charles mee

the (re)making project

The Plays

Night (Thyestes 2.0)

by  C H A R L E S   L .   M E E

A companion piece to Day (Daphnis and Chloe 2.0).
This, Thyestes 2.0 is night, Daphnis and Chloe 2.0 is day.
The pieces can be done individually—or together, under the title
Night and Day.


A woman in a full length black evening dress comes out
to a microphone that stands downstage center.
She speaks into the microphone.

Act one, scene one.
Tantalus, a mortal friend of the gods,
decides to test their omniscience.
He kills his own son, Pelops,
chops him up and boils him,
and plans to feed him to the gods as animal meat.

Scene two.
The gods realize the truth and are horrified;
they put the pieces of the boy back together-
and send Tantalus to Hades.

Scene three.
Tortured by thirst,
Tantalus stands in water that reaches only to his chin.
Food just out of his reach.
Tantalized forever.

Act two, scene one.
Pelops grows up and falls in love with Hippodamia.
But the father of Hippodamia,
in order to test potential suitors,
has declared that anyone who wants to marry his daughter
must first beat him in a chariot race.

Scene two.
The crafty Pelops strikes a secret bargain
with the father's personal charioteer:
if the charioteer will sabotage the father's chariot,
Pelops will let the charioteer sleep with Hippodamia on the wedding night. The charioteer agrees,
Hippodamia's father is killed during the race,
and Pelops marries Hippodamia.

Scene three.
But on the wedding night,
Pelops changes his mind
and refuses to give his bride to the charioteer.
The charioteer tries to rape Hippodamia
and so Pelops throws him off a cliff.
As he falls to his death,
the charioteer curses Pelops
and all his descendants-
as though they needed another curse.

Act three, scene one.
Pelops has two sons,
Atreus and Thyestes,
and, the two sons fight
over who will inherit the throne of Mycenae.
Atreus wins the kingdom-
but Thyestes revenges himself by sleeping with Atreus's wife.

Scene two.
Atreus exiles Thyestes.
But then, under the pretense of making up,
Atreus invites his brother Thyestes home for dinner.
For the menu that night,
Atreus kills the sons of Thyestes,
cooks them,
and serves them to their father with a robust red wine.
After dinner, he asks Thyestes if he knows what he has eaten-
and the servants present Thyestes
with the heads and hands of his own sons.

Scene three.
Thyestes runs out of the house.
He asks the Delphic Oracle how he can be revenged.
The oracle tells him the only way is he must have a child
by his own daughter Pelopia.
That night, Thyestes sees his daughter going into a nearby stream.
He rapes her and abandons her.

Scene four.
Atreus, searching for Thyestes, finds Pelopia,
and takes the pregnant Pelopia as his new wife.
She bears a son,
and Atreus thinks that the boy is his.
Atreus names the boy Aegisthus.
Are you still following this?

Scene five.
Aegisthus kills Atreus
and restores Thyestes to the throne of Mycenae.

Act Four, scene one.
Meanwhile, Atreus's real sons,
Agamemnon and Menelaus,
have escaped.
They come back later when they are grown up.
With the help of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta,
they throw Thyestes out of Mycenae at last.
Agamemnon rules Mycenae.
Menelaus rules Sparta.

Scene two.
But then, the Trojan prince Paris carries Menelaus's wife Helen off to Troy, and so the Trojan War begins.

Scene three.
To get the favor of the gods to begin the war,
Agamemnon sacrifices his own daughter Iphigenia.

Scene four.
While he is gone, Clytemnestra takes up with Aegisthus-
remember him? Thyestes' only surviving son?

Act five, scene one.
When Agamemnon (Atreus's son) returns,
Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (Thyestes's son)
murder Agamemnon.
This is how tradition is passed down in families
from generation to generation.

Scene two.
And so the children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra-
Orestes and Electra-
murder Clytemnestra.

So it is that we see revealed
the dreadful nature of what it is
to be human
that nature that we try always to rise above.

...and here the opera begins.

[She turns and goes to the piano,
leans against it.
Her accompanist plays,
and she sings.

