Eureka Hephaestus!

Way back when, in the early months of Ancient Armitage, I frequently found myself comparing elements of Richard Armitage characterizations to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods along the way.  There are a couple though, who are absent from the list.  (I was surprised to realize that I haven’t ever talked directly about Zeus vis a vis the Armitage oeuvre…a rather obvious comparison sprang to mind immediately…note to self.)

The Greek god Hephaestus has been a rather difficult one to nail down…hehehe…Hephaestus, nail. Sorry – got ahead of myself with the mythology pun there.  Hephaestus was the Greek god of fire and the forge along with craftsmanship.  Metalworkers, stonemasons, architects and sculptors all benefited from his patronage.  Like many of the younger generation of Greek deities, Hephaestus’ birth story is varied.  Some sources record him as an offspring (along with Ares, Hebe, Eilethyia and Eris) of Zeus and Hera, but others tell a different story.  One of the most interesting birth myths for Hephaestus comes from the Theogony of Hesiod.  Here Hesiod recounts that Hera had been angered by the fact that Zeus had by himself ushered in “bright-eyed Athena” without a mother, so she decided to try a solo act and produced Hephaestus with no help from Zeus.

Greek mythology is a weird and wacky universe, but what happens next is tragic in an all too modern way.  All of the birth myths of Hephaestus record that shortly after his birth, his mother Hera cast him aside because he was born “lame” with a misshapen foot.  In fact, she threw him off Mt. Olympos…

“But my son Hephaistos whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and a disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods!’”

                                                                                               – Homeric Hymn to Apollo

With a mother like that, who needs a wicked stepmother?  Even so, as often happens with children and mothers, Hephaestus evidently forgave her, which only set him up for more agony – both physical and emotional.  In another prominent myth, he was back on Olympos and attempted to help Hera escape a punishment from Zeus.  His reward for this was to once again be flung off the sacred mountain – this time by Zeus himself.  All of these rocky landings left physical marks on Hephaestus.  He is the only one of the Greek deities who is consistently referred to as less than physically perfect and divinely beautifu – in fact, common epithets of his are Ἀμφιγύεις (the lame one) and Κυλλοποδίων (halting one) in reference to his damaged legs.

Even though he is the butt of more than one godly joke – including those about his constantly cheating wife Aphrodite – when the Greek deities want top quality workmanship, they turn to Hephaestus again and again – Hephaestus Χαλκεύς (coppersmith) or Κλυτοτέχνης (renowned craftsman).  From forging chains strong enough to contain Prometheus for his daily liver extraction to the delicate craftsmanship of the Armor of Achilles, Hephaestus was the god for the job.

hephaestus armor of achilles

I can’t recall what I was thinking about last week when it occurred to me that there was perhaps a similar figure in the Armitage repertoire of characters.  A character who was born imperfect, abused, neglected and ridiculed…like Hephaestus, at the hands of a powerful maternal figure.  A character bearing scars, both physical and emotional that would follow him into adulthood.

Hannibal’s Francis Dolarhyde, born with a cleft palate and victimized by an abusive grandmother, is clearly still impacted by the shame and ridicule of his childhood when we see him in the company lunchroom…buttoned up to the wrists and neck.  Circumspect.  Self-conscious.  Solitary.

Yet there is another side to this broken creature…a side that the people around him don’t see.  (and not the murdery side…)  

Leaving aside the grisly nature of the product that he’s working on, here is Francis Dolarhyde, skilled craftsman – complete in ancient Greek craftsmanship wardrobe – mostly naked!

Despite the increasing horror and madness of the man, there is no denying that there is also an enormous amount of skill and “craftsmanship” that goes into the planning and execution of all he does.  He couldn’t remain undetected so long,  then successfully fake his own death and nearly succeed in toppling Hannibal himself without being a master “craftsman” of sorts.

Eureka Francis Dolarhyde!

