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Melissa Johnson as Cassandra and Amy Lee Pearsall as Hecuba in "The Trojan Women"

The enduring appeal of classic plays is sometimes hard to understand. In Shakespeare’s case, the play can be literally hard to understand. Even well-educated viewers can miss out substantially on the Bard’s subtleties of language, not to mention the differences in sensibility between twenty-first century Moderns and sixteenth century Elizabethans.  And he wrote in English! With Greek drama – particularly tragedy – the difference between how they saw the world and how we see the world is particularly wide. Though the Athenian government of the 5th century was democratic, only ten percent of  the total population was enfranchised, and every family of means owned slaves. Though some ancient Greeks invented rationalism and science, their most devout religious rituals looked like a mix of Burning Man and Bonnaroo. And their view of fate was fare more bleak than our belief in Divine Providence, which, in our secular age, we call American Exceptionalism.

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