Possibly she sings the Crystal Gale song:]

I can clearly see nothing as clear
I keep falling apart every year
Let's take a hammer to it
There's no glamour in it
Is there any way out of this dream

I'm as blue as I can possibly be
Is there someone else out there for me
Summer is dragging its feet
I feel so incomplete
Is there any way out of this dream
Summer is dragging its feet
I feel so incomplete
Is there any way out of this dream

[And, after a few moments,
a solo female dancer comes out
and dances to the song, to its end.

And, the moment the song ends,
six people come out carrying a dinner table
laden with food

and one, low-voiced, woman
steps out from the crowd of dinner table preparers
to step downstage
and directly address the audience
with deliberate emphasis.]

For dinner I always have the steak frites
well done
this is how it is for me
I need my protein
sometimes I will have the salmon
or the codfish
but, to me,
the steak frites is just what I need.
And sometimes
I will have the ground steak
because, in this way,
you don't lose any nutrient at all....

[a second person steps forward]

I like a ravioli
with a little lamb in it
a little soft lamb
I always cut the piece of ravioli in half
and eat half at a time
this way you can dip the lamb in the sauce
with each bite
and it's very tasty this way

I like
fresh Dungeness crab
(rolled with cilantro and shredded red cabbage
in translucent, Vietnamese-style rice-paper rolls)
in tamarind-peanut sauce
and then, if it's possible
a dessert lagniappe of four chocolates
(meyer lemon, hazelnut, blueberry in white chocolate
and meyer lemon again).
if there is a Turbodog special,
then I will have that:
spoon-soft short ribs braised in brawny Abita Turbodog ale,
served over a rutabaga-potato mash with Long Island baby carrots
and a dusting of horseradish.
And, for dessert,
a thick Mexican hot chocolate
with freshly made,
feathery light
cinnamon-sugar churros.

I am a vegan,
I can't stand to eat meat
I think of the little chickens
and the little cows
and I would rather eat cabbage.

[A cell phone begins to ring,
which brings the food conversation to a close
as everyone looks around at the person whose phone is ringing,
and that person answers the phone call and begins talking]

hello? amanda? hello?

[looks around, a little sheepishly,
and then
everyone else's cell phones begin to ring,
and the others all answer]



who is this?



hello, harold. no. no. no. no.
no. harold.
why do you say that?
what did I do?
to break up
do you mean to break up?
I don't think you mean to break up.
how can we break up?
I don't think you mean it.
I don't think you can mean it.
did you forget how we are?
you don't remember how it is for us to be together?
of course there are bad days
of course there are
but, harold
but, harold


and finally everyone is on cell phones having the same conversation
about a love affair
and a breakup
each taking different lines of the same conversation
sometimes repeating the same lines
or of archtypical lines and conversations around this event

music comes in
one by one
the cell phone conversations end

and everyone sits in a semi circle, dejected
and, after a while, each one dejectedly joins in singing to the music]

the song

[finally one woman's harsh almost screaming singing
dominates the room
and people stop singing and start to leave one by one
going toward the margins
several leave entirely, a few are left
the last guy tries to stop her
and she kicks the shit out of him
gets him down on the ground
pounding and kicking him
while she finishes the song
and leaves.

And, after a moment, the beaten man gets back up
and leaves, stumbling in pain

an amazingly tall man,
with some bizarre Butoh-like inability to walk normally,
comes in naked and caked with charcoal and blood
and goes awkwardly to the ground and rolls in the dust

a different music comes in
a piece of way deconstructed music
that makes John Cage sound nineteenth century
from the New Music programming of WKCR 89.9 FM NY

and, after a few moments,
a woman with a giant lightbulb for a head enters;
in one hand, which she holds out to the side,
she carries a large pocket watch

and then,
a clown walks through wearing a clown hat,
carrying a brief case,
hurrying to an important meeting

and then,
at the same time these other things are happening:
an Asian woman appears in a chinky/junky outfit
stands looking out into the audience
and then
after a few moments,
she leaves;
and a few moments later,
she returns in a red shirt with white undies
holding a pillow in her arms
looking for someone
and turns abruptly and leaves
and returns in a few moments,
wearing a white shirt and tie and glasses
like an office worker
--as though she is trying out identities that will be acceptable-
and, again, she leaves