 

Richard Armitage ἠθοποιοφόρος

In classical sculpture, there’s a lot of “bearing” going on…

There’s the Doryphoros (Δορυφόρος)  – The Spear Bearer (the spear is lost)

More literally, we have the Moschophoros (Μοσχοφόρος) – The Calf Bearer

and the Kriophoros (Κριοφόρος) – The Ram Bearer

As it happens, Richard Armitage emerges as Ἠθοποιοφόρος (eeth-o-poi-o-four-os) – The Actress Bearer in numerous roles…

From Robin Hood S3 E9 we have Meg-phoros…

and Strikeback S1 E2:  Katie-phoros

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Hannibal S3 E11…Reba-phoros (in motion!)

Interestingly, in every instance I’ve seen, Armitage Ἠθοποιοφόρος is carrying the actress in question bridal style…arguably the hardest way to carry an adult human.  It’s fascinating to me that women being ported around is still such a romanticized element in contemporary performance – that it’s also referred to as princess style is plenty telling…the whole “sweep her off her feet” thing.  I’ve been tossing the notion around from a variety of perspectives for a few days.

Even considering the strength differential between genders, carrying an adult is not something most men I know undertake on a regular basis.  I was recently watching a standup routine in which comedian Bill Burr joked about this very topic.  In an extension of a bit about the impracticality of sex scenes in rom-com – you know the ones…where the impossibly handsome leading man sweeps the willowy leading lady off her feet, bearing her effortlessly to the bedroom where she practically floats out of his arms to lay on the conveniently turned down bed – Burr points out to the women in the audience…“You’re heavy!”  At a chorus of female gasps he says something like, “What?  When did you stop carrying your kids around?!”  He goes on to qualify by pointing out that even on the low side, the average adult woman weighs something over 100lbs (45kg) and more to the point, that this weight is not evenly distributed when carrying bridal style – “you don’t go to lift weights with 20 pounds on one side and 80 on the other.”

He’s got a point there…remembering back, I think I stopped carrying my kids around when they reached about 40-ish pounds.  Unless they rode piggyback or on my shoulders, they were just too heavy to lug around – I don’t want to carry the 40lb box of cat litter either, but at least that’s got a handle!  It’s clear that this operation is fairly impractical, yet it is quite common in dramatic performance. I assume dramatic performers learn ways and means to make it appear more effortless than it actually is.  I also assume that actresses don’t just hang there like a sack of potatoes, but actively assist in the carry.  Interested, I reached out to my in house drama advisor regarding actress cartage.

Showbiz Kid is 6’0″ tall 220 pounds and is regularly called upon to lift and carry his female colleagues around on stage.  He confirmed that some of the girls are much easier to lift and carry…even if they are heavier.  For instance Eliza, though very slim, “just schlups about like overcooked manicotti when anyone tries to lift her” while Lily, who outweighs Eliza by 40 or so pounds, “carries herself” and is much easier to lift and carry.   It’s probably worth noting that Eliza has had tap training – emphasis on connection to the floor, while Lily is schooled in ballet.  It’s not a very long leap to assume that if high school performers are schooled in lifting, so are professional actors.

If you watch the above gif again closely (*cough*) it looks to me as if Rutina Wesley is plenty involved in this lift…her feet touch the floor and it seems that she pushes off to kind of “jump” up at the same time as he’s lifting from below.  (I love the repetition of the gif…I wonder how many takes this scene needed- maybe that stomping out of the room wasn’t characterization as much as muscle fatigue?)

Practicality aside, I also wondered about why this is such a persistent image in dramatic performance.  In the images above, two depict Armitage Ἠθοποιοφόρος bearing a wounded character…a woman who could not carry herself from point A to point B…this is self explanatory.  Guy and Porter couldn’t just throw Meg, recently speared by a pike, or Katie with her severed hand, over the shoulder in a fireman carry and be on the way.

The scene from Hannibal where Dolarhyde sweeps Reba off the sofa is something else entirely. Here, there’s a clear fantasy element playing out…the notion of her being so desirable that he can’t wait for her to walk on her own, or risk that she’ll walk away, so he wisks her up off her feet and rapidly bears her away.  I’d be a giant liar if I didn’t admit that this was an evocative scene to watch in the moment.  For me, it’s a weird thing…the “I can do it myself” side of me wants to be in control of my own business, while the fantasy side of me is drawn to the display of power depicted here.

