Iphigenia at Aulis, April 2014 at The Poco Theatre in The Secret Theatre
While the victors write the history, Paris surely doesn’t seem to have much honor and allows most of his life to be given to him, even his fate to be the fall of Troy, that we have to wonder if his actions were worth all the pain and turmoil he caused.
When he was born, an oracle saw that he would be the fall of Troy and his father, King Priam, sent him away to be killed. Not the greatest start to life, and I can definitely see him having some abandonment issues, but he was spared by the person who was supposed to kill him, so that should be a reason to be thankful.
As a shepherd, Paris caught the eye of a nymph named Oenone. While she had the gift of prophecy and must have known he would leave her for Helen, what is surprising is her devotion to him. She tells him when he leaves her for Helen that he can return to her at any time if he is hurt, since she also was skilled in medicine, and she would heal him.
Between his good looks and his charm, he seemed untouchable and we have to wonder if he felt this entitlement as well. He became known for being a good judge (notice I’m not saying fair judge) of bull fights and this was the basis for his becoming the judge of the most beautiful goddess contest. When he won, he was granted the most beautiful woman in the world, who happened to be married to someone else, Menelaus. Shouldn’t that have given him a moments pause?
There have been many arguments of whether Helen went willingly or not, and she wouldn’t be the first woman to cheat on her husband (how many divorces happen on a regular basis now?). But it does make her choice of Menelaus seem more arbitrary. The reason the Greeks were united when Helen was swept away was because of how she was courted. She was courted by all of the fine champions of the day, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Ajax, and many others; her father, Tyndarus, at the advice of Odysseus allowed her to choose the man that she would marry, and in return for that all of the suitors would pledge alligiance with Tyndarus and each other and would not begrudge her choice. Menelaus was not the obvious choice and was certainly a surprising choice for his fellow suitors. But the story goes that she truly loved him and that’s why she chose him.
This calls into question Helen’s honor as well, but Paris was a handsome man. The stories say his beauty belied his humble upbringing and people noticed his royal character. He could have had any woman; he already had a woman who was faithful to him. I will admit that crossing gods and goddesses can have some horrific results and he could have been afraid of what Aphrodite would do to him if he refused the gift, but his actions still lacked honor.
Is an entire nation’s downfall worth this boy’s hubris? Would Iphigenia just have become a pawn in some other war of Agamemnon’s had the Trojan War not happened and the house of Atreus still have fallen? Yes, there was the belief in fate and that there was no escaping your destiny, but is your destiny a predetermination of a whim of the gods or is it a predetermination of the character of a person as his or her own values shape their world?
We’ll see some of the havoc he caused in Iphigenia at Aulis in April 2014.