3 women enter together, wearing only underpants
and they are joined immediately
by 3 naked people at the dinner table
-- including a couple of naked men
and one woman in evening clothes:
a snapshot of society

the bloody charcoal guy leaves
while all the others are coming and going

they are talking about civilization]

when you think
the progress we've made



well: science

particle physics

sanitation alone

when you think, too,
it's been said
we have fewer diseases today
not so much because of advances in medicine
although, of course,
there have been advances in medicine

for sure

but what has really reduced disease is simply better sanitation


street cleaning

clean water

clean water

if there was once a time that we were animals
before we had evolved from amoebas and tree slugs
into human beings
we lived in the wild without central heating or plumbing
we have made progress

there are imperfections, of course,

or even still, dreadful things

things we want to change

but in general I think it's undeniable
there've been immense improvements

and even human beings themselves

human nature itself evolves

the sense of social responsbilitity

tolerance, openness to others

human rights



of a sort there never was before....

we're just
far more advanced than people used to be

I think you can't argue with that



of course sometimes people behave badly

we know this

but, in general,

there is progress-

and beautiful things

things human beings are capable of


beautiful music


I don't even mention the novel!

while everyone eats for a few minutes]

A MAN AT THE DINNER TABLE, speaking to one of the other men
We came one time, my squad,
into the house of a prominent community leader,
and shot him
and shot his wife
shot his married son
his daughter-in-law,
a male and female servant and their baby.
The family dog was clubbed to death,
the family cat was strangled,
the goldfish was scooped out of his fishbowl and tossed on the floor.
When our squad left,
no life remained in the house--
a "family unit" had been eliminated.

the time a car came toward us,
when, just five minutes before, another car had come
and there were four Palestinians in it with RPGs
and they killed three of my friends.
So this new Peugeot comes towards us,
and we shoot.
And there was a family there--
three children.
And I cried,
but I couldn't take the chance.
Children, father, mother.
All the family was killed,
but we couldn't take the chance.

When we cleaned out a terrorist prison camp
we took a woman prisoner.
I'd already told my men we took no prisoners,
but I'd never killed a woman.
"She has to die fast," my sergeant said.
I was sweating.
The woman said to me,
what's the matter? you're sweating.
"Not for you," I said, "It's a malaria recurrence."
I gave my pistol to my sergeant,
but he couldn't do it.
None of them would do it,
and I knew if I didn't do it,
I'd never be able to control that unit again
"You're sweating," she said again.
"Not for you," I said.
And I blew her fucking head off.

Another time
charging into the trenches
shouting and yelling
horses neighing
I saw Corporal Bolte run his lance
right through a dismounted German
who had his hands up, surrendering
and we poured into the trenches
they all had their hands up
yelling "Camerad, Camerad,"
which means "I give up" in their language
but they had to have it that's all
they had to have it
no one can change his feelings during that last rush
the veil of blood before his eyes.
He doesn't want to take prisoners,
he wants to kill.

We came into a church
there were two naked men torturing a young woman
a nun as it turned out
stripped naked and stretched out in the aisle of the church
holding her down
burning her with cigarettes
another woman to one side
already raped I guessed
and dead, bleeding
I yelled at the guys holding down the woman
I told them to stand up
hands above their heads
the one who had been holding down the woman
was shaking from fear
his eyes flying uncontrollably around the room
the woman had rolled onto her stomach, rocking from side to side,
I saw him see the rifle lying in the church aisle
I told him not to be a fool
but suddenly he screamed and dove for the rifle
grabbing it, turning to look at me.
My first burst caught him in the face,
the second full in the chest.
He was dead before he fell over,
a body missing most of its head.
The second guy began to wave his arms up and down,
and he was looking at me
and looking as his own rifle leaned up against the pew
I said don't do it, don't do it,
but he went for his rifle
and he started to swing the muzzle in my direction
one of my guys yelled at me
This guy was facing me now
trying to swing the long barrel rifle across his body
to align it with my chest
his eyes locked on mine.
His eyes never left mine,
not even when the rounds from my Sterling
tore into his stomach
walked up his chest,
and cut the carotid artery on the left side of his neck.
When his body hit the floor,
his eyes were still fixed on mine,
and then his body relaxed,
and his eyes dilated and went blind.

