Arts > Race wars

29 September 2016 | by Mark Lawson

Race wars


For reasons possibly due to the similar cultural and imperial ambitions of the civilisations centred on Athens and Washington, American dramatists have often looked to Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles as their tutelary gods. Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra and Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge are conscious attempts to relocate the House of Atreus to the United States.

Even more explicitly, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3), by the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Suzan-Lori Parks, imposes on the American Civil War dramatic devices associated with the telling of the Trojan conflict. The casting of the drama as a trilogy (performed in one three-hour evening) is a homage to the Oresteia, and there are nods to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in characters called Homer, Hero, Penelope and a cross-eyed dog called Odd-See. Parks does not have to make up that the head of the Union forces, General Grant, spookily had the first name of Ulysses.


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