While I was pondering this whole question, I also wondered if petite women get tired of people (particularly men) trying to carry them around.  On some level, it seems like it could be perceived as infantalizing.  Truthfully, I’ve known more than a few petite women who’ve complained that they hate it when people pick them up and move them from place to place – that they may be small, but they are not children who’s will is often subordinated to that of an adult.  Conversely, I’ve also known many non petite women who would cheerfully elect to be boiled in oil before having anyone lift and carry them anywhere.  Curious.

Carry On Armitageworld! 

 

 

 

 

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world Richard Armitage

I can’t help but notice that I seem to have an uncommonly long processing curve when it comes to Richard Armitage performances!  Although I watched Hannibal unfold in “live” network time, and I commented on the analyses of others, I’m just now getting around to analyzing it myself.

image

My brain works in mysterious ways.  I was thinking about something else entirely and *BOOM*  I’m thinking about how Francis Dolarhyde’s tRAnsformation into the Red Dragon reminds me of episodes of “madness” in the ancient Greek mythological and literary tradition.

Two famous instances of ancient “madness” popped immediately into my head.  The first comes from the later books of the Iliad (19-24) when Achilles’ anger transformed into a violent rage that he allowed to run completely amok…

“Nothing matters to me now

But killing and blood and men in agony” (19.226)

After learning of the death of his kinsmen and companion (probable lover?) Patroklos, Achilles anger, which is the driving thematic force of the Iliad, transformed into a homicidal rage that he never even attempted to control.  He went on a rampage and kills so many Trojan soldiers that their bodies clogged the local river.  His wrath was so unchecked that he violated all the rules of “civilized” warfare in his desecration of the lifeless body of the defeated Hektor.

Source

Achilles looks bored as Priam pleads for the mutilated corpse of his son Hektor Source

While a modern audience might attribute Achilles’ uncontrollable rage to a variety of pathological conditions, the Greeks were having none of it.  Achilles was a paradigm of anger throughout the Iliad.  His personal anger as the “theft” of Briseis was the source of enormous hardship to the Greek forces at Troy.  His behavior was antithetical to everything the Greeks defined as heroic.  Homer, in the voice of Apollo, describes him below

Iliad XXIV.30ff

Iliad XXIV.30ff

To the Greeks, Achilles anger was his to control, and his inability or worse, his unwillingness, to do so was decidedly un-heroic.  It doesn’t really fit with how the Greeks defined “madness” either.

One of the best mythological examples of madness – particularly divinely “inspired” madness – was an episode in the mythology of Herakles.  While Herakles’ characterization as the super strongman who succeeds through brute force does not always gel well with Dolarhyde’s calm, methodical calculation, they do share a number of common elements that I found really striking.

The first is the presence of a highly malevolent maternal figure.  In Dolarhyde’s case it was the grandmother who devalued and terrorized him as a child, inflicting incalculable damage to his psyche. Herakles fell victim to a long attested trend in Greek mythology…

greek mythology

Herakles was the product of one of Zeus’ pant dropping episodes, and this earned him the everlasting hatred of Zeus’ wife Hera.  Hera had an incredibly acrimonious relationship with her philandering husband/brother…she hated him in particular, but it was his extracurricular offspring who usually bore the brunt of her malicious behavior.  Hera had an extra special loathing for Herakles, who was predestined to become a god, so she never missed an opportunity to take a poke at him.  She plagued him from infancy with a variety of attacks designed to destroy him or bar him from becoming immortal.

The worst episode of this was when Hera sent Lyssa, the goddess of mad rage to “infect” Herakles.  This scene is famously played out by Euripides in The Madness of Herakles (Ἡρακλῆς μαινόμενος) which is also known by the Latin title Hercules Furens after Seneca’s version of the play.  In this play, while Herakles is off on hero business, his family is seized and sentenced to death.  He arrives on the scene just in time to save them, but it turns out the the whole thing was a set up to get them all together in one place so that Hera could put her latest scheme into action.

Source

Herakles goes berserk                                                                                                                     Source

When Herakles arrived on the scene, Lyssa was there – against her will, sent by Hera – to infect Herakles with her trademark madness.  Albeit under duress, she did it, and Herakles went berserk, killing his wife Megara and all of their children in a frenzy of divinely incited madness.  When he snapped out of it, he was devastated to learn what he had done – a seemingly unforgivable act.