Where there were houses
we left rubble,
smoldering woodpiles.
We smashed our way into crowds
of men and women;
we drove them across the fields
like frightened horses;
we set fire to their houses;
we hurled their corpses into wells;
everything that came to hand
we ruined;
we burned whatever we could.

In the aftermath,
you could feel the chill in the countryside,
the low-lying white mist,
shards of farmhouses in the haze,
shattered stones,
no grass,
no ruins,
empty streets,
and silence
no living thing
no bird, no animal broke the silence
no dogs,
no children,
not one stone left standing on another.

No one knew what was happening
or why--
or who had a chance to survive and who didn't
where the safe places were
who was born under a lucky star

And then the light ash
covering the fields
precious dust
One had the impression
of having passed out of the modern world
back into a vanished civilization.

You have to wonder
if there has ever been a civilization as advanced as our own
because, you know, there could have been
and we would never know
because after they have brought themselves down to ruin
after the records have disintegrated
after the clothes have turned to dust
after the bones have turned to ashes
after the buildings have fallen back to earth
what lasts longer than anything else is red pottery
it is the only evidence we have of the very oldest civilizations
and red pottery lasts only 30,000 years
so you have to ask yourself
do we, today, have anything that lasts as long as red pottery?
and the only thing we have that would last that long is:
whether anyone would think
30,000 years from now
looking at the little bits of styrofoam
that there had once been a civilization as advanced as their own
is anybody's guess
it could be we would vanish from memory
the way others have before us.
We don't know.

[While he was talking
everyone else-bored--just turned and left,
so that, when he concludes his remarks,
no one is still there.
He looks around,
then he leaves.

The Asian woman returns,
this time only in white underpants.


She dances,
a lovely sweet solo.


a guy breaks a dozen wine bottles
by throwing them into a wooden box
one after another,
and then, finally,
he puts his face down into the pile of broken glass in the box,
and he has another guy stand on his neck
to press his face down into the glass-
and, while we were all expecting some miraculous trick to avoid being cut,
he stands up with a lacerated forehead-
while a teen age girl hands out fliers to the audience for some other show
[note for the actor:
there is a trick to this to avoid real injury-
an invisible brace inside the box to support the forehead above the glass]

and, at the same time:

a woman puts a soft cello case over her back
so she looks like a cockroach
and does a cockroach dance on the floor on her hands and knees

a man comes out with an axe
and a window frame,
and he smashes the window frame to bits
[is there something else like this you can do
that won't leave splinters all over the stage?]

a guy,
let's call him Friedrich,
wearing knee-high black leather boots
and a black leather jock strap
comes out and jumps up and down
and maybe sings something in a falsetto voice
while others watch

and eventually, they join him in the dancing
jumping up and down

and finally ten or twelve people are entering from every direction
wild music comes in
and a frenzy of dancing
and then, finally,
everyone is making the same gesture together,
scattered over the stage,
but dancing the same gestures and moves

And then, suddenly, the dancers all just stop dead
and, without any further ceremony
turn to the table
and gather for a HUGE dinner party
where they just feast and feast

and, after a while,
a man at the dinner table
stands up and speaks
--an outburst.

Who hales me
from my miserable rest
among he dead below?
Is there some punishment in store for me
worse than to stand dry-mouthed in running water,
worse than the everlasting yawn of hunger?
O, thou unknown dispenser
of torments to the dead,
if there can be yet more intolerable penalties
find one for me!
From my loins is sprung a generation
whose iniquities, whose crimes of horror
never known till now
make all their predecessors' sins look small
and me an innocent.
Does any place in hell still lack a tenant?
I can furnish one from my posterity.

