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  • Writer's pictureSam Baldwin

Cosmic Connection: The Satyr Plays

(Some Images Considered NSFW)

The Greek tragedies we have portray a world dominated by murder, incest, dragons, and fire—plays that were so jarring they were said to have caused miscarriages in the aisles. With that in mind it’s easy to forget that the Greeks also knew how to have a good time; and what better way to lighten the mood after finding out you’ve been sleeping with your mother than by performing a Satyr play? Satyr Plays, sometimes referred to as the Phallic Plays, are short comedic pieces that were used as a kind of comic relief in between tragedies, especially at competitions, and can be traced back to 500bc.

A satyr is a half-man half-goat creature that was portrayed as being drunk, very sexual, and generally quite bawdy. The satyr character would sing and dance, drink and orgy, which brings up one of the more important parts of the Satyr Plays: the use of phallic props. Many of the pictures we have now of Satyr plays show satyr creatures with hilariously long phallic props that drag on the ground or that stood completely erect and were used to whack the other satyr players on stage.

So, how does this relate back to Iphigenia 3.0? Brian has done an excellent job of capturing the place of sexuality and comedy. The priestesses are hilarious in dark ways, and it’s been discussed that Pylades might even be cursed by the gods in such a way that he might have a gigantic permanently erect penis that he is forced to carry around constantly which is a direct callback to the Satyr Plays. There are also elements of the tragedy that engage with the comedy. Like the blatant discomfort felt between Orestes and Clytemnestra when she makes him put his ear on her belly, or the weird sexual tension between Iphigenia and Agamemnon.

My central question for this project is: in what ways has the Satyr Play evolved and where do we see this type of comic relief in our modern entertainments? Personally, I think we see a lot of this energy placed in one particular character rather than focusing it on a large group. More specifically, the party guy—the Stifler, if you will. The one that drinks too much, parties too hard, and has more sex than most people do in a healthy lifetime. But in what other ways have we evolved and incorporated this type of entertainment, especially in genres like horror, thriller, slasher, etc.?

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