23 November 2009
A Dinner Party of Egos
The dinner party had been a disaster, even though I had worried over every detail that I thought to be important. It was not very often that I was able to host such illustrious figures, and I had to go to a lot of trouble to gather them together; plucking them out of time was not an easy task. Clytemnestra had been picked up right before she could be murdered by her son, Orestes, and she was still quite proud and secure in her overthrow of Agamemnon. I took Oedipus before he could learn the terrible secret of his past; I thought it make for a more pleasant atmosphere if none of the guests were filled with self-loathing. Dionysus was such an eternal spirit that I allowed him to come of his own will, rather than summoning him out of a particular time. I decided to bring Doctor Faustus out of the pits of Hell, for I was curious how he was getting along with his eternal damnation. I had gone to such a lot of trouble for all of them, and yet the night went horribly wrong.
Oedipus and Dionysus clashed almost immediately. The young god was still a little touchy about status, and anyone associated with Thebes was definitely a sore spot for him. Oedipus was such a proud man that he felt no need to bow down before Dionysus, who was strutting around the place like he was the greatest thing since they put the pocket in pitas. Oedipus sneered at the god, and then proceeded to spend a good twenty minutes telling Clytemnestra about how he had defeated the Sphinx. Oedipus was a man of action and he did not wait on the godsí own sense of justice; instead, he relied on his own actions. He found a rather sympathetic ear in Clytemnestra, who was no stranger to making her own justice.
Faustus watched the other guests with fear, but also with pity. He had learned the consequences of too much pride and short-lived power, and he had lived as a scholar in his companionsí futures, so he knew the fate of them all. However, none of his knowledge kept Faustus from feeling envy and fear of their power and prestige. He knew that he was no match for any of them when it came to a battle of wits; look at the foolish deal he had made with Mephistopheles. Faustus had gained nothing in the end and, instead, he lost everything.
At first, the others had assumed Faustus to be some kind of servant, for he did not have royal bearing that the rest of them possessed. There was still a certain pride about him, but that pride had been so dreadfully humbled that he could do little to compete with these grand figures of royalty and divinity. When they realized that Faustus was actually a fellow guest, they began to question him about himself. When he had finished telling them the tale of his downfall, Dionysus merely laughed, but Oedipus was scornful of Faustus and the foolish bargain that he had made. Oedipus proceeded to take Faustus aside and lecture him on good tactics when dealing with gods, or devils, and Oedipus told him the story of how he had defeated the Sphinx, as an example. Meanwhile, Dionysus was sampling wine with Clytemnestra and asking her if she would like to go for a walk through the woods.
The evening deteriorated rapidly after that point. Clytemnestra quickly caught on to Dionysusí scheme to turn her into a Bacchante, an idea she did not care for, and so she transferred her attentions away from the god and back to Oedipus. Oedipus was thoroughly disgusted with Faustus by now and he was happy to converse with Clytemnestra, especially when he saw how it was irritating Dionysus. Faustus sulked in the corner for a while, and then he went to Dionysus to see if the god would be willing to strike a deal. Alliances were being formed, and I could tell that this was not going to end well. Faustus knew his history well enough to play Oedipus and Dionysus against each other, and he knew well enough not to trust Clytemnestra.
In effort to defuse the situation, I tried to ask my guests a few questions. I asked Clytemnestra whether she regretted sending away her son, Orestes, and if she would ever call him back and make amends. Before she could answer, Oedipus started going on about the prophecy that he would sleep with his own mother and how he had cunningly avoided the prophecy by leaving his home. He then began to talk of his wife, Jocoste, and how much he loved her and the four children that they had had together. Faustus was looking a little ill and had to excuse himself at this point in the conversation, being a little too familiar with his history. Dionysus joined the conversation now, bringing up his own mother, Semele, and how she had been abused by her own people. It appeared that both Oedipus and Dionysus had mommy-issues, but Clytemnestra was not exactly interested in any more son-figures. As the two Thebans bonded finally over their issues with maternal figures, Clytemnestra decided to amuse herself with Faustus.
Dionysus had brought out his wine again and was sharing it between himself and Oedipus while they talked. Dionysus was lamenting the fact that he had never truly known his mother, and he wondered if that was why he surrounded himself with Bacchante women all of the time. He didnít care very much for the company of men, and with a father-figure like Zeus who could blame him? He had always relied on his own abilities, since he had never had much support from his motherís family. Oedipus sympathized with the god, for Oedipus had also had to rely on his own wits to save himself from an evil fate. He regretted that he had been forced to leave his parents, but it was better than the alternative. However, he was very grateful that he had found a new family with Jocoste. The boys continued to bond, and drink wine, and I decided to check on Clytemnestra and Faustus.
Clytemnestra had already grown bored of Faustus, who was telling her of all the pranks he had played on the Pope and others while he had Mephistopheles under his power. Clytemnestra began to ponder what she could do with such power; she would certainly not play silly games as Faustus had. Why should she settle for Argos when she could have all of Greece? After that line of thought, she began to prod Faustus about how he had made the deal with Mephistopheles in the first place. Faustus was so pleased that she was interested in his exploits that he gladly began to describe the ritual, but explained that Mephistopheles would probably appear as soon as she made the decision to summon him.
Things were not going well at all. Dionysus and Oedipus had now had a substantial amount of wine and were crying about their mothers. Clytemnestra was on the verge of summoning a demon, and Faustus had suddenly realized that he probably shouldnít have told her as much as he did. I wasnít really looking forward to having Mephistopheles join the party, and so I thought it might be best to send them all back to their respective times. It was a little hard to separate Dionysus and Oedipus, for Dionysus had abandonment issues and neither of them liked being told what to do. Faustus was not particularly keen on being sent back to Hell, but then I pointed out that Mephistopheles was going to be showing up anyway, so he may as well go back now. Clytemnestra was just annoyed when I told her that she might want to pay more attention to her children who are still living.
I was a little irritated with my dinner guests, for I had not even been able to ask them any of the questions for which I had called them here. Perhaps that was for the best though; what would happen to literary criticism if we could simply ask the characters what their motives had been?