[a second man stands up and replies]

On with your task, abominable ghost!
Let loose the Furies on your impious house.
Let evil vie with evil
Let anger be unchecked, repentance dumb.
Let fathers' hate live on
and the long heritage of sin
descend to their posterity.
Let crimes be forn ever anew,
and, in their punishment,
each single sin give birth to more than one.
Brother shall flee from brother,
sire from son, and son from sire.
Children shall die in shames
more shameful than their birth;
revengeful wives shall menace husbands,
armies sail to war in lands across the sea,
and every soil be soaked with blood.
Nor shall the heavens be unaffected by your evil deeds.
What right have stars to twinkle in the sky?
Why need their lights still ornament the world?
Let night be black,
let there be no more day.
Let havoc rule this house;
call blood and strife and death;
let every corner of this place
be filled with the revenge of Tantalus!


sudden deafening music slams in
all the men pick up their chairs in their hands
and do a violent, violent chair dance
slamming their chairs down to the floor,
sitting in them,
dancing with their stomping feet only,
getting up again
and picking up the chairs again,
slamming them to the floor,
dancing around them,

possibly they dance to some violent current music
or maybe they dance to Henry Purcell's Overture to St. Cecilia's Day

while we also watch
the suicide bomb video of a woman blowing herself up
[this video exists as an art piece by Mathilde ter Heijne,
called Suicide Bomb, done in 2000]

And then, as the video approaches its end
and the violent music ends
Antony and the Johnsons come in singing Rapture

Eyes are falling
Lips are falling
Hair is falling to the ground
Slowly, softly
Falling, falling
Down in silence to the ground
All the world is falling, falling
All the blue
From me and you
Teardrops falling to the ground
I'm talkin' 'bout your teardrops
For instance
Oh my mama
She's been falling
Falling down for quite some time
And oh my papa
He's been falling
Falling down for quite some time
Oh my friends
I've watched them falling
Falling softly to the ground
Like the leaves
The Leaves are falling
Down in silence to the ground
Is this the rapture
Is this the rapture
Why don't you tell me
Is this the rapture
Is this the rapture
Our father who art in heaven
For the kingdom, the power, the glory, yours
Now and forever

and after a while
as they continue to sing
a grown man is wheeled out in in a baby carriage
and dumped out onto the ground,
and he gets back in the baby carriage
and he is dumped out again
and this happens over and over again
just one long cross of dumping him out, he climbs back in, dumped out

and, while this is going on,
someone gets up from the table
and throws himself to the ground
as though in sympathy or solidarity
with the man being dumped from the baby carriage

and then another man joins in
throwing himself to the ground

and a woman joins in

and then people throw other people to the ground
over and over

men throw women against the wall
and/or women throw men against the wall

and now loud deafening discordant music
takes over again

video of woman w/foot in concrete bucket, hammering it
[this video was done by Kate Gilmore,
in a piece called My Love is an Anchor,
done in 2004]

someone rolls out a bathtub and drowns someone else in it

the sleek old Mafioso in the chair puts on dark sunglasses

a dozen random youtube videos
[on five screens that descend from the flies to different heights]
of cats falling from shelves
kids pulling chairs out from under their grandmothers
jackass movies
the baby that falls down again and again purpose and cries

a woman walks among the brutes, yelling about something,
but the deafening music drowns her out
she is yelling about a dustpan,
how someone has lost the dustpan
where did they put the dustpan
why don't they put the dustpan back where she keeps it
and now 6 people are enraged, yelling, looking for the dustpan
one of them yelling for chrissake
they will go out to the market and get a new dustpan

people drink vodka out of a bottle
and spit it out
drink and spit
drink and spit

a guy cooks scrambled eggs-
and 4 people eat plates of eggs-
spit them out, and throw the remainder on the floor

a woman cries hysterically for ten minutes, curled in a fetal ball

a guy wearing moon boots nailed to the floor
rocks slowly back and forth
back and forth
and, finally,
he is the only guy left on stage
and his rocking is quiet and beautiful
as we slip out of the mode of violence into dreaminess
and we hear the singing of