Unlike Homeric Achilles though, Euripides presents Herakles as a figure to be pitied…redeemable Because, unlike Achilles, Herakles was not entirely responsible for his actions…clearly, the malicious madness sent by Hera was the real cause.  As such, Herakles was offered (and accepted) an avenue of redemption for his mad acts.

I found the whole scenario not unlike Richard Armitage’s characterization of Francis Dolarhyde’s “inspired” madness.  It’s fairly clear from Thomas Harris’ original text that the reader is to assume that Dolarhyde’s past treatment at the hands of this grandmother – his personal Hera – was at least in part responsible for the madness in his present.  While his original , malicious mommy dearest isn’t an active agent in his adult crimes, Dolarhyde has his own version of Lyssa, in the form of the Red Dragon, to inspire his madness.  While he doesn’t really show remorse for the families he’s “changed” his determination not to harm Reba – even though the Dragon demands her – seems similar to Herakles’ immediate horror at the realization of what he has done to his family…a possibility for redemption.

I take full credit for the cruddy screen cap above

I take full credit for the cruddy screen cap above

Unfortunately for fans of happier endings, while Herakles chose the path of redemption, Dolarhyde surrendered to the madness.

 

 

 

Well that sucks!

Saturday night….8:49pm…husband zonked on the couch…clear path to the big TV…silent SQUEE!  It’s time for The Hannibal finale!!!!   Change the station to NBC…and find..

image

The halftime report for the Packer-Eagles game (39-14 Eagles)

HALFTIME!?!?!?  What the what?!  It’s elev…no, ten minutes to the Great Red Dragon!!!   %}~>#*~|~?>><|}%#{]}#!!!!!

#imjustgoingtobed

 

ὅ παῖς καλός: Power and Pathos (and a sprinkle of Richard Armitage)

If you’ve been scrolling around the neighborhood of late, you’d be hard pressed to miss mentions of how Richard Armitage is knocking it out of the park as Francis Dolarhyde on NBC’s Hannibal.  I don’t really have more to add to the general Hannibal discussion, but I will be tapping on a few Hannibal images hereinnothing gory, but there is quite likely to be quite a bit of skin. (Tattooed or otherwise…)

Before I get to the main event though, I thought I might also revisit an issue that I brought up way back when in the infancy of Ancient Armitage…artistic nudity.  In this link to my 3rd blog post, I pointed out that nudity figures heavily in the art of the ancient world, that it will appear here frequently, and that is that.  I think at this point, I can openly point to a fact that I was thinking at the time…namely, artistic nudity on the part of Richard Armitage is also fair game for discussion.

Back in the day (I’m trying that out…it’s a favorite of my students…I’m not sold) there were heated discussions about how it was disrespectful or voyeuristic or objectifying or whatever pejorative adjective fit the tone of the day to comment at any length (or at all) on Richard Armitage’s on screen nudity.  I haven’t seen much of this since some poo-pooing about a few comments made about the shirtless bit in The Crucible, but given the amount of nudity in his portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde, I think it is safe to say once and for all, that Richard Armitage is not particularly bothered by appearing nude on screen…perhaps apart from a desire to look his best…and he is very well aware that everyone can see him.  That is…he accepts and embraces that in some roles, his body, with or without clothing, is a potent part of his art form.  We’re not talking about personal pictures taken with a long lens through the blinds of his home…we’re talking about displays which are part of a larger context of public performances…ie he knows he’s nude, he knows people are watching.  Moreover, as a performer, he *hopes* people are watching.

By incorporating it as an artistic element, his body, how it looks, how it moves, how it evokes, is as much a part of his performance as his voice or his facial expressions, and as such is open for discussion as far as I’m concerned.  Although it certainly happens from time to time, and I’m not convinced that this is earth shattering in any way, discussions on the topic are not by definition prurient, disrespectful, objectifying, voyeuristic or whatever.  So there you have it.  If discussions that possibly touch on Richard Armitage au naturel are not your thing, that’s fine too…

Close the window and carry on...

Close the window and carry on…

Now that the preamble is on the books, let’s get to the good stuff!

