, Peloponnese. Her wisdom in art
medicine was renowned, and honoured by the
Under her instructions the Athenians postponed
the coming of the plague for a decade.
modern times the name Diotima means the quest
for philosophical, scientific and social
and symbolizes the equality of men and
women, as she is the only woman referred to in
the male-dominated Symposium of Plato.
2020, and women's voices are unheard in the
global conversation on
COVID. Then again, no surprise there, since our
modern hero disses women, bigly , and
'suburban housewives' carefully spotlighted
during the recent US election campaign
definitely weren't impressed, as the election
results showed. However, we the spectators of
the tragic twitter-drama know
that true democracy CAN endure,
despite the failure to include us in the
decision-making process on important issues.
change, is changing.
Something is rotten in the heart of Denmark -
Trumpism appeals to supremacists and the KKK who
still remain active in the heartlands of
America; and in the South. There is a painful
transition to come, but a chance, now that the
boils of hatred and division have been lanced,
catharsis can begin.
Catharsis the purification or purgation
of the emotions (especially pity and fear)
primarily through art. In criticism, catharsis
is a metaphor used by Aristotle in the
describe the effects of true tragedy on
the spectator. The use is derived from the
medical term katharsis (Greek: “purgation” or
“purification”). Aristotle states that the
purpose of tragedy is to arouse “terror and
thereby effect the catharsis of these emotions.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Seeing the protagonist go through his trials, the
spectator feels purged.