Albert Kuvezin and Yat-kha:

When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low
And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways, taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again -

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You've turned away on your side
Is my timing that flawed - our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal that we've kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again -

You cry out in your sleep - all my failings expose
There's a taste in my mouth, as desperation takes hold
Just that something so good just can't function no more
When love, love will tear us apart again -

and, as we hear the song,
a woman is rolled in
seated in the middle of a ten foot tall birdcage
with a ten foot diameter
with six immense spider's legs made of tree branches

[to see just what this can be,
see the installation piece entitled Spider by Louise Bourgeois]

she speaks [her voice is miked]

If any god loves us still
may such a god, we pray,
regard us with an eye of peace
and turn all harm away.
Forbid the ever-repeated alternation
of crime with crime, spare us a new succession
of young blood baser than older generations,
of children apter in sin than were their fathers.
Grant that at last the impious brood descended
from thirsting Tantalus may tire of outrage.

After all these butcheries, what next?
Think of the tawny lion
crouching amid the vanquished carcases
of a whole herd of oxen,
jaws agape, wet with blood,
his hunger satisfied
but not his fury.

[now we hear music from the Catholic mass
a choir singing with the organ music
that rises in crescendo to hope
to the hope of transcendence and salvation
and the longing for heaven

and while the organ music goes on:

A naked woman is lowered from the sky.
In one hand, she has a glove,
and in the other hand, carrots.
a bright interior-lit polyhedron is lowered from the sky
like a visitation from god,
and a naked man, woman, and child
come out and stand mute before it

a woman comes out with a green picket fence,
sets it standing up by itself
stands in front of it, to one side, for a minute,
then, after a while,
still smiling and happy and pleased with herself,
picks up the fence and leaves

a guy comes out with a rattan chair
puts it down
sits in it
just smiling
just sitting in the yard on a summer afternoon
and having a perfect right to do it

several naked bathers come out
and put down a plastic wading pool on the ground
and all get in and lounge in it
is one of them brushing her hair
the other just standing in her corset
the third naked in the water?

or is it one woman
who pushes out a bathtub on wheels
gets in
and luxuriates?

another woman
pushes out a large couch on wheels
takes off all her clothes
and lies down on the couch naked
stomach down
like those nineteenth century paintings of odalisques

The spider woman is gone,
but we hear her miked voice:

O Father of all earth and all that lives
whose rising banishes the lesser lights
that make the dark night beautiful:
why hast thou turned aside
from thy appointed path?
Why has thou blotted out the day
and fled from heaven's center?
Why, O Phoebus,
hast thou turned thy face from us?
Is all the order of the universe plunged into chaos?
The Sun himself is like a stranger lost in a strange land,
meeting the morning as he goes to rest,
calling for darkness when no light has come,
the stars have not appeared,
there is no light in all the sky,
no moon to break the darkness.
This is the fear, the fear that knocks at the heart,
that the whole world is now to fall in the ruin.

What more?
What more stupendous, more atrocious crimes
can man conceive?

big loud deafening music again
and we hear artaud screaming over the music
[there is a sound archive on ubuweb
with Artaud screaming, Artaud screaming with Roger Blin,
some Kurt Schwitters sound poetry,
a video of Joseph Beuys singing Sonne Statt Reagan,
some Seth Price music,
a piece by Doug Rosenberg, such as
Ursus or Cryptocracy or Widow's Walk--
any number of these would work well at this point]

as a man enters, hesitantly,
and takes his place at the dinner table

he sits there, weeping and weeping
and writing in a journal

and, in time, the others all gather around him
and the music and cacaphony of sound come to an end

what are you doing?

I am writing stories


to console myself

how do you mean?

this is what nietzsche said
we make up stories
to conceal from ourselves
the fact that beneath our feet
lies an abyss of utter chaos
and meaninglessness....
I am making up stories
to see if it will help

I see

[now the beautiful dinner table scene comes into focus
with everyone around the table
very civilized
considerate, thoughtful, passing things nicely
the family around the table
and they turn their attention to consoling the man weeping]

perhaps you'll have something to eat?

will you have a glass of wine?

or tea?

or tea....

and do you like some fish?
or perhaps a little, just some bread and butter....