You can see it yourself: J. Paul Getty Museum in LA from July 28 - November 1 National Gallery of Art - DC from December 13, 2015 - March 20, 2016

You can see it yourself:
J. Paul Getty Museum in LA from July 28 – November 1
National Gallery of Art – DC from December 13, 2015 – March 20, 2016

I was scrolling through the image gallery of this incredible exhibit…(I’ve mentioned that ancient bronzes are really rare right?  This exhibit has a good percentage of those currently extant…including a fave of mine.) when I came across a bronze I’d never seen before…

The Vienna or Ephesos Apoxyomenos (scraper) Source

The Vienna or Ephesos Apoxyomenos (scraper)
Source

Isn’t he spectacular?   If you look closely, you can see even more amazingly, that he’s been painstakingly reconstructed from the hundreds of tiny pieces that he was found in at Ephesus, Turkey in 1896.  He is of a type of sculpture known as an Apoxyomenos or scraper….a nude athlete who is in the act of scraping the dirt and sweat from his body using an implement called a strigil (lost from his hands)  At 193 cm (6’3″) he is described as being slightly over life size in ancient terms.  I could not help but notice that he is pretty much exactly life size in comparison to a certain nearly naked someone.

Hannibal S3 "The Woman Clothed by the Sun" Source

Hannibal S3 “The Woman Clothed by the Sun”
Source

I love how he’s even nicely positioned himself in almost the same way as the Apoxyomenos…it makes 1:1 comparisons ever so much easier!  (Thanks to jholland for having just the right screen cap for me to borrow!!)  Broad shoulders, defined deltoids and biceps, sculpted pectorals, taut, but not quite six-pack abdomen, lean waist, long, long, lean legs, more heavily muscled at the thigh than the calf…(I cannot speak to the bits covered by cloth here…)  It’s a striking physical similarity.  Francis Dolarhyde, as written by Tom Harris and portrayed by Richard Armitage is a fitness buff…a man who pushes the physical limitations of his body to build its strength and power.  The art historical discussions of the Apoxymenos have identified his body as most similar to that of an ancient boxer…another powerful physique.

As striking as the comparisons of physicality between the two are, that isn’t what first drew my attention.  In fact, the image from the exhibit catalog that first caught my eye was a detail of the head

This chin down, eyes down pose is one that has hit me in the feels before…what is he thinking about?

Chin up Francis... Source

Chin up Francis…
Source

This is also a position that Richard Armitage uses to great effect in both print and film media.  It silently communicates pensiveness, contemplation, perhaps hesitance?  There are scenes, especially those with Reba in E10 where this pose is used with heart wrenching success.  All in all, I find a whole lot to compare between these two works of art.

Still don’t see it?

side by side

How about now?

ὅ παῖς καλός!

 

Variations on a theme…

I don’t know why it didn’t strike me sooner –

maybe because Blake’s dragon is so much more anthropomorphic, it didn’t trigger a visual memory for me?  I’m not entirely sure, but with all the talk of dragons in the neighborhood, I did want to point out that the classical tradition is full of both stories and images of dragons…and quite of few of them are noticeably ruddy:

When Cadmus slayed this dragon and planted his teeth, up grew a race of fierce, armed warriors known as the Spartoi.  Speaking of teeth,

This toothy sea dragon looks like more than a match even for the mighty Herakles (and his kind of tiny fish hook weapon…)

There’s also a Romanized mosaic dragon…

Once I started looking, I realized that I had gravitated toward examples with a decided display of red scale action going on – red is certainly common enough as a color in classical art – but I can’t help but think I’ve been distracted by the dragon du jour…

Richard Armitage morphing... My Screen Cap

Richard Armitage morphing…Hannibal S3 Ep9
My Screen Cap

This scene…the end of which I will admit to shaking my head at...made me think again of the sort of visually metamorphic quality that Richard Armitage is bringing to these phases of Dolarhyde’s transformation into the Great Red Dragon – no wonder I can’t get this particular dragon out of my head!

 

An aside because I’m to lazy to do it separately at the moment:  When I watched the opening scenes of Ep 8 where his body contorts as if something is moving inside of him,  I was thought of a burgeoning chrysalis as it contorts to reveal the new being within, but upon inspection, it wasn’t quite right.   An then it struck me…I know exactly what that sequence reminded me of…

This is not one of my very own emergent “dragons” but I do remember the feeling!