Sunday, February 22, 2009
Tiresias & 'Fools'
In Greek mythology, a man of Thebes blinded by the gods and given the ability to predict the future.
According to the Roman poet Ovid, Tiresias saw two snakes mating, struck at them, and was changed into a woman. Seven years later, in a repetition of the same scene, he reverted back to manhood.
Later, he was called upon to settle a dispute between the two gods Zeus and Hera on whether men or women enjoy sex more. He declared for women, and as a result Hera blinded him, but Zeus gave him the gift of foresight.
After the defeat of Thebes, he either fled with other refugees or was led away in captivity, but on the road he drank from the spring Tilphusa and died. He was believed to retain his powers as a seer in the underworld.
We have read many stories and literature works about characters who are characterized as fools. What does the word fool symbolises? Are they really facing mental disability or just make wrong decisions in lives which lead to their reversal of fate?
Fools are a mythic staple of literature and film in western civilization. The same goes for western politics, where folly comes to the fore in times of trouble for ordinary people in the politics of their everyday lives. The main kinds and devices of folly are seen as a set of political practices which are even more potent and popular today than when they began to be invented in ancient Greece. There are arguments which features the resonance between Shakespeare’s courtly fools and the fortunate fools prominent in recent popular films and works of literature. It distinguishes seven sorts of fools prominent in Network (1976), Being There (1979), Amadeus (1984), The Fisher King (1991), The Remains of the Day (1993), Nobody’s Fool (1994), Forrest Gump (1994), and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001). Not forgetting the play we are currently doing "Oedipus Rex" where King Laois is seen as the Fool in this play because he believes the oracle so much that he is willing to sacrifice his son to ensure his place on the throne. Alas, the Fool fails to run away from the prophecy and thus faces the death in Oedipus's hands. Also, Oedipus is seen as a fool here because he has been so ignorant and there has been countless ironies in his earlier statement which foreshadows his downfall as a king to a blind beggar.
To comprehend western politics without appreciating fools can be like learning to cook without attending to spices. Fools have become literary, cinematic, and political figures for the ordinary people, the common folk, the average individuals, especially as they confront troubles that bring out their enormous political incapacities and surprising political resources. Especially they are the mass publics that surface in electronic democracies. These figures were anticipated by the Eirons in ancient Greece. They were defined by the traditional practices of folly that reached from sacrificial fools of the Roman Saturnalia and sharp quills of the Roman satirists through the minstrels, mock kings, and boy bishops of the middle ages to the jesters for early modern courts and domestic fools kept by the bourgeoisie.