[as they settle down at the table
and pass dishes to one another
we hear beautiful music
Handel or Lully
and we just listen to the beautiful music
as the man continues to write in his journal

a large wooden or metal toy car comes out on stage,
a red convertible
with two twelve-year-old boys in it
[for cost saving, the boys can be made of cardboard];
they park the car facing upstage
and they watch a movie of a girl putting on a dress

and two men at the table begin to speak]

No state of life endures;
pleasure and pain take each their turn;
and pleasure's turn is shorter.
Time swiftly changes highest into lowest.
and swift chance
can make all things change.
No man should put his trust in the smile of fortune,
no man abandon hope in a time of trouble.
The Spinner of Fate twines good and bad together,
never lets fortune rest, keeps all things moving.
Life's circle is ever revolving,
the swift wheel turning.

Are we chosen out of all earth's children
to perish in the last catastrophe
of a disjointed universe?
Are we to see the world's end come?
A cruel fate brought us to birth,
if we have lived to lose the sun,
or if our sins have driven him away.
But we must not complain, or fear;
too fond of life is he who would not die
when all the world dies with him.

[by now, the whole cast has come back to take their places
at the dinner table
and they eat quietly, politely
and listen to the music at the end
beautiful, heartbreaking

It could be Lully's Chaconne
Handel's Ombra mai fu from the opera Xerxes
Handel's Lascia ch'io pianga from his opera Rinaldo
for something triumphant
in the face of pain and suffering and adversity,
there is Henry Purcell's Overture to the Fairy Queen.


Night (Thyestes 2.0) was inspired by Seneca's Thyestes and includes several pieces of text from Seneca's play. A good many translations were consulted: Jasper Heywood's translation of 1560, the translation by Frank Justus Miller published in 1907, the translation by E.F. Watling published in 1966, the translation by David R. Slavitt published in 1992, the translation by John G. Fitch published in 2004, but I have relied for appropriated pieces of text on the translation by E.F. Watling.

Charles Mee's work has been made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.

Some theatre companies may like to use a different translation for the Thyestes texts–for example the Slavitt translation below. If they prefer the Slavitt translation, they will need to get permission for its use from Johns Hopkins University Press:


Who calls me from the infernal regions
who drags me back, plucks at my tortured spirit,
to grab at me as I have been grabbing at empty air?
What worse ordeals have the judges of hell
devised for Tantalus' ghost?
Hunger in plenty,
and thirst in the midst of running water
are hard
as my parched lips can testify.
But I've learned, barely, to bear these torments.
Whatever new comes to me now cannot be better!
A heart of stone would melt
at the thought of anything further
heaped on the burden I already carry.
The light dazzles my dimmed eyes;
I tremble with dread to return to the world again,
where my clan is swarming,
a multitude,
each of whom bids fair to make those crimes
for which I suffer forever
almost innocent compared with what they do and dare.
Whatever space is not yet filled in the land of the damned,
whatever cell is unassigned by the terrible judges,
my children and their children shall lay claim to
with the right
of terrible wrongs.

That's it, villain.
Goad your heirs to madness!
Let there be competition among your issue
to exceed one another in guilt....
Your house will be an asylum for madmen,
and then, in a moment,
and desolate-
power and wretchedness changing madly
as in a lunatic's wavering fancies.
Chance, stone blind, will lead on a treacherous path
as your heirs are exiled for vile misdeeds
and return to worse crimes.
But no onlooker will pity
or feel for them anything other than sheer disgust,
while in that arrogant house,
in hatred and fear,
brother will mistrust brother,
as father will fear his sons,
who will quail at the sight of their father.
Born in disgrace, they will die in earned vileness.
A wife will strike the blow to dispatch her husband,
and blood will flood the land
to bring forth lusts like vermin,
corrupting every virtue....
You say you are hungry?
Feast on the gory banquet we have prepared,
and drink deep of the bloodied wine
till your belly is full!


