In the interest of fair warning, I should have pointed this out in my initial post, but it simply slipped my mind since I’m pretty much desensitized to this issue. As you may have already noticed, ancient art has no restriction on nudity, or should I say little restriction. Since I am looking for echoes of Richard Armitage in this body of material, images of nude or partially nude ancient paintings and sculptures will figure prominently in posts here. Do with this what you will, but be aware, that I’m not interested in debating the right or wrong of artistic nudity in any way, shape or form. My intention is not to scare anyone away, just to give a heads up on content. Now, on to more interesting material:
Our ancient piece this week is another Red Figure kRAter (I can’t help it – that’s really what it’s called!), this one from Apulia in Italy, dating to around 380 BC. The vase, pictured below, depicts the opening scene of The Eumenides by the playwright Aeschylus.
In the central scene, the “hero” Orestes is trying to escape the Erinyes (The Furies) by taking refuge on the Altar of Apollo at Delphi. Orestes’ big problem is that he killed his mother Clytemnestra and The Furies are hunting him down to punish him for it.
Despite having killed his mother, Orestes emerges as a sympathetic character, largely because he acted not of his own accord, but under the negative agency of another. This type of character fits well into the textbook definition of the antihero, and that got me thinking about Guy of Gisborne.
I don’t think I’m alone in the notion that Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s most recent incarnation of Robin Hood gave new life to the notion of an antihero. We know we shouldn’t root for him, but there is just something in him that we don’t want to give up on.
(Spoiler Alert – read no further if you’ve not yet watched RH)
The character of Guy in Series 3 depicts a man all but destroyed by guilt and remorse over his role in the death of Marian. In Guy’s case refuge seems to be self-destruction rather than a sympathetic god. Although Guy wielded the sword that killed Marian in the final episode of S2, a case can be made that the event might never have occurred had it not been for the constant goading of Vasey, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen)
Like Sir Guy, Orestes was pushed into action by the agency both of his mother Clytemnestra and social convention. As the story goes, Clytemnestra killed her husband, Orestes’ father, Agamemnon. This action forced her son Orestes to avenge his father’s death, as dictated by custom, by killing the murderer – in this case, his own mother. Like Guy, Orestes is hounded by his actions, literally, as he is run to ground by The Furies. Above we see Orestes and Guy in similar form, quietly contemplating their crimes, each remorseful, each facing execution. In the end, Orestes fares somewhat better in that he is acquitted of the blood guilt of matricide and The Furies leave him alone. Guy? I suppose he achieves some level of redemption, if that’s how one reads his final scene in the series finale. I tend to think he earned a bit more.