What kind of world do we live in?
How does a man bear the brutal blows a life entails?
These evils await us like adders,
sunning themselves on the rocks.
The sun should flee from the sky,
and sky shrink from the foul earth beneath it
before permitting such profanation to poison the landscape.
Close your eyes,
but the terrible images still persist
as if the gates of Hades had opened
and rotting bodies strolled in the streets,
their cerements streaming foulness behind them.

They say a lion that falls on a herd
will kill even after its hunger is sated.
The blood acts like a drug
to put the beast in a frenzy to kill,
crazy with gore,
and eager for more and more.

To the high gods I cry out
to set some limit to what mankind may suffer.

In Rome, someone had his own half-brother
poisoned at dinner.
Everyone sees but says nothing and does nothing.
Then he murders his own mother,
and nothing happens, nothing at all.
The sun continues to rise in the east
and travel its usual course across a clear baby-blue heaven,
but how?
Is there no justice?
Are there no gods to keep such foulness away from the world?

A man's soul,
sickened to death from what he has seen,
cries out to whatever power he still believes in,
protesting that nature continues its usual course.

The walls of houses crack,
and the people run in the streets, crying in panic....
as well they should.
As they ought to have done from the very first moment
when madness seized the world.


If any god has ever regarded this place with love,
or affection,
or even attention,
if any spirit has found some respite here in these gentle streams,
let him come back here now, for pity's sake,
to prevent a crime beyond imagination
from happening here.

There ought to be limits to wickedness.
Bonds of affection that animals recognize,
we, human beings, ought to acknowledge.
Tantalus' dreadful spirit infects not only the Argive plain
but the whole earth,
and all of us suffer.

Some in the audience may find
that their thoughts wander away from the horrors before them on stage
to others they have not seen,
but know about,
as one knows of a dead body,
rotting somewhere nearby.

Although we may dream of justice,
we cannot believe it-
except as a children's story our grandparents may have told us,
who could not bear that we should learn too soon
the unpleasant truths-
prime among which
is that even one's own grandparents cannot be trusted.

What emotion endures?
Pain fades, thank heaven,
but also pleasure.
Time turns fortunes topsy-turvy,
and he whose head is crowned with laurel,
he whose hand is clasped on a scepter,
he will bend his knee and grovel down in the dust
before the man he'd thought of before as beneath his notice.

Let us therefore try to maintain our balance,
remembering modesty's lesson.
Success and prosperity come unbidden and undeserved,
as their opposites also happen at random.
No one should preen in self-congratulation,
and no one ought to despair.
Whom the rising sun shines on in triumph
the setting sun may wash in the long shadows of woe.

...we live like leaves on the whim of the fickle winds
that any moment may bear us up or dash us down
from whatever height we have clung to
having persuaded ourselves it is home,
where we belong and what we have earned....
No man, therefore,
ought to rely on tomorrow
or even this afternoon
as the swift wheel of fortune continues its dizzying whirl.


The only true kingdom
is that a man can bestow on himself,
from which he never can be deposed.
The world may beckon,
offering pride of power,
but he knows better.
The heights are steep
and the views may be fine,
but down at the bottom are mangled bodies
to make us aware of what the costs can be.
I pray only for clear judgment to see how,
in humble station,
I may enjoy untroubled and sweet repose.

Men's lives have been likened to rivers.
Let mine flow in untroubled currents that keep to the grassy banks.
In the showy rapids and towering falls of the great
disasters lurk.
Their ride is exciting
but how many come in the end to grief.
Better to paddle in quiet waters
dappled by sunlight
that drifts through the leaves of the overhanging trees
and enjoy the talk of our friends
and the laughter of children.
Until in the lengthening shadows,
we drift into a doze.
Happiness' secret is easy enough for a man to grasp,
provided only he holds it lightly-
to live simply and then, full of years,
learn to let go.
It is not death we fear
but the leaving of what we've loved.
The lesson is simple enough for children
who learn, each day, to go to their beds
and endure without any fear
the dying that signals the end of a day
that wasn't given, but only lent.


Charles Mee's work has been made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.

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